Christian culture isn’t known for their environmental activism. In fact, they aren’t on board with it much at all. Some Christians do care about the environment, but American evangelical culture on the whole is rather mistrustful of the green movement. It is eyed with a hint of suspicion and a dusting of disdain.
They're insistent that God created the earth and so it’s interesting that Christian culture dismisses environmentalism. It may be that they associate the green movement with the liberal agenda. As we've discussed, they don’t much like the liberal agenda.
Go to a Christian’s house. Drink a can of coke and then say, “I don’t want to throw this away, where is your recycling?” A bit of tension might occur. If you detect some frostiness - or the opposite reaction, a casual “Oh, we don’t recycle, there’s the trash” - you may be in the presence of Christian culture.
Ask the same person how much mileage their car gets. If they have no idea, or if they lament the cost of filling up their SUV, you may be dealing with someone in Christian culture.
[click picture to read the bumper sticker]
Then there’s Al Gore. Find a Christian. Mention Al. If their shoulders stiffen or their eyes should roll, this person may have been influenced Christian culture.
I've heard fundamentalists claim that it's not that important to care for the earth since we're living in the end times and Jesus will be back before the planet is damaged beyond repair. W T to the F.
You've got this one not so right. I'll give you the Al Gore, but the coke can and the gas mileage? -- There may be a few out there (the old school types)...but this does not represent Christian culture as a whole, or even generally speaking.
Yes it does.
Apart from the Al Gore reference, I don't really recognize anything here. Maybe that's because I grew up a Canadian evangelical.
It's funny that Al Gore would be some sort of nemesis to evangelicals now, though, given how his wife was actively leading the anti-rock-and-roll crusade back in the 1980s.
This is one I have NEVER understood! My husband and I were serving for a week at a United Methodist mission in Kentucky. As a rule...Methodists are fairly liberal and believe that we are called to be good stewards of the Earth...so imagine my surprise (dumbfounded shock actually) when this guy started denying the existence of a hole in the ozone layer. He said God promises in scripture to never again destroy the planet through flooding, so this whole global warming thing is clearly some sort of conspiracy. My husband showed him satellite images of the ozone hole...his response was something akin to the old classic "the devil created the fossil record to deceive people regarding the age of the planet." I told the guy that even if the planet remains inhabitable there is no promise that it's going to remain PLEASANTLY so and...beliefs about the likliehood of a humanity-triggered apocalypyse aside...shouldn't we take care of God's creation simply because it's the right thing to do and because we are given specific Biblical instruction to do so? He looked at me like my Catholic friends do when I point out that the scriptures clearly state that Mary had other children and therefore did not die a virgin...or when I ask my Baptist friends why they believe every word in the Bible should be taken literally except the part where Jesus drinks wine.
Yeah, this one baffles me. I can understand not agreeing with everything Al Gore's been saying, but there's enough science out there where I can't see how Christian's can't see that this is a real issue...then again, much of Christian culture doesn't care for science. (Jesus didn't live at the same time as dinosaurs!)
While I can understand having a political disagreement, it's the way many people treat it as an immoral issue that gets me as well; I've heard people call recycling Earth worship. If we're supposed to be stewards of the Earth, why don't we at least agree that we could take better care of the planet?
Cynthia: In point of fact, the scriptures never "clearly" state that Mary had other children, only that Jesus had "brothers" and "sisters" -- so the debate hinges on whether these were half-siblings (the dominant Protestant view), step-siblings (the dominant Orthodox view) or cousins (the dominant Catholic view). (It may be worth noting that, when Jesus was on the cross, he entrusted his mother to one of his disciples as though she had no other sons to look after her -- but that's another debate for another time.)
The only beef I have with the idea of "taking care of the planet" is that it almost assumes that there is a "perfect" planetary form that has to be maintained, when in fact the planet has undergone many shifts and changes over the years and will continue to do so in the future. In this sense, Christian environmentalists are often eerily like young-earth creationists, apparently unwilling to accept that species come and go, or that planetary temperatures rise and fall, and that humanity has to adapt to these realities the same way it always has.
