The Common Good

Defending the 'Cult' of Environmentalism

Environmentalism is "deadly." It is "one of the greatest deceptions of our day," "striving to put America and the world under its destructive control" and "seducing your children." It is a dangerous "cult."

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A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

At least that's according to the publicity for a new 12-part DVD series, Resisting The Green Dragon. The series is sponsored by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, a network of Christian leaders that claims to bring "a balanced biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development."

Actually, their views are anything but balanced. A YouTube video with clips from the DVD includes statements from Christian leaders who say the environmental movement is based on "false assertions," "pessimistic fears," and "exaggerations and myths," rather than "any good science."

The DVD website states five ways "the multifaceted environmentalist movement" threatens society and the church:

  • Environmentalism has become a new religion.
  • Environmentalism's politics are devastating to the world's poor.
  • Environmentalism threatens the sanctity of life.
  • Environmentalism is targeting our youth.
  • Environmentalism's vision is global.

A press release from the Cornwall Alliance says this is "a critical moment in the global environmental debate." That much is true. This is a critical moment, not because environmentalism is deadly to humans, but because humans increasingly behave in ways that harm the environment.

The DVD likens environmentalism to a green dragon -- the fearsome, fire-breathing serpent-like creature of folklore. But our role as followers of Jesus isn't to scare people. We choose hope over fear.

The Green Dragon video promotes false dichotomies such as religion vs. science, care for creation vs. care for the poor, the way of Jesus vs. environmentalism. None of these actually are enemies. While neither science nor faith can answer every question, it's a perversion of the gospel to pit them against each other -- an insult to environmentalists motivated by faith to care for God's Earth.

People with different perspectives on science and faith can find a common foundation, suggests Luke Gascho, director of the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center at Goshen (Ind.) College. "People are seeking a message of hope, and the hope within our environmental dilemma comes when you can engage people in working together in a peaceful way," Gascho once said.

In the end, Christians, scientists and Christian scientists all should pursue truth -- and do it together. As followers of Jesus who value God's creation, global citizenship and justice for the poor, we have a unique role: to love our neighbors, to be faithful stewards of God's provision, and to be advocates for actions that honor God and the Earth.

When we damage the environment, the poorest among us, who contribute the least to its degradation, are disproportionately affected and least equipped to deal with the changes. Jesus said, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:40).

As followers of Jesus, it's our responsibility to change our lifestyles to lessen harm to God's creation and the least of these. It's one way of making peace on Earth as it is in heaven. If that's a cult, it's one all Christians should join.

Sheldon C. Good is a former Sojourners intern. He is assistant editor for Mennonite Weekly Review and blogs at The World Together.

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