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Evangelical Environmentalists: A Growing Movement

Ben Whitford - The Ecologist
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February 24, 2013
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Extreme Weather & The Vulnerable - A 30 second TV spot from the Evangelical Environmental Network talking about the impacts of extreme weather on the U.S. and overseas. Urges Senators to support basic standards for carbon pollution. (EvangEnviroNetwork)

Erik Swanson might just be the future of American environmentalism. A 21-year-old biology major at Wheaton College, a prestigious institution near Chicago, Swanson leads a student environmental group, organises recycling drives, and runs a community garden that supplies organic produce to the campus food service. An outdoorsy type who’s passionate about climate change, Swanson spends his summers working on environmental projects, and hopes one day to become a professional ecologist.

Swanson sounds like a typical granola-munching eco-liberal — but he’s actually one of America’s 100 million Evangelical Christians, and his determination to save the planet springs directly from his reading of the Bible. “As Christians we’re called to care for creation, because God created it, and saw it was good, and loved it,” he explains. “Also I think we have a responsibility to care for all of God’s people, and I don’t think you can say you love people if you’re destroying the environment they depend on.”

That view, known in Evangelical circles as “creation care” or simply “stewardship,” is gaining traction among America’s born again Christians. Many pastors now preach sermons on environmental issues, and surveys show that a narrow majority of Evangelicals agree that stricter environmental regulations are needed, and that disasters such as Hurricane Sandy are likely due to climate change.

That’s a big shift: America’s Evangelicals have historically been deeply suspicious of environmentalism. Over the years, the religious right has rebuffed ecological concerns, often citing a verse from Genesis in which God grants humanity “dominion” over other living things. In 2001, speaking on Fox News, conservative pundit Ann Coulter drove the point home: “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.’”

In recent years, however, a small group of moderate Evangelical thinkers, spurred on by secular greens and progressive British religious leaders, set out to articulate an alternative to the “dominion” theory. Their efforts culminated with a 2006 declaration signed by 86 prominent Evangelicals — including college presidents, the leaders of the Salvation Army, and celebrity pastor Rick Warren — that called on Christians to fight climate change. “Many of us have required considerable convincing … But now we have seen and heard enough,” the statement said.

Read the whole story at The Ecologist

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