As a creature of habit and an obsessive collector, I am all in favour of saving as many species as we can and preserving the status quo wherever possible. But I am extremely skeptical whenever politicians try to seize on the scientific evidence for "global warming", or the scientific evidence for "global cooling", as a means to advance their agendas.
Pete, when we were at Willingdon I was periodically taken to task for having a Greenpeace sticker on my car. At Briercrest environmentalism was held to be anathema to the Faith. Canadian views on environmentalism seemed to soften as the nineties wore on, thanks in part to some people connected with Regent. (in Vancouver and the lower Mainland at least)
As for my views on you and environmentalism, (ie your antipathy) well as friends we'll deal with that in person - you helpless puppet of right wing ideology you. ;)
Hey now, there's a reason why "conservation" and "conservative" share a linguistic root.
Taking issue with Greenpeace is one thing; you can be pro-environment without necessarily subscribing to the agenda of any particular agency. But did you ever experience any "tension" over the question of whether or not pop cans should be recycled?
It seems to me that the value of recycling cans and bottles was instilled in us from a very, very early age -- and we got money for doing it, to boot! I was shocked when I went to England in the mid-'90s and couldn't find any place to recycle a Coke bottle I had just finished; I asked a man with a garbage bag where the recycling was, and he said, "Oh, it's only plastic, you can put it here."
Steph your blog has me ROLLING! i have to respond to your SUV/HUMMER gas mileage comments. BY the way, the bumper sticker on the H2 is HILARIOUS! "Don't let the car fool you, My treasure is in heaven" We traded my Tahoe in for the H2 on a whim. the H2 turned out to be a pile of shit, so we took it back during the lemon law grace period and got a refund. it was fun to drive so we searched for other H2's for sale on line thru ebay and such. We found one in soCal and it was all souped up. even the muffler! vvvrrrooooom!! truly it did give a scare to the senior citizens on the sidewalk. not much time goes by and i start to get a consistent band of people giving me the finger, or the thumbs down. when i came driving up to a stop people would look all caught off guard, then look angry. my truck was egged. my truck was keyed on the driver door at Pacific Place. i couldn't believe the hate and harassment! i drive around with little kids in the back so this was getting a little out of control. they were wondering why people didn't like us. then i found a website called fuh2.com - wow - every picture posted is an h2 with a middle finger sticking up. a whole world of haters on line! what up!?
after we found out we were prego with #3, the H2 couldn't handle 3 child car seats, so we traded it in for a Honda Odessy MiniVan hybrid. it was like nite and day! no one noticed us on the road in our mini van.
shortly thereafter, we then watched the documentary "Who killed the electric car?!" and it was FASCINATING. basically it was the H2 who killed the electric car. this film is very interesting and curious. i'm now a hater of the H2. our society is a glutton for gas. open your eyes people and look at the possibilities! i'm sick of paying for gas. it's so primitive! electric cars rock and i would buy one in a second.
as for christians being ignorant of loving the earth - i wish they would care and be good stewards of God's creation. the family of God are made up of people who want to do the will of the Father in heaven, just like jesus did and said. if we aren't taking good care of His creation (earth and animals) then we are living in sin.
Oy, Al Gore. Totally. I wrote a post a couple weeks ago titled "homosexual hypocrites" - about closeted conservatives - and a comment popped up 2 seconds after I published it saying, "If you're gonna talk about hypocrites, don't forget Al Gore!"
I'm pretty sure that God was kidding when he said be stewards of the earth. I think what he actually meant was to go ahead and trash the place.
AmyAnsel, I'm a Hummer hater but never have the guts to flip them off or anything for fear of attack (I just have a wee Celica), so I'm glad to hear that other people are doing it for me! I never let Hummers in if they are trying to merge and I always block them in if they are trying one of their dicky moves. Glad you hate them now too!
Loosly related to this was the time we saw some grotesque, giant luxury car with some pro-prayer, holier-than-thou message on the licence plate frame so my husband wrote a note referencing their obnoxious message (I forget what it was exactly!) and something like "Sell you car and donate the money to charity...Love Jesus." then slipped it under their wiper blade! Wish I could have seen them when they found that!
Thanks kindly, dfrank, you gave me my whole day's amusement.
Whenever I hear my fellow Christians speak of ecology/global warming, I do seem to hear an undercurrent of disparagement...as in the rapture's around the corner or there go those liberals. I try to mention my belief that our God-given dominion over things on earth makes us fellow workers in the whole of creation. Thus, knowing that we will give an accounting one day, we must be faithful stewards of God's bounty (to paraphrase my old Book of Common Prayer).
Most European Christians (including Evangelicals) don't get the American Christian desire to ignore the environment. I'd put it down to two things:
1. Dispensationalism - especially pre-trib and pre-millennialism. If you beelvie that God is going to destroy this earth and start again, why would you be bothered with helping him to look after it? Isn't participation in destroying the earth what God wants?
2. (to a lesser extent) the idea that God wants us to be rich, happy and 'blessed'. Looking after the environment is going to take some sacrifices (such as driving a smaller car and gaining less money from oil) and may mean that other countries catch up economically with the US. How could God possibly want this?
My husband and I are Christians and we recycle. Btw, your generalizations, however accurate they may be, tend to be limited to American Christians. Christians overseas are vastly, and generally for the better, different. The bonds of consumerism strangle the American Christian, but because we are complacent and not wanting to be a true light, we believe the lies that obese amounts of stuff is healthy. We perpetuate our chokehold on waste.
Of course, there are a lot of progressive Christians, such as myself, for whom environmentalism is Gospel (or part of it). It's been part of my faith for as long as I can remember, and the seminary I went to celebrated Earth Day every year.
"Where's the recycling?" Beautiful!
I have an uncle back in NJ who, whenever I forgot where I was and asked about where to put the glass, would break out into a playground-esque mock crying taunt along the lines of, "Aww... Poor Earth. Global warming - poor polar bears..." and laugh/speak the name "Al Gore."
He would then proceed to take 20 minutes lecturing me on "the real facts" such as: this is all cyclical, there are more polar bears than ever, and Hillary Clinton is a bitch (he just liked to throw that in whenever he could)."
This is the same uncle who made all of his 6 children, 2 of whom grew up to get DUIs - 1 multiple, wake up ungodly early and start every day with devotions & prayer.
Your site is incredible. Thank you.
"I've heard fundamentalists claim that it's not that important to care for the earth since we're living in the end times and Jesus will be back before the planet is damaged beyond repair. W T to the F."I came here to say this.
I grew up in evangelical Christian culture. I went to a school that was almost perfectly replicated in the movie "Saved". Pretty much every other entry here I think nails Christian culture perfectly, but this one I don't see at all. Maybe its just because I'm from California, but every person in evangelical Christian culture I know loves recycling. Maybe they're not environmental activists, but they do care. But Al, yeah, they probably don't like him so much, for the liberal agenda thing.
To be honest, I'd think global warming, climate change, or whatever they are calling it now should alarm young earth creationists the most since they may not believe that the earth's climate has naturally changed from the beginning of time.
Yeah, in California where my husband is from it's the law to recycle, but I've heard people (christians) say they don't like doing it and that they don't see the point. In the south where I'm from they don't have any recycling whatsoever in most parts.
OK - first the confesion; I'm a sceptic about man-made gobal warming but my reasons for that are another blog. However I am wary about aligning myself with other sceptics because so many of them use this as a reason to do nothing for the environment. We in the West use much more than our share of the world's resources and to do nothing about it is to deny: a) that God gave us this plant to look after and, more importantly, b) He told us to look after our neighbour and that means the people who live in poverty because we are taking more than our share.
In that case, Jeremy, want to be best friends?
Yes, but something I dislike as much as I dislike Gore are SUVs with "Not of this World" decals on back. Way to rationalize your gas-guzzling, Fundies.
Lauren: Best friends forever!
