Science, Tech & Environment

Evangelicals increasingly are embracing environmentalism


Evangelical worshipers pray during a mass held by missionary Lanna Holder and her partner Pastor Rosania Rocha, in the Cidade de Refugio church they founded, in Sao Paulo June 16, 2012.


Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this week wrapped up two days of public hearings on its proposed climate rule that would curb carbon emissions from the nation's powers plants.

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The comment sessions drew an audience more diverse than the usual make-up of energy executives, coal lobbyists, and environmental activists. Among the crowd, and included as speakers, were a surprising number of faith leaders, evangelicals and conservative Christians who were there in support of the Obama Administration's position on climate action.

Brandan Robertson, the founder of The Revangelical Movement represents the growing number of those in the religious right who also see environmentalism as a religious and civic priority.

"Many conservative Christians pegged the issues around climate change as something that only liberals did or something that was actually opposed to the Christian message," Robertson says. "This was mainly because conservative Evangelicals and Catholics tended to have a human-centered view that saw the Earth as an object that humans have been given to dominate and exploit for our own benefit. When it was all used up, Jesus would return, destroy the world, and take Christians to heaven. That is, of course, an oversimplification."

Robertson says a new wave of conservative Christians and religious organizations have begun taking leadership roles, adding that the views of climate change denialists are inadequate, destructive, and even "unbiblical" in some senses.

"Throughout the Bible, there are clear passages that describe the sacredness of the Earth," Robertson explains. "The Bible paints a picture at the end that says humanity will actually exist on our planet forever."

Nowadays, Robertson says that environmental conservation is more in line with the Christian faith, adding that statistics show that the new generation of younger Evangelicals are changing politically.

"For instance, on June 2, when the EPA released a proposal to reduce carbon pollution, many conservative Christians saw that as a no-brainer," he says. "Yes, [President Obama's] proposal had a price tag of $150 billion, but the price tag that will cost if we don't get to work on these issues is far higher. As we look at Jesus and examine our Bibles, we're becoming increasingly less concerned with personal wealth and economic growth, and more concerned with caring for our whole planet. It seems to us like the more Christ-like thing to do."

This story first aired as an interview on PRI's The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation.