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JMuse Cafe: Religion and Environmental Stewardship

2013 February 14
by Paul Mabrey

February 21, 6:30-8:30pm; buffet opens at 6:15pm.
Rose Library, 3rd Floor Flex Space

In recent years, conservative Protestant Christians have been the American group that is the most likely to be against environmental protection efforts.  Demographics do not seem to account for this; rather, the opposition appears to stem from religious positions.

When viewed from a broader, comparative religions perspective, it quickly becomes clear that the very concept of ‘nature’ is culturally constructed, and that American Christianity draws on particular interpretations of the biblical depiction of ‘nature.’  Although the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament promotes a clear and consistent ethic of environmental stewardship, some denominations of Christianity interpret the passages differently, stressing humankind’s dominion over the earth.  When combined with apocalyptic theologies that envision an imminent new world that is fast approaching, there may be little interest in, or even strident opposition to, efforts to address problems such as global warming, species decimation, or air or water quality.  However, the influence of apocalyptic theology does not necessarily determine this outcome; within American evangelical Christianity itself, apocalyptic millennarian hopes have sometimes fused with theology that extols and wishes to protect ‘nature.’ Public policy discussions and efforts about environmental issues have at times alienated and at other times invited action from evangelical leaders.

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