One controversy roiling the evangelical world is to what extent Bible-believing Christians should be environmentalists. Recently, a group of prominent evangelical leaders, including mega-pastor Rick Warren, launched an environmental movement, urging the National Association of Evangelicals and evangelicals at large to make saving the earth-not just saving the world-a major priority.
But other evangelical leaders, such as Charles Colson, opposed the initiative. Now the NAE has put environmentalism on the shelf. But the debate continues, often stirring up enough heat to contribute to global warming (see "Greener than thou," April 22).
A big part of the problem is that the current environmental movement has been hijacked by the far left. Go to a Green Party rally and you will find environmentalism being used as a stick to beat up on capitalism, Republicans, and Western civilization. Read the Green Party platform and, amidst the calls to save the earth, you will find the whole agenda of today's socialists, feminists, gays, abortionists, and pacifists.
More seriously, today's environmentalism reflects a neo-pagan worldview. Loving nature passes over into worshipping nature. There is, in fact, a new environmentalist religion, the worship of Gaia, the ancient name for the earth goddess. According to its tenets, just as every living organism, including the human body, consists of millions of distinct living cells, the earth is a living, even conscious organism. Each of us, as well as each animal and species and ecosystem, is a cell in the body of Mother Earth.
Much of today's environmentalism is also, quite literally, pro-death. For many of the most zealous environmentalists, earth's biggest problem is overpopulation. This is why they favor abortion, euthanasia, and anything else-including some coercive measures to limit family size-to lower the number of human beings on the earth. The extremists in this camp are the "extinctionists," like University of Texas biologist Eric Pianka who championed the use of the Ebola virus to reduce the world's population by 90 percent (see "The end of humanism," April 22). Those with this mindset see human beings as germs infecting Mother Earth.
And yet, environmentalism used to be the cause of conservatives. It was modernism-with its Industrial Revolutions, scientific conquests, and ideology of human progress-that bulldozed and polluted the natural landscape. Conservative opponents of modernism championed nature (which they considered the work of God) over technology (the work of men). Think of J.R.R. Tolkien's villain Saruman, the ultimate scientist, with his genetically engineered monsters and the devastated wasteland created by his factories. His crime-which will bring his own destruction once the Ents wake up-is that he always kills the trees.
Christians are right to be skeptical of claims that man will "destroy the earth," as if God did not sustain His creation and would give such power to fallen, limited humanity. And Christians are right to suspend their judgment about today's agenda-driven scientific announcements. And, as the critics of the evangelical climate initiative proposal point out, the church has no particular calling or expertise in environmental science.
The Bible teaches that man has dominion over nature, but that he is to tend the garden. He may use God's creation, but he is also to be a good steward of that creation.
Consider a recent study saying thousands of animal species, including polar bears and hippos, are in danger of extinction. Logically, an evolutionist should not care: According to his worldview, species come and go, with the fittest surviving to evolve to a higher plane. But a Christian would believe that God created each of these species. Therefore, their existence is His will.
Christians may well oppose commercial developments that replace God-created beauty with man-made ugliness. Christians have an interest in preserving wilderness, protecting wildlife, and cleaning up the air and water that man has dirtied.
Such were the concerns of early activists, such as Theodore Roosevelt, who called themselves not "environmentalists" but "conservationists." And to "conserve" nature is a fitting goal for "conservatives."