Christianity and environmentalism

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A variety of views exist among different Christians and Christian denominations regarding the correct relationship between Christianity and environmentalism.

According to some social science research, Christians and members of the Christian right are typically less concerned about issues of environmental responsibility than the general public.[1][2]

Green Christianity is a broad field that encompasses Christian theological reflection on nature, Christian liturgical and spiritual practices centered on environmental issues, as well as Christian-based activism in the environmental movement.[citation needed] Within the activism arena, green Christianity refers to a diverse group of Christians who emphasize the biblical or theological basis for protecting and celebrating the environment.[citation needed] The term indicates not a particular denomination, but a shared territory of concern.[citation needed]

Basic beliefs[edit]

Christianity has a long historical tradition of reflection on nature and human responsibility. Christianity has a strong tendency toward anthropocentrism, as emphasized in the early environmentalist critique of Lynn Townsend White, Jr.. While some Christians favor a more biocentric approach, Catholic officials and others seek to retain an emphasis on humanity while incorporating environmental concerns within a framework of Creation Care. Christian environmentalists emphasize the ecological responsibilities of all Christians as stewards of God's earth.

Beginning with the Genesis 1:26-28, God instructs humanity to manage the creation in particular ways.

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." [1:28]

Adam's early purpose was to give care to the Garden of Eden:

"And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." (Genesis 2:15)

Green Christians point out that the biblical emphasis is on stewardship, not ownership—that the earth remains the Lord's (Psalms 24:1) and does not belong to its human inhabitants. Leviticus 25:23 states:

"The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants."[3]

As a result of the doctrine of stewardship, Christian environmentalists oppose policies and practices that threaten the health or survival of the planet. Of particular concern to such Christians are the current widespread reliance on non-renewable resources, habitat destruction, pollution, and all other factors that contribute to climate change or otherwise threaten the health of the ecosystem. Many Christian environmentalists have broken with conservative political leaders as a result of these positions.[4]

Roman Catholic Church and environmentalism[edit]

Catholic activists have found support in teachings by Pope Paul VI (Octogesima adveniens, #21) and Pope John Paul II (e.g., the encyclical Centesimus annus, #37-38).

The newly elected Pope Francis has recently taken a stance on Christian stewardship towards the environment. He endorses climate action and has made cases on Christian environmentalism on several occasions. "Take good care of creation. St. Francis wanted that. People occasionally forgive, but nature never does. If we don’t take care of the environment, there’s no way of getting around it." -Pope Francis meets with President of Ecuador April 22, 2013

"Pope Francis on Care for Creation." Pope Francis « Catholic Climate Covenant. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.

Eastern Orthodox Church and environmentalism[edit]

Patriarch Bartholomew I, the "first among equals" in the Eastern Orthodox Communion, has voiced support for environmentalism action along with Pope John Paul II.[5]

See John Chryssavgis who serves as advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch, currently Bartholomew I of Constantinople, on environmental issues, such as global warming.

Seventh-day Adventists[edit]

The Seventh-day Adventist church is committed to environmental stewardship [6][7] as well as taking action to avoid the dangers of climate change.[8]

According to its official statement, the church "advocates a simple, wholesome lifestyle, where people do not step on the treadmill of unbridled over-consumption, accumulation of goods, and production of waste. A reformation of lifestyle is called for, based on respect for nature, restraint in the use of the world's resources, reevaluation of one's needs, and reaffirmation of the dignity of created life."[9]

In 2010, Loma Linda University, one of the church's largest universities, introduced the Loma Linda University Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Studies. The goal of the center is to address the comparative lack of environmental concern among Christians by increasing awareness of environmental issues. The center features animal displays representing global biodiversity hotspots of special concern and also introduces visitors to original scientific research being conducted in the school's biology, geology and natural sciences departments.[citation needed]

Southern Baptist[edit]

The Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative is an independent coalition of Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, and laypersons who believe in stewardship that is both biblically rooted and intellectually informed.[10]

Evangelical churches and environmentalism[edit]

As the scientific community has presented evidence of climate change, some members of the evangelical community and other Christian groups have emphasized the need for Christian ecology, often employing the phrase "creation care" to indicate the religious basis of their project. Some of these groups are now interdenominational, having begun from an evangelical background and then gained international and interdenominational prominence with the increase in public awareness of environmental issues. Organizations with an evangelical genesis[clarification needed] include A Rocha, the Evangelical Climate Initiative and the Evangelical Environmental Network.

Some prominent members of the so-called Christian right have broken with the Bush administration and other conservative politicians over the issue of climate change. Christianity Today endorsed the McCain-Lieberman Bill, which was eventually defeated by the Republican Congress and opposed by Bush. According to the magazine, "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."[11] The increasing Christian support for strong positions on climate change and related issues has been referred to as "The Greening of Evangelicals."[12] Many Christians have expressed dissatisfaction with a leadership they feel places the interests of big businesses over Christian doctrine.[13]

However many conservative evangelical Christians have embraced climate change denialism or maintain a neutral stance due to the lack of internal consensus on such issues. The Cornwall Alliance is an organization which takes an opposing view on the issue to the Evangelical Climate Initiative. The National Association of Evangelicals has stated that "global warming is not a consensus issue", and is internally divided on the Christian response to climate change.

