Evangelicals and Environmentalists: Still Strange Bedfellows?

We've been encouraged over many recent developments involving American evangelical Christians' embrace of "creation care." Last week's "Urgent Call to Action" (in PDF) issued jointly by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and The National Association of Evangelicals looks like another giant step forward, especially considering that the Association refused to join in last year's "Evangelical Call to Action" on climate change.

While national evangelical organizations are coming around to promoting a complex vision of creation care that includes addressing climate change, pollution, and even the spread of infectious diseases, the Waco, Texas, Tribune-Herald demonstrates that there's a considerable range of opinion on the subject when talking to members and pastors of individual congregations. Just in this relatively small college town, views range from enthusiastic support of the National Association's statement to belief that the Church is stepping outside of its mission in addressing such issues:

Scott Freeman, pastor at Northside Church of Christ in Bellmead, also is excited. He was one of 86 leaders who last February signed on to the first major effort to get evangelicals involved in environmental issues.

The fact that the evangelical association has gotten aboard the environmentalism bandwagon should help the cause tremendously, Freeman said. Based on his previous experience as a skeptic, he believes Christians will see topics like global warming as a spiritual issue once they get all the facts.

Pastor John Collier of Waco's Parkview Baptist Church disagrees. Although Christians must be good stewards of God's creation, he said, he doesn't believe in global warming. Rather, he thinks Earth goes through cycles and is currently experiencing a warm phase.

"God is in absolute control of the situation, and whether it's hair spray that they say is going to knock out the ozone or whether it's all the emissions, he knew all of these things would come to pass," Collier said. "I don't want to oversimplify, but I think we're — excuse the pun — getting too heated up about global warming."

Collier says he believes churches should focus on the eternal, meaning saving souls for Christ. Ever since the fall of man, Earth has been deteriorating, he said, and it will continue to do so no matter what efforts are launched.

Collier's views mirror those of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, which dismisses the threat of global warming, as well as claims that there is a "growing consensus" among Bible-believing Christians to address it.

Protestant congregations, especially of the evangelical variety, tend to be quite independent, so perhaps the idea that these believers are embracing creation care (which they tend to differentiate from environmentalism) is exaggerated. Or, perhaps political beliefs ultimately define the stance evangelicals take on these issues. We can't say for sure; we can say, though, that embraces shared by environmental and evangelical leaders on the national stage may mask a much more cautious approach, if not outright rejection, by the grassroots on both sides of the fence. ::Waco Tribune-Herald and the Baltimore Examiner
Illustration credit:Ben Wilson/Boise Weekly

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