At the end of my previous post, I said I'd be writing about an interesting new coalition that has emerged in the past few years, and is ever more active today. There's a lot of writing about Christians in this blog, particularly the conservative Christian right, in a less-than-positive vein. So, I'm very glad to be able to write about this subject, and do it in an entirely positive fashion. As the Endangered Species Act comes more and more under the blade of this Republican Congress and its industrial and large-landowning friends and supporters, more and more groups of the Evangelical Christian persuasion are forming to protect the land and the creatures that fly, walk, creep and crawl upon it.
These groups, with names like Evangelical Environmental Network, National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Web of Creation, and the Noah Alliance, are in this fight for real. One member of the subcommittee working on part of this legislation to slash the ESA, the
House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Ranking Member Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) warned his colleagues that "any attempts to amend the law in a manner that would weaken it would go against our larger calling to be good stewards of God’s creations."
For quite some time I have been ranting and railing about this very thing - how could people who forcefully express their opinions about the "sanctity of life" when it comes to the subjects of abortion and end-of-life issues remain silent on issues like: mercury in our air/water/fish and the damage it causes to pregnant women and their unborn children, air full of particulate matter that is causing huge numbers of our young children to have asthma, persistent chemical toxins in the air, water and food that all of us - young, old, born and unborn - are absorbing constantly in our daily lives, the cancers and other illnesses that afflict us as a result. Not to mention the ravaging of the oceans, forests, mountains and living creatures - created by God's own hand, in evangelical terms - taking place to enrich corporations of every kind.
So the time has come for Christians to recognize and act upon a vision of their stewardship of God's creation, and I, for one, rejoice greatly at this fact. I have been reading widely at the websites of the groups I mentioned. The mission statement of the NRPE is a lovely document, mainly on the subject of global warming, which includes these words:
For example, in Judaeo-Christian scripture, all creation, by God's handicraft,
is deemed "good." Because "the Earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof"
(Psalms 24:1), its gifts are intended for the benefit of all. Humans are called
into covenant with their creator as stewards of life. In love, we care for the
conditions of one another's well-being; in justice we attend first to the needs
of the most vulnerable. When significant danger threatens, the traditional value
of prudence requires us to prevent damage to the common good. All these
obligations apply to the protection of future generations.
Dr. Dorothy Boorse is an evangelical Christian who teaches biology at Gordon College in Wenham, MA. She is active with the Noah Alliance, a coalition of religious groups which support species protections. In May she testified before the House Subcommittee meeting on the ESA, and said, among lots of other things: "You can expect to hear from many people of faith as they witness with passion and resolve about the importance of protecting endangered species." Dr. Boorse's passionate testimony is available here, in pdf format.
Religion and Science may not always agree on the sources of these ideas. But such principles — of stewardship, justice, protection of the weak, inter-generational duty, and prudence — are universal values when responsible scientific study has identified grave risk
An article by Paul Nussbaum, syndicated in the Knight-Ridder papers in May gives a good overview of this movement: "Increasingly, Evangelists Are Embracing Environmentalism." This article is replete with statements like this:
On such issues as global climate change, endangered species, and mercury hazards to the unborn, many evangelical Christians are parting ways with conservatives. They are embracing environmental protection as "stewardship" of God's creation.
The environmental awakening among evangelicals has prompted some to seek common ground with other faiths. A group of evangelical Protestant scientists is working with Jewish scholars and scientists to form a "Noah Alliance" to protect endangered species - and the Endangered Species Act.
"Ours is the time for a concert of religious voices to proclaim our privilege and responsibility for not allowing the great lineages of God's living creatures to be broken," says a draft statement being circulated this month among Christian and Jewish scientists.
If now the environmentalist left can lose its fear of Christians, and the Christian right can lose its fear of environmentalists, and we can all join hands across whatever divide may exist between an organization like the Environmental Species Coalition and the Evangelical Environmental Network, the newts, wolves, butterflies, not to mention human babies, may have a fighting chance against the oil, coal, lumber, mining, and agricultural industries. I don't object at all to having God on my side for a change.