Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Environmentalism-A Dirty Word?

"The devil has two horns: the horn of pride that says there is nothing we ought to do, and the horn of despair that says there is nothing we can do."

Environmentalism. It's a term used to describe a broad and DIVERSE range of concerns, beliefs, and initiatives pertaining to the atmosphere, the earth, the earth's resources and creatures who inhabit it. As opposing views in America become more and more polarized (and thus more cliched and shallow), an increasing tension has emerged between evangelicalism and environmentalism. There are many factors that contribute to this tension, and being that I identify myself with Christianity, I will address the mindset and/or objections coming from SOME Christian camps.

1. Association.

SOME Christians deem environmentalism as a cause of democrats, liberals, New Agers, feminists, abortionists, gays (bit of a stretch), and atheists who refuse to worship God, so they worship nature instead. These stereotypes (yes, stereotypes) taint environmentalism for many believers. But I believe that we have unfairly lumped in or over-lapped environmentalism with separate issues, perhaps neglecting a divine call to godly environmentalism and stewardship. As far as people who devote themselves to environmentalism that are not Christians, I am not sure why they are met with such hostility or bewilderment from believers. Whether they know it or not, their desire to maintain God's creation is an act of obedience to the innate order God has set up-to be in awe of His glorious creation and treat it responsibly. It can also be a cry for God. Instead of branding them as tree-hugging hippies, we should recognize their appreciation for creation (even if it's misguided) and use it to reach out to them.

2. The Global Warming debate.

A good portion of believers dismiss the concern over global warming for a myriad of reasons. Some honestly believe there is not enough conclusive evidence to prove that mankind is causing global warming or that global warming is even an imminent threat. A valid position. I myself tend to lean towards that camp. Some speculate that the earth is just going through its natural cycle. Other believers reject global warming on the grounds that Revelation lays out the demise of the world, and global warming ain't it (although one might argue that just because global warming might not cause our demise, it could still do some horrendous damage). And yet, I fear that SOME others have confused their politics with the tenets of Christianity. Some leaders discourage belief in global warming under the guise of religion when it has more to do with the effects on big business regulations. I am no scientist, so I don't pretend to have the answers about global warming, but I can see how some Christians view the hype as alarmism, but I also see how godly people are concerned about global warming, and that in no way should diminish the validity of their faith. Rejection or acceptance of global warming should in no way serve as a barometer to measure whether or not someone is "Christian" enough. The evidence is viewed and interpreted differently, and neither side (if dealing with the facts honestly) should be scrutinized for their stance. Anyway, global warming (just one aspect of environmentalism) has pushed the Christian community further away from environmental movements.

3. End-Times Mentality.

SOME believers are so certain that Jesus' return will be SO VERY VERY SOON and the destruction of the earth is inevitable that environmentalism is deemed a useless waste of time and a deceiving distraction from "real moral issues." This mentality puts forth that the earth and our pilgrim-like earthly existence are temporary, so those who would put energy into a dying earth are "worldly" and in SOME VERY SMALL EXTREME circles, even the enemies of God.

This End-Times mentality is disturbing for a few reasons. One, because every generation of Christians since the time of Jesus have believed that Jesus would surely return in their time. Could Jesus come back today? Absolutely. If He will or not, is another story. And since NO ONE knows the when (no matter how badly people want to pretend to know the when and how), it is bad theology to use the return of Christ as an excuse to dismiss environmentalism. Two, our temporal earthly existence does not negate our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth while we are here.