Hmmm.... I long for the early days of this blog when it seemed like the posts were poking fun at Christian culture, and making strong points about the little ways in which we are dreadfully ridiculous. Lately I feel as if your posts are meant to offend and are making making hateful generizations that leave me feeling sad. The tone has changed.
I would have to suggest you go back and only read the non-offensive posts. Sorry if I don't deliver what you find palatable but it's not what I'm trying to do here. :)
Wow! Harsh response!! Interestingly enough, there were posts in the beginning that at first I found offensive. But I thought you had such a good way of putting your posts that made me realize how pointless some of the stuff was! Or how I was being narrow-minded or not kind. You made me take another look at the things that I do as a Christian. I thought THAT was the point of this blog. To get us to really consider why we think the way we do about certain things, instead of just blindly doing as we've always done. However, it is my opinion that the tone of this blog has changed and become a little bit more snide. Recently.
any one for thermo nuclear war? let's trash this place!!! WWJD - I'm talking the AMERICAN JESUS, He's the real one isn't He?
Misty: I don't know if this reference will mean anything to you, but it sounds almost like you're saying this blog used to be Wittenburg Door Classic (the Mike Yaconelli years) and now it has turned into New Wittenburg Door (the Ole Anthony years). :)
I'm not really sure how my response was harsh. What I do know is, truth is offensive to untruth, and untruth is offensive to truth. If you don't want to read my blog, you don't have to.
Misty, I mean no disrespect when I say this, but your replies here seem indicative of another thing Christian culture does -- feeling the need to call each other out. I'm just wondering: if you felt the tone of a secular blog you read changed, would you express the same consternation?
Misty, HOLY COW. Girlfriend, if you have a problem with what gets posted here, keep it to yourself. Whether you like it or not, this blog makes you THINK. Now, the delivery may not always be packaged in way that is pleasing to you, but it forces you to step outside of your "bubble" and take a good look at what you claim to espouse. I know it's done that for me.
Well ... there we were, 3 against 1000, we were Kiwis and they were Americans and so we fought ... but I'll tell yah those 3 Americans put up a hell of a fight!!!
Oh sorry ... ding, dong ROUND 2!!!
This Blog has it changed? course it has!! - it changes as it's author changes, we all change, don't we? What we Blog is often a reflection of who we are and where we travel and I love the eclectic nature of the Blogosphere.
Peace to you all and may we continue to disagree "in love" - I seem to grow in this kind of soil.
Thanks, Mark. If people knew what I've been dealing with in recent months their perspective on my tone would definitely be more informed, so I appreciate you acknowledging that we all change. I want people to think about who God says he is to embrace truth instead of some shoddy, self-placating substitute. I am very flawed and so is my delivery so thanks everyone for hanging in there with me.
...however, I can't promise more-easily digestible posts anytime soon. :)
Still Breathing - well said re: warming - This planet always has and always will change.
We humans certainly effect (affect? damn SAT words I never learned) that change in some cases (lead, CFCs, other pollutants), but there are plenty of credible scientists out there who dispute the man-made global warming we have heard so much about lately - unfortunately those folks have been marginalized and in some cases cast out of their ranks for voicing opinions that are not in favor currently (Galileo, anyone?). But to correlate this back to Christian culture again, this is no different than the evangelical dismissal of evolution. Thank God some folks recently have been able to make headway in that Galilean battle (and thank God I found those people or I may have never returned to faith, though much different than it was before).
But whether man-made global warming is bringing on man-made Armageddon or not, does seem silly to delay pursuing clean energy sources, reusing materials, striving for energy efficiency, reducing pollution, etc. Seems indefensible to me, even on a purely economic basis.
Think I just digressed. Sorry. Got to go take out the recycling (yes, most folks I know here in Dalls, TX, do recycle). Sorry to shock (or disappoint) anyone.
Steph - love the blog, even the posts that make me squirm.
Keep 'em coming Steph!
Yeah...it's hard. I usually just use their lingo and say the word "stewardship." Then, in the name of tolerance (after all, jesus kicked it with prostitutes and theives), they will give me that.
