Religious Environmentalism

 Posted by on 17 December 2009 at 8:00 am  Environmentalism, Religion
Dec 172009

If you’re wondering about the state of the nascent merger of religion and environmentalism, some useful data can be found in this USA Today article: “Religious Groups Active in Climate Debate.” The article examines the emergence of explicitly religious arguments for environmentalist controls at the UN Summit in Copenhagen.

For example, consider the views of Tyler Edgar, the assistant director for the environmental arm of the National Council of Churches:

Edgar, who also is traveling to Copenhagen, sees things differently [than the religious global warming skeptics]. Broadly speaking, America’s religious communities have shed their long-standing suspicion of the environmental cause “as that hippie, tree-hugging thing,” she says. In the past three years or so, many have rallied behind the belief that “we are all called upon to protect God’s creation and God’s people” by acting to stop climate change, Edgar says.

Indeed, that’s the doctrine what’s known as “creation care” or “stewardship.” As the web site of Creation Care for Pastors explains:

This site is to serve pastors who are interested in a growing emphasis within the Christian community called “Creation Care”: applying biblical principles of stewardship to the environment we share with all living things. We like the word “creation” even better than the word “environment” because it includes all that makes the earth a wonderful place, and it reminds us it’s all a gift, a sacred trust from the hands of the Creator.

From a biblical perspective, “the environment” is God’s creation. Creation care does not just mean caring for “nature,” apart from humanity. It means caring for the entire creation: the environment and “all creatures great and small” including humanity. As those who confess Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord, our relationship with all of creation must be in keeping with Christ’s relationship with all of creation. When we explore what the Bible says about creation, we interpret each text in light of our relationship to Christ and his relationship to all of creation. If the Bible teaches us that Christ has created the universe, gives it life and sustains it, and has reconciled everything to God, then our actions should participate in Christ’s creating, sustaining, and reconciling work.

Here’s another telling example from the USA Today article:

[Jim Ball, head of the Evangelical Environmental Network], who arrives in Copenhagen on Friday, says he plans to spend most of his time “hanging out in the hallways” of the Bella Center conference hall, where international delegates will be negotiating a deal. He’ll be looking to speak with senior Obama administration officials and members of Congress.

Ball’s pet cause is a proposal for rich countries, including the USA, to send poorer countries money — at least $10 billion a year will be needed, the U.N.’s Ban says. The funds would help the countries overhaul their economies to pollute less, and cope with possible consequences of climate change such as lower agricultural yields, or rising seas that could devastate island nations.

“Our role is to remind (politicians) that this is a profound moral issue, and that the basic moral teachings of religion apply to these environmental problems,” Ball says.

Particularly in light of the scientific scandal of ClimateGate, I believe that religion will bolster environmentalism with the faith-based moral fervor that it needs to survive — just as faith-based altruism has kept socialism alive and kicking after the supposed science of central planning was demolished with the economic collapse of the Soviet empire.

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