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[greenyes] More on evangelicalism and environmentalists


I'm not sure I want to get into the back and forth on evangelicals, or right
wing evangelicals, or anyone else. I am not sure what benefit it gives us to
make generalizations about groups. But I do believe it is important to
understand what motivates people to care for the planet and others. I
thought this was a lovely piece:



  The Future of Eco-Evangelism
    By Matthew Sleeth
    AlterNet.org

    Saturday 23 April 2005
This Earth Day could mark the birth of new alliance between
environmentalists and Christians - and that's good news for our planet.

    On April 22, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of Earth Day. This year,
however, was also special for other reasons. This year all living things
around the planet and secular environmentalists have a new ally: evangelical
Christians.

    Evangelicals believe that God not only made everything, but that he
loves his creation, enjoys it, and claims ownership of it. Yet for the past
two centuries Christians and non-Christians alike have taken God's creation
for granted or, worse, seen it simply as a resource to be exploited.
Evangelicals cannot claim to love God and not love what he loves. It is true
that God gave humans dominion over the earth, but many evangelicals have
come to recognize that we must face the meaning of this mandate.

    But will evangelicals collaborate with traditionally secular
environmentalists to fulfill this mandate?

    Before I explore that question, let me tell you a little about myself
in the hope that it will illuminate an evangelical Christian's path toward
an environmentally conscious life.

    I was raised in a Methodist home, lost faith, and then returned to the
church when I perceived a spiritual crisis in myself and those around me. My
spiritual crisis, I soon discovered, had a lot to do with the environmental
crisis we face. I no longer felt grounded in every sense of the word.

    So my family and I moved from our large house on the coast of Maine,
sold or gave away half of our possessions, and consciously sought to bring
our lifestyle in line with our values. I now drive a hybrid car, live in a
passive solar house, and use one-quarter of the electricity and one-third of
the fossil fuels that I did five years ago. Most importantly, I left my work
as an emergency-room doctor to focus on the most pressing health issue of
all time: Earth care.

    I am not, however, the only person of faith to notice the plight of the
planet. The earth is ill. There are no elm trees left on Elm Street, no
chestnut trees on Chestnut Lane, and soon, there will be no maple trees left
on Maple Avenue. The clouds of birds that migrated in my youth are gone.
Frogs are dying all over the globe. Hourly, farmlands are being supplanted
by malls and subdivisions and fertilized by suburban sprawl. Our industrial
way of life is literally giving our planet a fever. As ancient polar ice
caps and mountain glaciers melt, we are increasingly pummeled by severe
weather. Climatologists have long predicted the changes that are now
happening; we do not need yet another study to confirm what we already know.

    Although the fate of our planet should be concern for all human beings,
there are many who think an alliance between evangelicals and
environmentalists as unlikely or even unwise. Why? Both act out of a desire
to protect those plants and creatures that cannot speak for themselves. Both
fight for elements of life over which mankind exercises "dominion." These
include the most mute and vulnerable of all creatures - the generations yet
to be born.

    Arguing about who gets to save the planet is like two passengers on a
ship fighting over who should throw the life jacket to the man who has
fallen overboard. For the drowning man, it does not matter whether a Hindu,
a pagan, an evangelical or an environmentalist saves his life. In my years
as an ER doctor, I saw some 30,000 patients. Never did I have a patient stop
me during the course of treatment to question my religious beliefs. So why
do we care who gets to save the planet? Should we not be rejoicing instead
that so many are working hard to save it?

    To begin with, here is a Christian tradition that all can benefit from:
celebrating the Sabbath. The fourth commandment - "Honor the Sabbath" - is a
mental health prescription that has served humans well for millennia. If
Americans did no work, no shopping, and no driving one day a week, we would
instantly produce fewer greenhouse gases, use billions of gallons less fuel,
and be closer to sanity and to God. The Sabbath is God's gift to man, 52
times a year.

    Evangelicals, on the other hand, must recognize the fact that the most
pressing problem facing the world is overcrowding. Before we dismiss
population control out of hand as a matter unworthy of consideration, we
would do well to reflect on the following facts. If we place all 10,000
years of human history (8000 BC-2000 AD) on a single calendar year, the
number of human beings on the planet does not hit one billion until late on
Dec. 24. And then this: one billion more people are added to the planet on
the Dec. 29, and then again on Dec. 30. We then added an astounding 3
billion to the population on Dec. 31, only to hit seven billion at eleven
a.m. on New Year's Day.

    When we accepted the life prolonging fruits of science, we unbalanced
the natural human population equation. Yet we want to oppose the use of
science to control the number of lives created on this planet. We can not
meddle with one side of the equation without attending to the other side. In
other words, we can not have our cake and eat it too. The choice is simple:
We either need birth control or to forgo the use of medicine to prolong
life. It is up to the individual, society, or religion to choose one or the
other.

    America is the third most populated country on the planet. We will
surge from our current 296 million to 600 million in only 70 years. Will
eco-evangelists lead, or will they find themselves mired in hypocrisy,
materialism, and finger pointing?

    To the extent that eco-evangelists act to preserve the earth, they will
become moral leaders. Jesus describes the road to heaven as narrow. The path
may not accommodate a Hummer, but it surely has room for many a sister and
brother.

    Dr. Matthew Sleeth is a former emergency room doctor who now helps lead
the eco-evangelism movement from his home in Monroe, NH. Chelsea Green
Publishing will release his book, Serve God, Save the Planet next year.




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