Evangelicals Go Green -- Will Conservative Candidates Follow Suit?

Lowe developed a deep concern for the environment at Wheaton College where he was one of the original members of an environmental stewardship club. For Lowe, protecting the planet is much more than an extracurricular activity. It's a calling. He is currently writing a book about the Christian student environmental movement to be published by InterVarsity Press. He also recently accepted a position as outreach director with A Rocha, an organization aimed at building what evangelicals call "the creation care movement" throughout the world.

"Saving this planet isn't a partisan issue and it needs to go beyond partisan politics," Lowe said.

'Creation Care' vs. Environmentalism

Despite a flurry of recent press, the evangelical environmental movement originated decades ago. Calvin DeWitt, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and president of the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists (AESE), is widely considered one of the founders of creation care, or a Bible-based environmentalism.

In 1979 DeWitt founded the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in response to Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. The Institute was connected with several Christian schools that were receptive to DeWitt's message about science and the environment, but the greater evangelical community still needed convincing.

"We began to hear the question, 'What is more important, people or the environment?'" DeWitt said.

Leslie Wickman, director of the Center for Research in Science (CRIS) at Azusa Pacific University in California, will be starting a local chapter AESE at her campus this fall. She finds inspiration in the book of Genesis where God called everything he created good, and instructed Adam to tend the garden of Eden.

"If we look at ourselves as God's appointed caretakers, it's a high calling as opposed to 'We're all in this together and part of environment,'" Wickman said. "In the Christian community ... there has been a historically large segment who look at the physical world as not being important or good."

Inconvenient Politics

Although Wickman considers several factors when deciding who to vote for, a candidate's position on environmental stewardship would influence her vote significantly. "The public opinion in the Christian community is ahead of the political candidates," she said. "I feel my best way to influence policy is by educating students and the community."

The Rev. Tri Robinson, who leads the Vineyard Boise evangelical megachurch in Idaho, said his children, now in their 30s, won't blindly align with the Republican Party. "They say there's nobody to vote for. On one hand we're voting for the sanctity of life and on the other hand we're voting against the environment," he said. "And that really challenged me as a father but also as a pastor with lots of young people at my church in that generation."

Robinson said he too is looking for a candidate that supports life both in and out of the womb. "Evangelicals are really, really going to have a problem in the next election unless someone stands up and is for both," he said.

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