Evangelical environmentalism

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Evangelical environmentalism is an environmental movement in the United States in which some Evangelicals have emphasized biblical mandates concerning humanity's role as steward and subsequent responsibility for the care taking of Creation. While the movement has focused on different environmental issues, it is best known for its focus of addressing climate action from a biblically grounded theological perspective. The Evangelical Climate Initiative argues that human-induced climate change will have severe consequences and impact the poor the hardest, and that God's mandate to Adam to care for the Garden of Eden also applies to evangelicals today, and that it is therefore a moral obligation to work to mitigate climate impacts and support communities in adapting to change.[1]

Some Evangelical groups have allied with environmentalists in teaching knowledge and developing awareness of global warming. The National Association of Evangelicals, a non profit organization, is working to encourage lawmakers to pass a law that would put restrictions on carbon emissions in the U.S.[2]


The Evangelical environmental movement is rooted in the idea that humanity is engaging in sinfulness and disobedience to God by ignoring the mandate to "tend and keep" the land in which they were originally placed (Garden of Eden).[3]

Evangelical environmentalists are committed to the authority of the Bible. Drawing from Genesis (Gen.) 2:15 [2:15], humans are seen as caretakers (stewards) of God's Creation. Genesis 2:15 states: "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Richard T. Ritenbaugh writes, "Tend ('abad in Hebrew pronunciation) means "to work or serve", and thus referring to the ground or a garden, it can be defined as "to till or cultivate". It possesses the nuance seen in the King James Version's choice in its translation: "dress", implying adornment, embellishment, and improvement.[clarification needed] Keep (Hebrew shamar) means "to exercise great care over". In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God's wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, "take care of", "guard", or "watch over" the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it.[3]

From an Evangelical Environmentalist perspective, the response to the ecological crisis involves the restoration of correct doctrine, the restoration of Christianity as guide, and a balancing of the bible and biology. It is important to Evangelical Environmentalists that they are not seen as worshiping nature; they feel obligated to the stewardship of creation because of their focus on the creator of nature.[4] Many Evangelical environmentalists prefer terms such as "creation care" or "stewardship of Creation" instead of environmentalism. The main reason for this preference is to emphasize the biblical basis for their engagement.

  • "The love of God and Jesus require Christians to love Creation. The world is the property of God and as his stewards we are called to a high standard to tend and care for it" (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).
  • "God commanded humanity to be stewards of His Creation" (Gen. 1:26-28).[1]

In Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet Merritt states the Noah Covenant is God entering a Covenant with all the Earth by citing Gen 9:9-10.[5] Merritt continues from Gen 2:15 ...

Specific actions

Many American religious organizations have a long record of opposing nuclear weapons. Rejecting the development and use of nuclear weapons is "...one of the most widely shared convictions across faith traditions".[7] In the 1980s religious groups organized large anti-nuclear protests involving hundreds of thousands of people, and specific groups involved included the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Episcopal Church. The Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish communities published explicitly anti-nuclear statements, and in 2000 Muslims also began to take a stance against nuclear weaponry.[7]

In February 2006, a group of 86 notable U.S. evangelical Christian leaders launched the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a campaign for environmental reform, calling on all Christians to push for federal legislation that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to stem global warming.

The initiative's organizers intended to lobby federal legislators, hold creation care talks at churches and colleges, and air television and radio advertisements that link drought, starvation, and hurricanes to global warming.[8] The president of the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals), Rev. Ted Haggard, did not join the leaders in the statement on global warming. He declined because it would have been interpreted as an endorsement by the entire NAE. Speaking just for himself, he said, "There is no doubt about it in my mind that climate change is happening, and there is no doubt about it that it would be wise for us to stop doing the foolish things we're doing that could potentially be causing this. In my mind there is no downside to being cautious.[9]"

Televangelist Pat Robertson changed his stance on global warming. In October 2005, Robertson accused the Evangelical Climate Initiative of teaming up with "far-left environmentalists," but in the summer of 2006 on his 700 Club television show, Robertson stated that "they're making a convert out of me." He also said "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels. If we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it.[10]

In March 2008, a group of Southern Baptist leaders issued a statement that their denomination had been timid when it came to environmental issues and that they have a duty to stop global warming. This declaration was signed by the President of the congregation. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States with 16.3 million members.[11]

The Evangelical Environmental Network[12] (EEN) has received much attention for actions such as lobbying the United States Congress and producing biblical educational materials which were sent out to Evangelical congregations across the country. Also, in 1996 the EEN produced television advertisements warning Christians, "don't let the special interests sink the Endangered Species Act." The EEN also mailed out 38,000 "Let the Earth Be Glad" packets and enlisted 1000 churches as "Noah Congregations".(Kearns, 1997)

Michael Banach, the Vatican representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a Vienna conference in 2011 that the Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster created new safety concerns about nuclear plants globally. Auxiliary bishop of Osaka Michael Goro Matsuura said this nuclear power disaster should encourage Japan and other countries to abandon nuclear projects. He called on worldwide Christian solidarity to provide wide support for an anti-nuclear campaign. Statements from bishops' conferences in Korea and the Philippines called on their governments to abandon atomic power. Columban priest Fr Seán McDonagh has written a book entitled Is Fukushima the Death Knell for Nuclear Energy?.[13] Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe has said Japan should quickly abandon its nuclear reactors.[14]


