American Christianity Embracing Environmentalism

"To conservative Christians, environmentalism was a dirty word -- it stank of paganism, of interference with the free market, of the sixties. Meanwhile, many environmentalists were more secular than the American norm, and often infected with the notion spread by the historian Lynn White in his famous 1967 essay, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis," that Christianity lay at the root of ecological devastation. Everyone, in short, was scared of everyone else. But there were a few lights starting to shine in that gloom."
October 12, 2006, 12pm PDT | Abhijeet Chavan
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"To conservative Christians, environmentalism was a dirty word -- it stank of paganism, of interference with the free market, of the sixties. Meanwhile, many environmentalists were more secular than the American norm, and often infected with the notion spread by the historian Lynn White in his famous 1967 essay, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis," that Christianity lay at the root of ecological devastation. Everyone, in short, was scared of everyone else. But there were a few lights starting to shine in that gloom."

"Much of the uncertainty about the future of such efforts stems from this: Christianity in America has grown very comfortable with the hyperindividualism of our consumer lives. In one recent poll, three-quarters of Christians said they thought the phrase "God helps those who help themselves" came from the Bible, when in fact it derives from Aesop via Ben Franklin and expresses almost the exact opposite of the Gospel injunction to "love your neighbor as yourself." Says DeWitt, "By accommodating to a new philosophy about how society works, we've flipped Matthew 6:33 on its head. Instead of 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all the rest shall be added unto you,' we're looking out for No. 1." Which makes it a lot harder for politicians to start talking about carbon taxes or other measures that might actually start to bring our emissions under control."

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Published on Friday, October 6, 2006 in Grist Magazine
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