Is Going Green Bad For Your Soul? A Response to "Resisting the Green Dragon" (Part 1)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGEOFipx70U]

A group called the Cornwall Alliance has put together a 12-week video course with a curriculum dedicated to rebutting and resisting the acceptance of environmentalist sensibilities among evangelical Christians. The foreboding web site states: 

Without a doubt one of the greatest threats to society and the church today is the multifaceted environmentalist movement.

I'm a little hesitant to post on this and give it more publicity than it has already received, but given the high profile nature of those involved, which include representatives of Focus on the Family, Calvary Chapel, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Family Research Council, I think it's important to address. It has even been hailed by Glenn Beck on his TV show as an antidote to secular "go green" curriculums, and will likely be brought up in public discourse in the coming year. Along with this, I have been working on this blog and elsewhere to flesh out the intersections between faith, food, and environment, so it could be I'm in a unique position to respond.

A little context is helpful for understanding why "Resisting the Green Dragon" is so hyperbolic and overwrought. The environmental movement has been a straw-man enemy of conservative Christians for decades, but in recent years different aspects of the environmental movement have been embraced by conservative Christians in what some have called the "greening of evangelicals." Richard Cizik, as a representative of the National Association of Evangelicals, famously took up the cause of Global Warming, garnering placement on Time Magazine 100 most influential people list. In a 2006 show titled, "Is God Green?", Bill Moyers profiled Tri Robinson, an evangelical pastor from Boise Idaho, and how his conservative congregation has embraced the care of God's creation as gospel truth. There was also a boundary breaking book in 2007 by Matthew Sleeth, titled Serve God, Save the Planet, wherein Sleeth speaks with a distinctly evangelical voice about living simply and going green. 

Organizations like the Evangelical Environmental Network, that had been on the margins for years, have come to prominence and have gained influence. New organizations, like Flourish, were created, conferences were held, a distinct language of "creation care" was adopted, "Green" Vacation Bible School curriculums were written, and mission organizations like Plant With Purpose have sought to carry out the gospel of Jesus through planting trees and equipping the poor with sustainable practices. There is even a little known Spokane blogger who's written a book about the intersections of the Christian faith, the local food movement, and going green. :)

While the Green Dragon material poses the devil as the antagonist, the program is in many ways a response to these recent developments. The clue is in their press release that begins with these words, bold and underlined:

While Others Push Evangelicals to Embrace Anti-Christian Environmental Views, the Cornwall Alliance Has Been Joined by Top Christian Leaders in a New Series of DVDs and Printed Resources for Churches and Ministries

They are less concerned about tree-hugging environmentalists, than they are about other evangelical Christians who are embracing elements of the movement. They think the fox has gotten into the henhouse and now they are sounding the alarm.

In a follow-up post I'll do my best to respond to their concerns but, for now, I'll just offer a quote that sums up much of my frustration with things like "Resisting the Green Dragon."

Perhaps the greatest disaster of human history is one that happened to or within religion: that is, the conceptual division between the holy and the world, the excerpting of the Creator from the creation . . .. and this split in public attitudes was inevitably mirrored in the lives of individuals: A man could aspire to heaven with his mind and his heart while destroying the earth, and his fellow men, with his hands.

—Wendell Berry