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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ministers for, not of the Environment

The Ottawa Citizen has touched on an issue I brought up before in God to Humanity "WTF!"

The Citizen's article A Christian version of Al Gore
discusses the spread of religious based or motivated environmentalism which I personally believe is a great lever to pry a portion of the existing Conservative base away from Harper's Bush-o-Bots. Many progressives including me are often disdainful of the religious, yet they can be a powerful force for the common good should we cultivate rather than belittle them. Just a thought, read the article below

'A Christian version of Al Gore'
Robin White's slide show on faith and climate change isn't up for an Oscar, but it heralds a growing trend among Christians who see environmental stewardship as a sacred calling

Roger Collier
The Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, January 13, 2008

CREDIT: Julie Oliver, the Ottawa Citizen
Robin White is a Christian who thinks they, as a group, should be more active in the environment.

Some people think the responsibility for solving global warming falls to those in positions of power: Political leaders who can tax egregious polluters and industry tycoons who can invest in greener technology. Others believe science can remedy the world's ills.

Robin White has a different perspective.

"Christianity is the core solution to environmental problems," he says .

Mr. White, who works for Environment Canada's greenhouse gas division, doesn't dismiss the role science plays in fighting climate change. With a degree in biochemistry, he's no stranger to the world of lab coats and beakers. He knows politics plays an important part, too. His years pursuing a masters degree in international environmental policy and working for the federal NDP taught him that.

But in the end, he says, real progress in curbing the damage people inflict on the Earth can only be achieved by those who inflict it. And that means people must change. Mr. White believes this entails more than shunning plastic bags, more than discarding energy-hungry light bulbs, more than nudging down your thermostat -- it means changing how you view this world and how you view your place in it. Such profound change, he says, can only come through faith.

"Ultimately, the problem is not the science. It's not the economics. It's a problem of the heart."

In recent years, more and more practising Christians have taken active roles in addressing environmental problems. In 2006, many prominent American evangelical leaders -- including the head of the Salvation Army and Rick Warren, pastor of the fourth largest church in the U.S. and the author of The Purpose Driven Life -- signed a statement backing the "Evangelical Climate Initiative." The non-profit Christian organization A Rocha runs nature conservation projects in 18 countries, including Canada.

Mr. White, who is 34 and has never owned a car, acknowledges that Christians are becoming more open to discussing environmental issues. But attitudes are changing far too slowly for his liking. And he has a question for those believers concerned only about the next world: How can you profess love for a creator but care so little about his creation?

Some eco-minded Christians say their faith and environmental concerns are intrinsically linked. Green party leader Elizabeth May has been active in the environmental movement since her teenage years. She's been a devoted Anglican just as long. For her, the concept of a person of faith who sits idly as others leave Goliath-sized ecological footprints is absurd.

"If you proclaim yourself as a Christian and you look at the world in which you live, it's hard not to see that you have a particular obligation to right the wrongs you see around you," she says.

Ms. May says it isn't difficult for church-goers to adopt greener practices. They could, for example, carpool to church. Better yet, they could worship near their homes and walk, as she does each Sunday to St. Bartholomew's in New Edinburgh.

Environmental awareness campaigns oriented towards Christians can also be effective in making them re-examine their lifestyle choices, says Ms. May. She cites, by way of example, the 2002 effort led by a Prius-driving member of the Evangelical Environmental Network who posed the question: "What Would Jesus Drive?"

Of course, if she were asked that question, Ms. May's answer wouldn't quite fit the query: "Jesus would take the bus."

An even more effective approach than raising awareness, some Christians say, is to actually get your hands dirty. The members of A Rocha Canada, which is based in South Surrey, B.C., focus on nature conservation projects, like rehabilitating animal habitats or restoring polluted streams.

"We're motivated to do good work on the ground," say Markku Costamo, the group's executive director. "Because of our faith, we want to be good stewards of what God created by doing good, solid, practical projects."

The 20-member organization, which receives much of its funding from churches and individual donors, often works with secular environmental groups to tackle projects. Sometimes the other groups are leery, suspicious that Mr. Costamo and his colleagues have a hidden agenda. But the only evangelism they do on project sites, he says, is with their hands.

Mr. Costamo, a vegetation ecologist, says he gets many speaking requests from churches. Over the past two years, he says, evangelical Christians in particular have become increasingly interested in exploring their responsibilities not only to their fellow man, but to the Earth. Still, his passion for the environment sometimes meets with resistance.

"Some say church should be about saving souls," says Mr. Costamo, "not about wasting time restoring a salmon stream."

Mr. White has, at times, received similar comments from Christians with whom he's shared his views. In fact, he's heard worse. Someone once told him that he's been deceived, that global warming isn't real, that he should concentrate on other issues, like abortion and gay marriage. Another said he was compromising his salvation.

"Typically, the issues being touched upon by some evangelical Christians are issues they don't have to address," says Mr. White. "When you talk about abortion or gay marriage or other family values issues, they themselves don't have to change in a lot of cases. But addressing environmental issues means people have to change their lives. And that's why there's resistance."

Despite the occasional unpleasant exchange, Mr. White is doing his part to spread the gospel of green. He's prepared a slide show titled "A Christian Perspective on Climate Change." It's perhaps the only PowerPoint presentation ever to contain both a quotation from Deuteronomy and a graph showing the rise of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. He presents the slide show to university students and local congregations. At one point, he considered making this his vocation.

"Almost like a Christian version of Al Gore," he says.

But he decided he could make a greater contribution to the world in his position at Environment Canada, where he provides policy advice on matters relating to monitoring greenhouse gases. So he does presentations on the side. Next Sunday, he'll be speaking at Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Old Ottawa South.

"I think he can help our congregation look at this issue through a Christian lens," says Kerry Kronberg, one of the church's pastors.

Mr. White believes he's been called by God to speak out about climate change. One aspect of taking personal responsibility on environmental issues, he says, is educating others. He says Christians can make particularly strong advocates for the environment because they are duty-bound to press on, no matter how dire the circumstance, no matter how grim the outlook.

"From a non-Christian perspective, you can throw up your hands and give up. As a Christian, I can say God has given me a responsibility and I can be a light in the world. And I will."

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The Good Book on green issues

Some Bible verses cited as supportive of environmentalism:

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." -- Genesis 2:15

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge." -- Psalm 19: 1-4

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters."

-- Psalm 24: 1-2

"The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants." -- Leviticus 24:1

- - -

See the slide show

Robin White will be presenting

"A Christian Perspective on Climate Change" next Sunday,

Jan. 20, at 1 p.m. at Sunnyside Wesleyan Church, 58 Grosvenor Avenue.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008
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1 comment:

Livingsword said...

Hi nice to meet you….

Interesting article, since I am a follower of Jesus or what you would probably label as a Christian I am very aware that the Church is intimately involved with this issue, in a genuine manner.

I have a blog which is dedicated to such issues (Creation on the Blade) and know many other Jesus followers that utilize blogs in a similar manner. Also there are many that are making a real time difference on the ground as it were…

You are correct in not holding religion in high regard, as a follower of Jesus of course I believe that religion is not the answer. As a devout Jesus follower I would never want to be regarded as “religious”.

Yet you seem to be religiously bent yourself in your use of the words “acolytes” “Mother Earth” and “Gaia” in your header….