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By James L. Guth & Lyman A. Kellstedt
How Green Is My Pulpit?
"Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt" for environmental degredation. So argued historian Lynn White, Jr., in a much-reprinted article.(1) The debate has taken many turns since White's article first appeared in the 1960s. Some have argued that an exploitative attitude toward nature is built into the biblical world-view, which must therefore be rejected. Others have suggested that the biblical notion of stewardship, properly understood, is compatible with contemporary environmentalist concerns. Still others have disputed the notion that Christianity is significantly responsible for environmental abuse in the first place. Moreover, there is no consensus about the severity of our ecological crisis, or what the response to it should to be. See, for example, the lively debate in "Creation at Risk? Religion, Science, and the Environment," edited by Michael Cromartie (Eerdmans, 166 pp.; $15, paper).
Despite such disagreement, there has been a growing responsiveness to environmental issues among American Christians since the first Earth Day in 1970. Many mainline Protestants have wholeheartedly embraced the ecology movement, as Robert Booth Fowler has chronicled in "The Greening of Protestant Thought" (University of North Carolina Press, 252 pp.; $14.95, paper). Similarly, the bishops of the Catholic Church have forthrightly endorsed mainstream environmental causes. Finally, on the academic scene, ecological theology--much of it in tension with orthodoxy--is a flourishing enterprise. For a representative study, see "The Greening of Theology: The Ecological Models of Rosemary Radford Ruether," Joseph Sittler, and Jurgen Moltmann, by Steven Bouma-Prediger (Scholars Press, 338 pp.; $23.95, paper).
Are evangelical Protestants left out? Many have argued that doctrinal distinctives have led Bible-believing Christians to slight the environment. Evangelical sociologist Tony Campolo, for example, has blamed premillennialism: If the world is bound to get worse, and Jesus is returning ...