Environmentalism, like anything, can be distorted and abused. It can be turned into a form of idolatry by placing the earth and its fullness OVER the well being of human beings and "worshipping" creation, instead of the Creator. But I would contend that the other extreme of raping the earth and opposing (sometimes demonizing) movements of environmental preservation is not only poor stewardship, but a violation of loving your neighbor AS YOURSELF. As long as God has placed precious life on this earth, we must do what we can to preserve and maintain the earth, temporary though it may be. Many preservation efforts are about keeping waters from being contaminated, keeping animals from extinction (which affects the balance in nature), keeping lands healthy and fertile, so they can harvest food, etc. etc. Those are all preservation efforts that, for a Christian, are just as much about loving our neighbor, as it is caring for creation. Without maintaining clean water, fertile lands, and animal life, many humans would needlessly suffer and die, as they already do. A "Jesus is coming back, so we don't have to do anything" kind of attitude, is not only lazy, but harmful. When millions of people (mainly children) die every year because they do not have access to clean water, or their land cannot produce food, or pollution corrupts the air (which spurs on all kinds of diseases), then environmentalism IS a MORAL issue. By neglecting the earth or abusing it, we harm our neighbors. It's easy to dismiss the efforts of those trying to preserve clean water as "worldly" when we have an abundant supply of it, but I bet environmentalism would be viewed as a Godsend, if we couldn't get clean water, or food from our lands. That is a reality for millions of people.

Currently, there are environmental movements within the evangelical community (The National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelical Environmental Network, Restoring Eden, etc.) that are coming under fierce criticism from many Christians. It saddens me to see their efforts belittled as a "lesser cause" or "a waste of time." If these faithful servants of God are caring for the environment because they desire to honor God's creation and better the quality of life for our neighbors, families, and future generations, then it's not a lesser distraction, but an act of obedience, a manifestation of loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and STRENGTH, and loving their neighbors as themselves. And it should not be so easily dismissed.

Here is the website for the terms of Creation Care signed by hundreds of evangelicals.


William said...

I don't get why some Christians think caring about the environment is so evil. On a smaller scale that would be like someone thinking it's evil to live in a clean house. As far as i can see it really has more to do with the Evangelical ties to the Republican party which both seem to be bedfellows with big business (I am neither Rebublican or Democrat and I have voted for both types of candidates). Maybe that's not the case. Maybe there's a stigma where Christians associate caring for the environment with paganism. Perhaps that's because many pagan religions worship nature.

keithandjennifer said...

'"Jesus is coming back, so we don't have to do anything" kind of attitude, is not only lazy, but harmful. When millions of people (mainly children) die every year because they do not have access to clean water, or their land cannot produce food, or pollution corrupts the air (which spurs on all kinds of diseases), then environmentalism IS a MORAL issue.'

Yea Tia, but don't be so tough on "Christians" that you don't see the thousands out there meeting these needs that you just reported in your blog. A lot of the aid out there is from Christian organizations.

Tia Lynn said...

Jennifer-I'm not being hard on all Christians (which is why I capitilized SOME throughout my piece). Christians are the ones that I am praising for seeing the worth in healthy environmentalism (NAE, EEN, RESTORING EDEN etc.) THEY are the ones being treated harshly in the SOME Christian public forums. I do believe in the Christian MEDIA (not always the everyday believers) that certain mindsets and stereoptypes about environmentalism (along with other issues) have crept in. I challenge those ideas not to diss other christians, but to TEST ALL THINGS and to present anoher side about issues that tend to receive a knee-jerk reaction. My point is not that Christians in general are not doing enough (that's between them and God), my point was the unfair criticism christian environmentalists who are expressing valid acts of service to God and their fellow man.

Maura said...

Thank you for addressing this issue! Caring for God's creation is near and dear to my heart. I am constantly shocked and dismayed by how many Christians make fun, call names, or roll their eyes when this issue comes up. It saddens me that this has become a political issue,and that Christianity has been reduced to Republicanism. I agree with you, it IS a moral issue.
If God said, "IF My people will humbly pray and seek my face and turn away from all their wicked ways,then I will hear them and move my hand, and freely then will I forgive ,and I will heal their land." It sounds like God cares about this issue. He cares for the lillies of the field and for the sparrow.
I hope people will read your blog, and think about what kind of water and air we want for our children and grandchildren.

Gennifer said...

I'm confused. I found your site through Mike Huckabee's Blog Campaign and I saw the video you posted when he appeared on Hannity and Colmes, but this post about environmentalism and your concern over the republicanism and christianity fusion and the post about Ann Coulter is puzzling. Are you a Republican or Democrat? Conservative or Liberal? How can you support Mike Huckabee and then give credence to current environmentalism?

Tia Lynn said...

Hey Gennifer, thanks for reading. It's an interesting question you pose. I am neither a democrat nor a republican, but an independent. On some issues I lean conservative and others I lean liberal. I'm 100% pro-life. I'm against gay marriage, but support civil unions and want gay people to have the same rights as every other sinner in our country, including being able to serve in the military. I don't believe the government should have too much power and have to fund everything, but do believe the government has some responsibility to the poor, education, healthcare, etc. I believe people serving in the military are heroes, but I question (as a christian) the use of war and capital punishment. I could go on, but you get the point. Thank you for asking an honest question and not immediately attacking. By the way, Mike Huckabee values environmentalism (see link under Labels titled videos, there you will find an interview with Mike Huckabee on The Daily show addressing his very balanced and moderate views). Anyway, I hope that clears up your confusion. I don't align myself with either party because I can't fully support all the policies of either.

gennifer said...

Thanks for answering. I watched the other Mike Huckabee video. I hope that he was just pandering to Jon's Stewart's young uninformed audience to get some votes, because I do not see how republicanism and his view of the government's role in environment, education, and health care can mesh.

Felicia said...

I was part of an environmental effort in Texas to keep streams, rivers, and roads clean. We got involved in trying to keep big factories accountable by keeping tabs on the the number of harmful pollutants emitted in the air. Anyway, we were told by our fellow baptists church attendees that we were to stop our efforts because of the divide it would cause among evangelicals! I understand that there are extreme environmentalists that evangelicals don't want to be associated with, but to condemn all environmental efforts and movements is just foolish. Dismissing all environmental efforts because there are extremists that want to use immoral means to save the planet is like saying we shouldn't oppose abortion anymore because there are extremists who want to blow up abortion clinics! The response is not be to become pro-choice or anti-environmentalism, but to FOLLOW GODLY standards of how to be pro-life and pro-environment. And that is where, I'm afraid, a lot of churches have gone wrong. They throw the baby out with the bath water.

Matty Hillard said...

I still think there is more important things Christians SHOULD be doing than trying to save some tree in a rain forest or advocating the plight of whale. We are called to evangelism and that's it. Committing to efforts of "preservation" sends mixed signals to the world-either earth is our home or it is not-it's that simple.

Tia Lynn said...

Matty, I agree with you that evangelism is every Christian's calling no matter what else they are into. However, evangelism takes many shapes and doesn't always look the same. Evangelism isn't always standing on a soapbox running our mouths. Christians demonstrating their committment to God through perserving His creation and treating it responsibly create opportunities to reach people that might never enter a church. If they are working alongside new age people, agnostics, atheists, etc., that is also an opportunity to evangelize.

Tamara said...

My parents were "tree-hugging hippies" and when they became Christians, it never dawned on them that their concern for the environment would be looked down upon. They thought of ALL people-the people who spout their love of God and how important it is honor his creations-would share their convictions to care for the earth. They felt so completely alone and isolated in their heart for the environment that they began to wonder if it was the "proper" call for a Christian. Thank God, the Creation Care movement came along and provided some validity and support for my parents and thank you for promoting it!

Kyle said...

So did you get your degree in spin or political correctness? Why are all these Christians so determined to "validate" people's inferior causes? The church should be united in a single vision and the rest needs to be forsaken.

musicmommy3 said...

get a clue! Tia is probably the most spin free person I know. As for PC have you read any of her other posts??

I think what Tia is trying to do is love people where they are at and also stand up for what she thinks is correct.

Just what is this "single vision" you speak of? I'm assuming that you mean spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. You are correct that this needs to be our primary focus but to say that people shouldn't be concerned about the environment is not good. There is absolutely nothing wrong with caring for God's creation. This is certainly an avenue by which we can reach out to non believers who have the same ideas about caring for the earth. We let our light shine for Jesus wherever we are at. That is the "single vision". It's just done in many different ways (because people are different) and many different avenues.

personally I don't consider clean drinking water and not having garbage on the sides of the roads inferior causes. I've been to Africa and seen what happens to both when left unchecked and untrained on what to do. Disease and stench. Not pretty.

Quixie said...


Just came across your blog today.


This small comment on this post to point you to a quasi-related one on mine.