The period between
April 22, 2005, the 35th anniversary of Earth Day, and the 40th annniversary celebration
in 2010 promises to be a fullfilling one for Christians who are concerned about
the enviroment. In recent years, Christians of every region of the world and from
all denominations, liberal and conservative, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox,
have become involved as never before in the work of protecting and preserving
Creation. Should this trend continue, it could be world changing.
One important sign of this renewed interest within the family of Christ was a
recent decision by the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization that
represents 30 million Christians in the US, to take a more active role in public
adovcacy not only on behalf of those issues traditionally associated with the
religious right, but on behalf of the environment. Evangelicals describe it as
taking "care for creation."
To be sure, evangelical Christians
continue to be anxious about a tendency within the environmental movement to "worship
Creation indead of the Creator," as well as what they see as a reliance upon
the authority of science rather and scripture. Still, the new emphasis within
evangelical communities is remarkable.
A recently approved policy
statement of NAE declares:
The Bible teaches
us that God is not only redeeming his people, but is also restoring the whole
creation (Rom. 8:18-23). Just as we show our love for the Savior by reaching out
to the lost, we believe that we show our love for the Creator by caring for his
creation. 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 NAE policy statement lists specific actions that Christians can take to express
their concern for Creation, urging their members to:
the joy of contact with nature
Further NAE urges government to:
Encourage fuel efficiency
Encourage sustainable use of natural resources
Provide for the proper care of wildlife and their natural
Not so surprising, perhaps, is a renewed interest
on the part of mainline and liberal denominations. The National Council of Churches,
which represents 45 million US Christians, has been organizing around the issue
for many years. As part of the 35th anniversary celebration of Earth Day, it promoted
"Earth Sunday" observances on April 24th in its 100,000 member congregations.
The NCC also suggested several steps that Christians could take on behalf of the
Recycle or dispose of trash properly
Every year, millions of pounds of trash degrade habitat and can strangle,
poison, or otherwise harm ocean wildlife.
your energy consumption Air pollution particles created from power plants
and automobiles fall into the ocean in raindrops, polluting the water with excess
nitrogen and contaminating fish with toxic mercury.
the use of pesticides and fertilizers Runoff from lawns, farms, streets,
parking lots, and construction sites is a major source of ocean pollution.
Enjoy Responsible Recreation Ocean lovers
spend a lot of time on, in, and under the water. How you engage in these activities
determines whether your impact is negative or positive.
in Public Witness on the local, state, and federal level.
any similarity between these two action lists?
All of this is good
news, not only because a renewed effort on the part of people of faith to care
for the environment can have important practical consequences, but also because
collaborating around such issues may bring Christians of different denominations
together in new ways. Ironically, while Christians are reaching out to heal the
earth, such renewed contact with the earth may, in fact, bring healing to the
community of faith.
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.