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Why Evangelical Christians Neglect Environmental Issues

Chris spent 50 years in the Evangelical world as a layman, as a student at a prominent Christian University, and as a missionary and pastor.

Pointing a Critical Finger at Evangelical Christianity

I have written a few articles regarding Evangelical Christianity. Those articles are descriptive and nonjudgmental in nature, designed to help those outside Evangelical Christianity to understand the movement.

This article will be different. Here, I will be very critical of Evangelical Christians and the manner in which they participate in the American political process, but please do not misconstrue that to mean I despise the movement or the individuals. I am no outsider to Christianity. I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home, spent four years in a Christian college where I earned a B.A. in Biblical Education, and labored for eleven years in professional ministry. I say this simply to show that I do have a basis from which to speak. My observations are practical and drawn from personal experience of being in league with other Christian laymen and ministers for more than fifty years of my life.

Why Single Out Evangelical Christians Voters?

You may wonder why I am placing such an emphasis on Evangelical Christians and their participation in the American political process. The answer is simple: They turn out to vote in numbers unparalleled by any other single voting block. A survey conducted by Greg Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies following the 2014 mid-term elections found that nearly one-third of the total electorate identified themselves as conservative Christians. Ralph Reed, Faith & Freedom Coalition Chairman, had this to say at a news conference following the 2014 mid-terms:

"Conservative voters of faith were the largest constituency in the electorate in 2014. Their share of the electorate exceeded that of the African-American vote, Hispanic vote, and union vote combined."

Of course it isn't wrong for Evangelicals to vote, but I believe all Americans should understand not only that Evangelicals are eager to vote, but also some of the biblical beliefs which drive them to the polls in such great numbers.

Ralph Reed on the 2014 Mid-Term Elections

Evangelical Christianity and the Environment

Most Evangelical Christians believe that Jesus is coming soon and will, at a certain point, destroy this world by fire.

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away in a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat and the earth and its works will be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10).

This belief is having a subtle effect on individual Christians and on Christianity in general. The following statement by a self described, evangelical ministry summarizes how many evangelicals view the natural world.

"Yet these prophecies (of impending natural disasters) have nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions; rather, they are the result of the wrath of God, pouring out justice on an increasingly wicked world. Also, a Christian must remember that God is in control and that this world is not our home. God will one day erase this current universe (2 Peter 3:7-12) and replace it with the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21–22). How much effort should be made "saving" a planet that God is eventually going to obliterate and replace with a planet so amazing and wonderful that the current earth pales in comparison?" From GotQuestions.com.

Here is another quote by someone called "The Rambling Believer." Written on Earth Day, this person warns his fellow evangelicals to avoid participation in what he considers a pagan holiday and chastises those who do take part.

But here’s the worst news. Take a look at the sacred earth prayer found in this book [The Environmental Handbook]: “Mother, Father, God, Universal Power — remind us daily of the sanctity of all life. Touch our hearts with the glorious oneness of all creation as we strive to respect all the living beings on this planet. Penetrate our souls with the beauty of this earth, as we attune ourselves to the rhythm and flow of the seasons. Awaken our minds with the knowledge to achieve a world in perfect harmony and grant us the wisdom to realize that we can have heaven on earth.”

So why are people and especially some evangelicals lured into this? The direct reference to “Mother Earth,” “Heaven on earth,” and prayer to a “Universal Power,” should be huge red flags that “Earth Day” and some related ecology events are pagan events to be shunned. Instead, we have Web sites representing evangelicals who are promoting this big time. According to the Bible, we are to be good stewards of the Earth, but we cannot save it. Only God can. The Bible says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs” (Romans 8:22) as it waits Earth’s real liberation — the return of Christ. Make no mistake that “Earth Day” and climate Change does represent a “religion.” It is the religion of “Mother Earth.”

In my opinion, this attitude is the source of the rift between political liberals and political conservatives on environmental issues. Such is the extent to which Christian Evangelicals have commandeered the Political right.

Today’s disdain for the care of the natural world by the political right, which is controlled by Evangelical Christians, is due to the misunderstood and misapplied theological belief in the return of Jesus Christ.

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Megiddo, Where It Is Said Christ Will Return to Destroy the Natural World

Megiddo, Where It Is Said Christ Will Return to Destroy the Natural World

Evangelical Christianity and Climate Change

Prophecies of the Bible predict that great earthquakes, floods, droughts, famines and more will occur just prior to Christ's return. In fact, one gets the impression that the Bible doesn't give an exhaustive list of natural disasters to watch for but a representative one. In other words, according to these prophecies, all of nature should be expected to be in an enormous upheaval in the last days before Christ’s return. Here is one such prophecy:

“Then He [Christ] continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” Luke 21:10-11.

A few verses later, Jesus continues, saying,

“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Luke 21:25-26 (New American Standard Bible).

Why are Christians who believe in these prophecies so dead set against believing in climate change? It seems to me that such phenomena have come along at a most convenient time. Climate Change has arrived, and according to Evangelical Christians, Jesus could come back at any moment. Climate change is all about the very things the prophecies are about, i.e. storms, droughts, famines, nature being in an upheaval all around us.

Why don't Evangelicals see the current changes in climate as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies? The reason they don't jump on board with current climate change is because there is too much emphasis on correcting the problems. Evangelicals only want to point out negative climatic events as they signify Christ's return. They do not want to make any positive changes to correct the natural catastrophes because, according to them, Jesus will do that when he destroys and recreates the earth (2 Peter 3:10 and Revelation 21:11).

In these prophecies, the Bible does not elaborate on the cause(s) of such natural calamities. This is a point which Evangelical Christians should pay attention to. God does not say that He will cause these upheavals in nature. He also does not say that man will not be the cause of them. It is only stated that such things will occur.

I must ask a question of my Evangelical Christian friends. Why do you reject the idea of climate change, when your own scriptures predict it, and since, according to you, these are the Last Days, the very time when climate change should be occurring?

At some point, if the prophecies have any validity at all, Evangelical Christians must embrace the idea of a globally changing climate because that is exactly what the prophecies predict.

Lake Near San Luis Obispo, California During Drought

Lake Near San Luis Obispo, California During Drought

Evangelical Christians and the Biblical Basis for Their Responsibility Regarding the Environment

According to the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, God put Adam to work caring for the natural world around him.

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15).

This should be a primary theological point among Christians. It should be the basis upon which they build their beliefs about man's place in the natural world. Occasionally someone will give lip service to this verse by mentioning it in an article or sermon, but for the most part, this verse is ignored.

Evangelical Christians believe that they have one, primary, God given objective in the world, and that is to preach the Gospel in every language, to every ethnic group, in every country with the goal of converting as many as possible to Christianity before the day of Christ’s return. Credit should be given to Evangelical Christians for the humanitarian work that they do, but even this is done with the hope of converting to Christianity, those being helped.

In my view, Evangelical Christians are so focused on the return of Jesus Christ, so preoccupied with their eternal home in heaven that they are in danger of becoming no earthly good.

It is important for those who are not evangelicals to open their eyes to this reality of modern, American politics. One third of active voters are evangelical. Not all of them share the opinions of the individuals who wrote the blog posts I have quoted, but many do espouse these views. What is to be done in a free society, where the freedom to practice one’s religion is a foundational principle? We must at the very least, respond by educating ourselves on the subject of climate change. But the place we can make the most difference is at the ballot box. Evangelicals are the most highly motivated voters in the country. The rest of us need to examine our own voting histories and make appropriate changes in the future. Some might consider running for political office with environmental concerns high on their list of priorities if elected. But the responsibility does not rest only on the shoulders of non evangelicals.

Evangelical Christians must recognize that they do not have a license to bow out of participating in a positive way in the care of the natural world and fighting against human induced climate change which they helped to produce. In fact, according to their own scriptures, they have a God given responsibility to be at the forefront, championing that cause.

The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Planet Earth

Planet Earth is not a mere vehicle which carries us from creation to eternity. It is our home, our joy and our sacred trust.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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