God Bless Al Gore.
The Christian Culture I grew up in was in MI, home of the ten cent deposit on pop. (NOT soda, NOT Coke, ...POP.) So everybody I knew returned their cans to the store to get their deposit back, my brothers would walk up & down the street looking for cans, in case anyone was stupid enough to throw away a whole dime.
Other than that, there wasn't any way to recycle! Not only were there not separate trash/recycling bins, there were no bins, and no trash pick-up. Everyone in my town, regardless of their religious affiliation, burned their garbage in barrels in their backyard.
We've come a long way, baby.
The SUV thing...
Like I said- I grew up in Michigan, the Land of Refusal to Change Even Up Until the Last U.S. Carmaker is Bankrupt.
(I'm a Prius drivin' Californian now.)
I disagree. I'm a conservative Christian who thinks that Al Gore is an idiot. However, my family recycles, conserves water, does not make unnecessary trips to conserve fuel, I don't dump chemicals into drainage and I do my part to conserve energy. Oddly enough, I find your blog humorous; a good read. However, I think you are stretching a bit on this one.
Can I offer a breath of hope?
Check out Renewal students caring for creation (a movement amongst Christian university students in Canada and the U.S. to promote leadership in environmental stewardship.)
Or check out A Rocha an international Christian Conservation organization.
As an Environmental Scientist I have occasionally come across anti-environmental attitudes amongst Christians. But more recently I have noticed a huge change!
you hit the nail on the head with this one! are you sure you haven't met my entire family? i love being the black sheep who recycles.
Eh, I've read some more recent evangelicals who are getting into the whole "taking care of God's creation" thing, but they might be a fringe group.
Is that Hummer picture in Maryland? Because I definately saw an H2 the other day with this EXACT bumper sticker. Might have been the best day of my life.
Stephy, this post was spot on. I found your site through the GraphJams website and have been enjoying it ever since. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and can relate to all of this, especially the anti-environmentalist stance. Fundies are desperate to assert the superiority of humans over animals, plants, and the earth in general. Part of it, I think, is linked to the pro-life stance. People whinge about campaigns to save the polar bears because "why is a polar bear more important than an aborted fetus?" Easy answer: Humans are not in imminent danger of extinction. These animals are.
Actually, no, the polar bear is not in "imminent" danger of extinction. But don't take my word for it. Jeffrey Hutchings, director of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, declared last year, regarding a recent study: "Based on the best available information at hand, there was insufficient reason to believe that it is at imminent danger of extinction."
But even if polar bears were in imminent danger of extinction, you simply can't compare the active killing of a human being, on the one hand, to the decline of an animal population due to environmental factors that may or may not be within our power to control, on the other hand. (And by "our", I mean the entire human race; climates around the planet are affected by human activity, yes, but also by fluctuations in solar activity, etc.) In the former case, the moral agency is very clear, on multiple levels; but in the latter case, not so much.
And of course, it is very possible to believe that humans are "superior" to other aspects of creation -- since we are made in God's image and all that -- while also believing that we are obliged to take good care of the environment. There is no simple either-or here. Indeed, it is only because we believe that we are above all other lifeforms that we can even think of taking this responsibility upon ourselves. Certainly no other creature is bothering to do so.
I am not actually saying that killing an animal is equal to killing a human, but I wanted to explore the reasons why we draw this dichotomy. Even if the cause of death for animals is passive (i.e., pollution), it's still a form of killing. The result is the same. Christians regularly tout the verse about God caring for the sparrow's fall, but people do not follow that example.
California Evangelicals are not immune from this phenomena. I am perpetually labeled as a "tree hugger" because I gladly will pay taxes to fund parks and I recycle. And when I ask them why they don't recycle (which is insanely easy to do in California, especially where I'm from, compared to NYC where I live now) they mutter something to the effect of they don't want to be an dang environmentalist. Yes, dang. Or stupid. Either works. When will they realize that recycling is about conserving resources, not singing songs about Mother Earth?
