Christian Views on Environmentalism
Major Christian denominations endorse the Biblical calling of our stewardship of God’s creation and our responsibility for its care. Some of this church policy is relatively recent and may not be followed by some parishioners. According to some social science research, conservative Christians and members of the Christian right are typically less concerned about issues of environmentalism than the general public. Many Christians, however, are environmental activists and promote awareness and action at the church, community, and national levels.
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. 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. The term indicates not a particular denomination, but a shared territory of concern.
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.”
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.”
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.
Anglican – Episcopal Church
The Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church have strong beliefs about the need for environmental awareness and actions. Reducing carbon footprints and moving toward sustainable living are priorities.
Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Communion, has voiced support for aspects of the environmentalist movement, as has Pope John Paul II of Rome. Fr. John Chryssavgis serves as advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch, currently Bartholomew I, on environmental issues such as global warming. Orthodox Christian theology is generally more mystical and panentheistic than the traditions which developed in the Christian West, emphasizing the renewal and transfiguration of the whole creation through Christ’s redemptive work. Many Eastern Christian monastics are known for having cultivated unusually close relationships with wild animals.
Non-Chalcedonian, or Oriental Orthodox
Armenian Apostolic Church
In the nineteenth century, Catholicos Nerses V of All Armenians planted a forest stretching 100 hectares. Much of it was destroyed during the Communist era but replanting efforts have begun in the twenty-first century.
The late Catholicos Karekin I stated that the Armenian Apostolic Church is committed to the defence of creation because harming the gift of God is a sin when man has a duty to care for it.
Under Catholicos Karekin II, the Armenian Church produced a seven-year ecological action plan.
Ethiopian Orthodox ‘Tewahedo’ Church
Traditionally, Ethiopian Orthodox monasteries and some churches have preserved small sacred forests around their buildings in memory of the Garden of Eden. This has allowed many endangered species to survive in areas where their habitat has otherwise been lost.
Main article: Evangelical environmentalism
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 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.” The increasing Christian support for strong positions on climate change and related issues has been referred to as “The Greening of Evangelicals.” Many Christians have expressed dissatisfaction with a leadership they feel places the interests of big businesses over Christian doctrine.
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, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
See also: Mormonism and Christianity
The Latter Day Saint movement has a complex relationship with environmental concerns, involving not only the religion but politics and economics. 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”. 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. The church first placed solar panels on a church meetinghouse in the Tuamotu Islands in 2007. 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.
Major Lutheran Synods acknowledge that the Bible calls us to care for God’s creation. The dominion that God gave His human creatures has often been abused, carried out to the detriment of creation: loss of biodiversity, resource depletion, environmental damage, etc. We are called to live according to God’s wisdom in Creation with his other creatures. Sustainable living is needed.
Roman Catholic Church
Catholic environmental 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).
Pope Francis has published an encyclical, named “Laudato si’ (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home”, which aims to inspire everyone – not just Roman Catholics – to protect the Earth. 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.”
The Seventh-day Adventist church is committed to environmental stewardship as well as taking action to avoid the dangers of climate change.
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.”
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.
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.
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church believes in the need for environmental stewardship. For Christians, the idea of sustainability flows directly from the biblical call to human beings to be stewards of God’s creation.
- Catholic Earthcare Australia
- Christian Vegetarianism
- Cornwall Alliance
- Environmental policy
- Environmental protection
- Environmental vegetarianism
- Evangelical Climate Initiative
- The Green Bible
- Pollution and the Death of Man
- Presbyterian Church (USA) Carbon Neutral Resolution
- Religion and environmentalism
- Restoring Eden
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- Frederick Krueger, American editor. (2012) Greening the Orthodox Parish: A Handbook for Christian Ecological Practice ISBN 978-1469949369
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- 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
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia