Green Evangelicals

In light of the recent summit on climate control going on right now in Copenhagen, The New Republic is re-running Bradford Plumer’s 2007 essay on evangelical environmentalism, “Greener Pastors.” The article still has relevance today.

Back in 2007, James Dobson and other members of the Christian Right were attacking evangelicals such as Rich Cizik for promoting “creation care,” the belief that there is a scriptural mandate to care for God’s creation. Dobson and his gang argued that Christians, especially the National Association of Evangelicals (the organization for which Cizik worked as a lobbyist) should not be involved in environmental efforts because it would distract evangelicals from fighting abortion and gay marriage.

Since this article first appeared, Cizik has resigned from the NAE over statements he made in support of civil unions for homosexuals. But the debate over climate control continues in the evangelical world.

The article makes clear that many evangelical environmentalists are not as much interested in making scientific arguments, Al Gore style, about the validity of global warming. Rather, they want Christians to obey the biblical mandate to care for creation, whatever their views on the science of global warming.

What I don’t understand is what the evangelical opponents of evangelical environmentalism really want? Are they opposed to recycling and limiting fuel emissions? Are they against recycling, changing light bulbs, driving hybrids, and other “green” initiatives? Since they do not seem to agree with evangelical environmentalists that there is a biblical mandate to care for the planet (creation), then do they think it is OK to litter, pollute, and waste energy? I don’t think so. But if you are going to oppose creation care, then what is the alternative?
Someone help me out here!

12 thoughts on “Green Evangelicals

  1. To be honest I am not a huge fan of Messrs Dobson, Tony Perkins et al. (Their whole paternalism/legalistic schtick gets old quickly.)

    But like them I'd probably question whether proper creation care can be fulfilled through taking positions common in the environmentalist mainstream: carbon taxes, recycling subsidies, mandated light bulb switching, subsidies for renewable energy, etc.

    It's not that I'm opposed to creation care per se, I simply think that the measures proposed by most environmentalists are at best ineffective and all too often counterproductive. So for me, it's about utility…what are the most effective ways to care for creation? I've got lots of theories, but that's not what you asked so I'll refrain.

    I think that you are right on the money when you question Dobson and Co.'s logic on creation care being a distraction from “what's important.” Rather than rejecting Cizik's ideas outright, they should have dialogued with him and attempted to convince him that the science was actually on their side. (Then again, that supposes that they are conversant with the scientific arguments, a big leap for that group!)


  2. Paul: Thanks for the reply. I still owe you a reply from our ongoing discussion on capitalism.

    I am trying to define these terms in the way that Plumer uses them in The New Republic article that I referenced. You say that no Christian would “would dispute our stewardship responsibility over God's creation.” I agree. But what I do not understand (and this is not directed at you per se) is why people like Dobson and Perkins and others oppose Christian involvement in creation care? What is it that scares them? Is it just the connotations of the word “environmentalist?” Is it that it will distract Christians from fighting abortion? Do they really believe that Christian activism is a zero-sum game?


  3. I suspect that a lot of the confusion comes from imprecision in terms. John, you are defining “evangelical environmentalism” pretty plainly as “creation care”. Like you I doubt any evangelical would dispute our stewardship responsibility over God's creation.

    But the term “environmentalism” also carries a great deal of connotative baggage. “Environmentalism” can also be used to describe a set of policy positions, an advocacy movement, or a quasi-religious ideology. Evangelicals are more likely to be in favor of the first to connotations and less a fan of the last. But since the three are linguistically linked…confusion.


  4. Jeff: I am more convinced about global warming than you are but this not really the point of my post.

    Let me ask you this: as a “Christian environmentalist” what do you think about Dobson and the rest of the Christian Right rejecting evangelical attempts to care for the environment?

    Shouldn't Christians be “caring for creation” no matter what they think about the science of global warming?


  5. John, I am a Christian environmentalist. I oppose destroying the planet, however the “science” of global warming is a farce and it is pushed by the biggest hypocrite ever, Al Gore. These people want us to destroy our quality of life for their so-called cause. In reality it is nothing more than a rouse for a one world order and a socialist state. Those who do not learn from history…..


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