Latter Day Saints[edit]

The Latter Day Saint movement has a complex relationship with environmental concerns, involving not only the religion but politics and economics.[14][15] Mormon environmentalists find theological reasons for stewardship and conservationism through biblical and additional scriptural references including a passage from the Doctrine and Covenants: "And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion".[16] In terms of environmentally friendly policies, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has some history of conservationist policies for their meetinghouses and other buildings.[17][18] The church first placed solar panels on a church meetinghouse in the Tuamotu Islands in 2007.[19] In 2010, the church unveiled five LEED certified meetinghouse prototypes that are being used for future meetinghouse designs around the world, the first one having been completed in 2010 in Farmington, Utah.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sherkat, D. E., and C. G. Ellison. 2007. Structuring the religion-environment connection: identifying religious influences on environmental concern and activism. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 46:71-85.
  2. ^ Peterson, M. N., and J. Liu. 2008. Impacts of religion on environmental worldviews: the Teton Valley case. Society and Natural Resources 21:704-718.
  3. ^ Leviticus 25:23
  4. ^ Evangelical Environmental Network
  5. ^ Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril chapter author (editors: Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson) Bartholomew I author with Pope John Paul II, Trinity University Press (2010) ISBN 9781595340665
  6. ^ A Statement on the Environment, 1995 and Statement on Stewardship of the Environment, 1996. See also fundamental beliefs #6, "Creation" and #21, "Stewardship".
  7. ^ Hayes, F. E., and W. K. Hayes (2011) Seventh-day Adventist faith and environmental stewardship. In H. T. Goodwin (ed.), [book title not yet specified]. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, Michigan.
  8. ^ The Dangers of Climate Change: A Statement to Governments of Industrialized Countries, 1995 (Official statement)
  9. ^ Statement on Stewardship of the Environment, 1996
  10. ^ Merritt, Jonathan. Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet. FaithWords. ISBN 978-0-446-55725-2. 
  11. ^ "Heat Stroke" (Christianity Today, October 2004)
  12. ^ Harden, Blaine (6 February 2005). "The Greening of Evangelicals". The Washington Post. 
  13. ^ January 2005 Prayer Guide - Christianity and the Environment - Christian Ecology Link
  14. ^ "Mormon Belief and the Environment", by George B. Handley in Patheos September 15, 2009.[unreliable source?]
  15. ^ (1998) New Genesis: A Mormon Reader on Land and Community Editors: Terry Tempest Williams, Gibbs M. Smith, William B. Smart ISBN 978-0-87905-843-2
  16. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 59:20
  17. ^ "Newsroom: Additional Resources", (LDS Church)  |chapter= ignored (help)
  18. ^ "Newsroom: Additional Resources", (LDS Church), April 27, 2010  |chapter= ignored (help)
  19. ^ Taylor, Scott (April 28, 2010), "Mormon Church unveils solar powered meetinghouse", Deseret News 
  20. ^ Moulton, Kristen (April 27, 2010), "LDS Church shows off its new 'green' meetinghouse", The Salt Lake Tribune 

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, R. S., E. Castano, and P. D. Allen. (2007) Conservatism and concern for the environment. Quarterly Journal of Ideology 30(3/4):1-25.
  • Dewitt, Calvin B. (May 1994). Earth-Wise: A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues. Faith Alive Christian Resources. ISBN 1-56212-057-3. 
  • Elizabeth Breuilly (Author) with editor Martin Palmer. (1992) Christianity and Ecology ISBN 978-0-304-32374-6
  • Konisky, D. M., J. Milyo, and L. E. Richardson, Jr. (2008) Environmental policy attitudes: issues, geographic scale, and political trust. Social Science Quarterly 89:1066-1085.
  • Frederick Krueger, American editor. (2012) Greening the Orthodox Parish: A Handbook for Christian Ecological Practice ISBN 978-1469949369
  • Guth, J. L., J. C. Green, L. A. Kellstedt, and C. E. Smidt. (1995) Faith and the environment: religious beliefs and attitudes on environmental policy. American Journal of Political Science 39:364-382.
  • McCright, A. M., and R. E. Dunlap. (2003) Defeating Kyoto: the conservative movement’s impact on U.S. climate change policy. Social Problems 50:348-373.
  • Merritt, Jonathan. (2010) Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet ISBN 978-0-446-55725-2
  • Schultz, P. W., L. Zelezny, and N. J. Dalrymple. (2000) A multinational perspective on the relation between Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and attitudes of environmental concern. Environment and Behavior 32:576-591.
  • Wilkinson, Katharine K. (2012) Between God & Green Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-989588-5

External links[edit]