Q & R: Why Be Green?
Here's the Q:
I've been pondering what I think is a grave mistake for environmentalist Christians when talking about Creation care. I'd like to know what you think of what I think are parallels between how environmentalists encourage people to join the cause for Creation Care and how fundamentalists evangelize for salvation.
Fundamentalism makes hell the core issue in salvation, and the fear of hell was one of the core driving forces behind evangelism. "Without hell," a preacher would say, "There's be no reason to evangelize." Hell is the destructive and damning result of people ignoring the warning and refuse to join Christianity.
From where I sit, environmentalists do the same thing with respect to Creation care. It seems as though catastrophic effects of global warming seem to be the driving force behind encouraging people to join the cause. Perhaps you see it as a necessary warning (as do fundamentalists with hell), but most of us who are unconvinced of the problem see it as a fear-based tactic. I've done plenty of research from both sides, and to the best of my understanding, I'm not convinced global warming is as problematic as you believe it to be. I'm even less convinced in the so-called "solutions" to the problem.
I don't believe in the traditional view of hell, but that doesn't change at all my commitment to a missional lifestyle and evangelism. In fact, in many ways my new views on judgment and restoration means an even deeper commitment to sharing my faith with others. Likewise with Creation care, I see the threats of global destruction and catastrophic calamity as functionally "hell" for environmentalists, and I'm equally disturbed by the tactic.
Regardless of my position on the global warming debate, I'm still adamantly committed to care for the creation. We don't do enough nor do we think of this as a Christian responsibility. But I think the "hellish nightmare" scenario that global warming advocates depict should be abandoned with haste in favor of a more restorative and biblical call for the care of our environment. I think you'll find that those Christians who are skeptical of global warming will be unable to use what they see as a fear-mongering lie as an excuse to do nothing. Instead they might feel compelled to listen.
Here's the R:
Thanks for your post. The appeal to fear is tricky, isn't it? Fear of negative consequences certainly is an important issue in communication - from a mother telling her child not to play in the street (because you can get hit by a car) to Jesus saying, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword."
I think there are legitimate appeals to fear, but if that's all anyone works with, we very easily slip back into a kind of reptilian fight-flight response that subverts or outflanks more thoughtful, reflective responses. So I'm all in favor of the broader approach you advocate regarding the environment. Even if you took the (in my mind, very real) danger of carbon-based global climate change off the table (and I don't think we should), there are plenty of other environmental crises we face - each of which (to put it more hopefully) creates opportunities for building a better future for our children and grandchildren - a world where elephants and giraffes, sea turtles and dolphins, butterflies and songbirds still "declare the glory of God," and give testimony to all people that "the whole earth is full of God's glory."
I'm so glad you're deeply committed to care for creation, with or without the global warming issue on the table!