EEN urges conservative Christians to embrace the Earth: Environmental movement finds way for evangelicals to tap into their green sides by Deborah Pardo-Kaplan, Science & Theology News, March 2005, excerpts:
Environmentalists and anti-abortion activists rarely rally together at the same event. But at a Washington, D.C., gathering this January, the two groups walked side by side.
Some participants at the 32nd annual March for Life held signs saying, “I regret my abortion,” while other anitabortion marchers swayed banners proclaiming, “Stop mercury poisoning of the unborn.” Many of the 100,000 marchers were evangelical Christians; that number included a small group of environmentalists. The National Association of Evangelicals, which has a membership of 45,000 churches and 52 denominations, led the mercury-awareness campaigners.
The Rev. Jim Ball, executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network, first brought the mercury issue to the attention of evangelical Christians at a June conference on the environment in Sandy Cove, Md. Ball suggested that evangelical Christians could enter the environmental discussion through aiding the unborn — who may be absorbing low but harmful levels of toxicity by the mother’s consumption of fish, reported an NAE newsletter.
The meeting of 40 evangelical leaders at Sandy Cove reflected a growing trend of evangelical Christian interest in environmental stewardship. Among those attending were editors of Christianity Today, executives of World Vision, professors of Christian seminaries and heads of churches. By the end of the conference, 29 leaders had signed a covenant promising to follow up with a statement on climate change by the summer of 2005.
....Christians have been realizing that as a result of global warming, many in poor countries will suffer with the rise from flooding, droughts and risks to public health. Some are concerned about predictions that 300 million cases of malaria could develop from global warming, Ball said.
....Evangelicals have been concerned about the environment since the late 1960s, Ball said. “But what we are now experiencing is a growing interest within the center of the evangelical community,” he continued, “and a growing activism by such groups as the National Association of Evangelicals.” In the past, evangelical Christians have hesitated or largely ignored environmental issues, considering them to be the property of New Agers and left-wing liberals, and second in priority to salvation concerns. They have also questioned the science behind global warming.
....The environmental discussion among evangelicals is heading forward. The National Association of Evangelicals recently adopted a statement on civic engagement called “The Health of the Nation,” listing “care for creation” as one of its principles. It was the first time the association had articulated its political and social agenda, said Cizik.
The Evangelical Environmental Network, with its 23 partner organizations, has launched campaigns since its founding 10 years ago. Five hundred evangelical leaders endorsed the network’s initial guiding statement of faith on the care of creation. Among its programs over the years, the network has helped renew the Endangered Species Act, create environmental awareness for families and spark a large media blitz, with its “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign.
....Despite the campaigns, some say many Christians still have reservations to take part in environmental issues. Tony Campolo blames the impact of the Left Behind series, written by the Rev. Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. These books, he said, reflect a theology of the end of days that evangelicals may interpret as a lessening of Christian care for the Earth and a heightening of the relevance of eternity.
Those leading the evangelical groups for creation stewardship see that kind of theology as a distortion of biblical truth. They say that following Jesus means also caring for the physical world that he created. They hope to pass on their ideology and biblical interpretation to many evangelicals.
“It will be as a result of their seeing this as God’s call,” said Calvin DeWitt, president of Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, “or their seeing this as a vital part of their responsibility, or a vital part of their dedication to the sanctity of life, or to the vibrancy of life, or their belief that might emerge here — that the creation story has as its core stewardship.”