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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Evangelical Environmentalists? (Take 2)

(Ok... I'm going to copy this onto my hard drive before I publish it this time... just to be safe...)

Looks like some Evangelicals are climbing on the Environmentalist bandwagon. Wait... that's not fair... that either makes "them" look like whackos or "us" look like selfish pigs. Well... just... here:
Thanks to the Rev. Leroy Hedman, the parishioners at Georgetown Gospel Chapel take their baptismal waters cold. The preacher has unplugged the electricity-guzzling heater in the immersion baptism tank behind his pulpit. He has also installed energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs throughout the church and has placed water barrels beneath its gutter pipes - using runoff to irrigate the congregation's all-organic gardens.
Well, Rev... I'm with you... all except the baptismal tank. Don't unplug it- turn down the thermostat, or, better yet, install some photovoltaic cells and power it yourself. But, cold baptism? No thanks- not unless it's in a river. Then it's all good.
Such "creation care" should be at the heart of evangelical life, Hedman says, along with condemning abortion, protecting family and loving Jesus. He uses the term "creation care" because, he says, it does not annoy conservative Christians for whom the word "environmentalism" connotes liberals, secularists and Democrats.
You're right, but... ew. "Creation care"? What is it with Evangelicals needing to find cute little labels to distinguish themselves from everyone else? That sounds so... cheesy. How about something more cerebral, like "Biblical Conservation" or "Biblical Environmentalism"? If your goal was to not annoy conservative Christians, you blew it with this one.
"The environment is a values issue," said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. "There are significant and compelling theological reasons why it should be a banner issue for the Christian right."
Why does it have to be a "banner issue"? Why does everything have to be an issue? Why can't we take care of the Earth because it's the right thing to do? Why do we need to wrap it up in a cause or a banner? Oh, to be like Nike™- "Just do it!"
"We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part," said the "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility" statement, which has been distributed to 50,000 member churches.
That is so true. God gave us dominion over creation. "God spoke: 'Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.' "'(Gen. 1:26). We have a moral and spiritual obligation not to waste the gift that God gave us. On the other hand, we also have the God-given right to use the gift.
"Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation."
The government? I guess, if everyone would follow the guide of a Higher Moral Authority, then the government wouldn't have to step in. But, even in this world where many choose not to look to a Higher Power, I have trouble with the government providing anything but the bare minimum of regulation. (That whole "power corrupts" thing)
Also last fall, Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, weighed in for the first time on global warming. It said that "Christians should make it clear to governments and businesses that we are willing to adapt our lifestyles and support steps towards changes that protect our environment."
Noooooo! Not global warming! Along with the gifts that God gave us, one of them was a brain. In spite of what some people might think, Christians think for ourselves, and we have the obligation to research and develop informed opinions. And, let's face it- global warming is just a theory. Not even a sound theory. There is just as much evidence that humanity is the only thing holding back an Ice Age. So... before I buy into it, you're going to have to prove it. (Hint- ain't gonna happen.)
"There is a lot of suspicion (of environmentalists by evangelicals-B)," said Schweiger (president of the National Wildlife Federation-B.), who describes himself as a conservationist and a person of faith. "There are a lot of questions about what are our real intentions."
Ya think? I know that all environmentalists aren't complete whackos, but organizations like ALF and ELF have done a really good job of giving them a bad name. Christians, as a rule, have this problem with using terrorism in order to push an agenda. (And, for my moonbat readers- all three of you- don't even bring up war- apples and oranges, people. Apples and oranges.)
Green (a pollster-B) said the evangelicals' deep suspicion about environmentalists has theological roots. "While evangelicals are open to being good stewards of God's creation, they believe people should only worship God, not creation," Green said. "This may sound like splitting hairs. But evangelicals don't see it that way. Their stereotype of environmentalists would be Druids who worship trees."

When some (not all, maybe not even the majority, but...) environmentalists see humanity as a virus on the face of the Earth that needs to be destroyed, it makes people nervous. And, let's face it- when you take out the "normal" people who have been scared into environmental extremism by propaganda, you're left with a core group who are probably more likely to worship Gaia or plants and trees and rocks or nothing at all than to worship The Creator. Just the way it is. Christians believe that humanity has dominion over God's creation, not the other way around. It's not to be worshipped- it's to be cherished. There is a difference.

Another problem, besides that whole worshipping Mother Earth thing, that many Evangelicals have with the "evangelical environmentalism" movement is the people who are leading the charge (no offense- I'm sure Rev. Hedman is a great guy.) One leader cited in the article is Rev. Jim Ball, executive director of the Evangelical Environmental Network. You might remember him from the (in)famous "What Would Jesus Drive?" anti-SUV campaign. It was so very over the top that I can't help but think that, instead of challenging the average Christian to rethink some of their habits, they only stoked the flame within the already converted. He was preaching to his own choir. Instead of inciting change, his campaign became the topic of many, many jokes (very funny. really-B). (Personally, I think Jesus would drive one of those big ole 15 passenger vans. I don't have any Scripture to back it up- just a sneaking suspicion that a van would make it easier to keep the apostles together.)
He adds that evangelicals themselves - not such groups as the Sierra Club or Friends of the Earth, with their liberal Democratic baggage - are the only ones who can do the persuading. "Environmental groups are always going to be viewed in a wary fashion," Ball said. "They just don't have a good enough feel for the evangelical community. There are landmines from the past, and they will hit them without knowing it."
He's got a point. But I'm not sure any of these well-meaning people realize what one of those "landmines" is. Many conservatives (Christian or not) see environmentalists as... well... obsessed. They are viewed as being all-or-nothing, solely focused on saving the Earth to the exclusion of everything else. And that's just not something that we're comfortable with. If you want to sway us at all, you can't make demands, and you can't expect us to change everything, just because you said so. It's not the way we work (or, at least, it's not the way I work).

But, that does not negate the fact that we, as Christians, do have the Biblical command to be good stewards of God's creation. It's not a sin to use what God gave us (Rev. Hendan won't be sinning by turning the water heater back on... really), but it is a sin to waste His precious gift. And it doesn't have to be Big Things ™ - you don't have to go off the grid or take ice cold showers or stop using toilet paper (if you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down a bit.) If everyone does a little bit, we leave the world a little better than when we got here. Turn down the thermostat on the heater (or up on the a/c) a degree or two, turn down (not, off!) the hot water heater, use organic material on your yard and in the garden (especially if you're growing food!), recycle, use rain barrels to water your lawn if it's feasible, and, for goodness sake, turn off the frickin' lights when you leave a room!

And, in all honesty, if I had my dream house on a little bit of land, I'd probably do even more, and not just because I'm trying to be all environmentally friendly. Some of these things just make fiscal sense (which is also being a good steward). I'd install photovoltaic cells on the roof, and attic fans and better insulation (I've seen our electric bill in August!). I'd plant xerascapes (to save water).I'd look into green building techniques. It just makes sense.

And, that's the point. We need to do things that make sense. Going off the deep end isn't any more Scriptural than intentionally wasting natural resources.

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