Just so everyone knows, I am a conservative christian that grew up in the south (Steph was one of my best friends). I recycle anything remotely recyclable, I try to make good energy choices, I am often called a closet tree hugger by my other conservative friends (to which I point out the word conservative/conserve relationship), I just passed the LEED certification test for green building.
Here are some of my problems with the "green" movement. Under the "You think your helping the environment by" category:
1. Driving a Prius. Any and all cars are terrible for the environment. The amount of embodied energy within any car far outweighs the environmental benefits. There once was an essay/book that showed that a H2 was actually better for the environment than a Prius (it should be noted that the way that magnesium for the batteries is now mined differently so it may no longer be the case). That being said, my next car will be a hybrid.
This also goes for electric cars. Where does electricity come from? Mostly coal.
2. Using reusable shopping bags. A vast majority are made in China. Thus the energy it takes to ship to the US is equivalent to thousands and thousands of plastic bags.
3. Using photovoltaic (PV) energy. The typical life of a PV panel is around 25 years. It typically takes 15 to 25 years to recoup just the embodied energy used to make the PV panel. Again, technology is progressing and they are getting more and more efficient so my stats may be a little out of date. However, if I were to build a new home, I would put PV panels on it, but I know I am not saving the environment with my PV power, just saving some energy costs.
4. Buying Apple Aluminum MacBooks. The new apple macbooks are touted as the "greenest" with its new aluminum chassis. Do you know how much energy it takes to create aluminum!?!?!?!?
5. Building Green. In my own industry building green is all the rage. There is nothing worse for the environment than building things, I don't care how freaking green the end product is, it's still bad.
6. Buying Organic. Any food takes lots and lots of energy to produce in any substantial quantity and even more energy to get that food to your table. You might be saving the soil from pesticides, but you are doing the earth no favors.
I could go on and on...but I think (hope) that I am getting my point across.
Ten or so years or so ago I remember a Time article stating that we were headed into another ice age...which may be the case ten years from now. I don't think anyone really knows.
I just don't think most people realize how radically our lives would all have to change to be beneficial to the environment. All we can really do is try to lessen our impact. Its like the sale advert that states how much money I will save. I am not saving any, only spending less.
**** Ten or so years or so ago I remember a Time article stating that we were headed into another ice age... ***
You remember no such thing. The article in question was from the 1970's. Look it up. Furthermore, a single article in Time represents NOTHING like the overwhelming scientific consensus that exists now. This comparison is nothing but propaganda.
June 24, 1974 to be specific. More than 35 years ago.
I feel exactly the same... people often don't think through the production of something and how much energy it takes. Using, producing, or building too much of anything is bad -- it doesn't matter what materials are used, it all takes energy.
I hate that it's a 'fashion trend' to be green, as I don't believe it's making people more conscious of their impact on the environment -- it is only helping alleviate the guilt associated with using a certain type of material.
That being said, I don't really have a solution. Use less, buy less (to throw away less) and stop reproducing...(JK about that last one, but sometimes I do feel that would be the only solution!)
I grew up in a Republican household and used to vote Republican, and I fail to understand how people who advocate conservatism in all other aspects are so wildly reckless in their approach to the environment.
If any one issue defines the stupidity of the party it's this. Despite overwhelming evidence of environmental change they won't even acknowledge that we ought to exercise some caution. That they're too stupid to see the contradiction in their stated beliefs only confirms my opinions of what the party's become.
You environmentalists are all the same. Green on the outside, red on the inside.
Humans do tend to be a little sanguine on the inside :D
not fair. i honestly recycle, conserve energy, reuse whenever i can. and more than my non-christan counterparts. i've encountered more iraqi oil drinking SUVs owned by democrats and non-christians with kerry and obama bumper stickers than people who call themselves christians. funny post, unfair speculation.
Christian here, who loves God's green earth (and keeping it clean) as well as Al Gore).
When I talk to people about this, I say "Imagine if somebody created a beautiful house for you to live in, and it will even provide all of your needs. Would you then decide to shit in the corner of the dining room and pile up garbage in the living room?"
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