New Alliances Prove It's Easy to Go Green

"You'd be surprised how many children have never seen a live cow or pig and don't know where food comes from," says Sister Amelia Stenger, director of the Mount St. Joseph Conference and Retreat Center. "It's a way to help educate in a simple way about Earth."

In Birmingham, Ala., locals are calling Bishop Heron Johnson a "modern-day Noah" because he has mobilized the Faith Apostolic Church to protect endangered fish in their area.

Global warming is a top priority for many of these communities. A diverse group of churches in New Mexico has handed out more than 3,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs to low income and older residents. Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, N.C., is pledging to reduce its institutional and individual carbon footprint. The First Presbyterian Church of Elko, Nev., is adding solar panels to its facility.

Lighting the Way in New Brunswick, N.J., has made it possible for religious groups to receive a solar array at no cost. More than two dozen Jewish, Christian and Muslim institutions have taken part.

The Christian Life Commission in Dallas is mobilizing Baptists to support a moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants in the state.

This marriage between environmentalists and people of faith is not new, according to Ellen Davis, professor of Bible and practical theology at Duke Divinity School.

'Greatest Crisis of Humanity'

"From a faith perspective, it is a crisis in the relationship we have with the God who created Heaven and Earth," says Davis, author of the soon-to-be published book, "Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible." "It is arguably the greatest crisis humanity as a whole has ever faced."

Though science and religion have recently been at odds over issues like evolution and creationism, Davis says they have more often "worked together."

"But sometimes science overstates its claims and underestimates its domain and dismisses religion," she says. "And religious people sometimes respond to science out of fear."

Jim Wallis, president of the progressive social justice group Sojourners and author of "Great Awakenings," says evangelical youth -- primarily those under age 30 and half under 25 -- have fueled the environmental movement.

He says a reinterpretation of the story of Genesis that reflects "stewardship" rather than man's "dominion" over Earth has traditionally created an "impasse" between conservative Christian groups and the science community.

"I began to notice about 10 years ago that some of most creative and refreshing initiatives on the environment were coming from a surprising source -- younger evangelicals," Wallis tells "They were not coordinated, but it was the first national sign in campaigns like 'What Would Jesus Drive?'"

Wallis is watching Anglican churches in England that are spearheading projects like "carbon fasts" that encourage parishioners to give up their fuel-driven lifestyles during Lent.

At a recent national convention of youth activists, 300 "mostly under-30" activists say their two most pressing concerns are poverty and "creation care" -- the environment. Their agenda is "broader and deeper" than just abortion and gay marriage, according to Wallis, though young Christians believe in the "pro-sanctity of life."

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