A criticism of Creation Care, stemming from Jan Markell (who believes that evangelicals are "called by God to win souls for Jesus, not to exercise stewardship over creation",[15] is that Creation Care is primarily a push for a massive "Cap and Trade" tax increase under the veil of helping the environment.[16]

In January 2006, a group of evangelicals opposed the Evangelical Climate Initiative's stance and issued a letter to the NAE which stated that "global warming is not a consensus issue, and our love for the Creator and respect for His Creation does not require us to take a position [supporting a cap and trade tax increase]". In 2007, leaders of the conservative Christian wing of the Republican Party, including James Dobson, Gary Bauer and Paul Weyrich, told the policy director of the NAE, the Rev. Richard Cizik, to "shut up already about global warming".[17] In 2008, the NAE clarified that it does not "have a specific position on global warming or emissions. [Cizik] has spoken as an individual on that." [18]

Ann Coulter focuses on Genesis 1:27-28 which gives dominion to humanity over nature. Ann Coulter claims: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'" [19] Lynn White (1967) implies that this is a common view among Christians, but the accuracy of this statement is debatable.

In 2008, a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that 31% of white Evangelical Protestants did not believe that there is solid evidence showing that the Earth is warming. 34% of white Evangelical Protestants did believe that there was evidence, but 17% didn't believe that warming was due to human impacts. 47% of the total U.S. population does believe that the Earth is warming because of human influences and 58% of unaffiliated Americans believe that global warming due to human impacts is real.[20]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action". christiansandclimate.org. Evangelical Climate Initiative. Retrieved 18 December 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Michael Janofsky http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/07/politics/07air.html
  3. 3.0 3.1 http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Bible.show/sVerseID/46/eVerseID/46
  4. Kearns, L. 1997. Noah's Ark Goes to Washington: A Profile of Evangelical Environmentalism. Social Compass, 44:349-366.
  5. Merritt, Jonathan (2010) Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet page 59 (ISBN 978-0-446-55725-2)
  6. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=1801
  7. 7.0 7.1 Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite. Let’s Take Religious Nuclear Opposition to the Next Level Center for American Progress, April 12, 2010.
  8. http://christiansandclimate.org/
  9. L Goodstein - New York Times, 2006 - Coalition for Rainforest Nations rainforestcoalition.org
  10. http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/39872
  11. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23549773
  12. http://www.creationcare.org
  13. Sean McDonagh (March 6, 2012). "After Fukushima, Vatican joins growing army of opponents of nuclear power". The Irish Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Mari Yamaguchi (September 2011). "Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Winner Urges Japan To Abandon Nuclear Power". Huffington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/moyersonamerica/print/religionandenvironmentclass_print.html
  16. http://www.olivetreeviews.org/wordpress/jan%E2%80%99s-articles/global-warming-or-global-governance
  17. "Evangelical Environmentalism". The New York Times. 10 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. http://www.cornwallalliance.org/press/read/evangelical-environmental-group-applauds-national-association-of-evangelicals
  19. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ann_Coulter#Environmentalism
  20. http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2009/04/16/evangelicals-and-global-warming/

Further reading

  • Allen, R. S., E. Castano, and P. D. Allen. 2007. "Conservatism and concern for the environment". Quarterly Journal of Ideology 30(3/4):1–25.
  • Brown, Edward R. 2008. Our Father's World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation (InterVarsity Press).
  • Guth, J. L., J. C. Green, L. A. Kellstedt, and C. E. Smidt. 1995. "Faith and the environment: religious beliefs and attitudes on environmental policy". American Journal of Political Science 39:364–382.
  • Konisky, D. M., J. Milyo, and L. E. Richardson, Jr. 2008. "Environmental policy attitudes: issues, geographic scale, and political trust". Social Science Quarterly 89:1066–1085.
  • McCright, A. M., and R. E. Dunlap. 2003. "Defeating Kyoto: the conservative movement's impact on U.S. climate change policy". Social Problems 50:348–373.
  • Merritt, Jonathan (2010) Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet ISBN 978-0-446-55725-2
  • Peterson, M. N., and J. Liu. 2008. "Impacts of religion on environmental worldviews: the Teton Valley case". Society and Natural Resources 21:704–718.
  • Schultz, P. W., L. Zelezny, and N. J. Dalrymple. 2000. "A multinational perspective on the relation between Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and attitudes of environmental concern". Environment and Behavior 32:576–591.
  • Sherkat, D. E., and C. G. Ellison. 2007. "Structuring the religion-environment connection: identifying religious influences on environmental concern and activism". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46:71–85.
  • Snyder, Howard A., and Joel Scandrett. 2011. Salvation Means Creation Healed: The Ecology of Sin and Grace (Cascade Books).
  • Wilkinson, Katharine K. 2012. Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change (Oxford University Press).

External links