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Is God Green? The Religious Calling for Sustainability

Editor’s Note: A recent Associated Press article on the green religion movement’s reaction to the Gulf oil spill is giving the movement more public attention. GREENR advisory board member Professor R. Bruce Hull recently contributed a few thoughts on the movement and the need for the sustainability movement to engage religious studies and religions.

Polls show that as many as 95 percent of Americans believe in God.  Does this mean that the growing Creation Care movement is a harbinger of a more sustainable society?

Self-professed God’s Greens promote theology and practices responding directly to the challenges of sustainability.  It is now unusual to find a religious denomination without formal positions on issues such as environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, recycling, and off-shore drilling. The movement is global in scope. Over a decade ago the United Nations Environment Program published Earth and Faith, an eighty-page book summarizing the confluence of world religions around sustainability concerns.  In the US, Creation Care has attracted enough attention to become a lightening rod issue for conservative evangelical Christians.

Efforts to interpret the Judeo-Christian land ethic for modern times have generated considerable debate.  A land ethic appears early and prominently in Genesis, when god gave humanity dominion over creation with instructions to tend, keep, and subdue it.  Lynn White ignited a modern-era controversy in 1967 with his publication in the prestigious journal Science, claiming that Christianity was the “Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” and for several decades environmentalism and Christianity seemed at odds—environmentalists blaming Christianity for an environmentally exploitive culture and Christianity accusing environmentalists of being pantheistic nature-worshipers.  More recently, the rising popularity of the Prosperity Gospels, which praises wealth and material success, creates new tensions between environmentalism and Christianity because few things are more environmentally problematic than rampant materialism.

Fertile common ground exists where religion, faith, and sustainable development overlap.  Solutions to the challenges of sustainability must embrace the whole person and involve all social institutions.  Successful practitioners of the sustainability arts and sciences must bridge secular and religious perspectives.  Building these bridges will be difficult because sustainability curricula emphasizing technical solutions through engineering, design, agricultural, or natural science disciplines offer few opportunities for students to engage religion and the humanities. Courageous bridge builders are needed.

R. Bruce Hull, IV, Ph.D. is a professor in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech practicing social ecology. His work focuses on healing forests fractured by pressures of urbanization and globalization. He is author and editor of over 100 publications, including two books: Infinite Nature (Chicago 2006) and Restoring Nature (Island 2000). He serves on the editorial advisory board for GREENR.

Additional Resources for GREENR Subscribers:

> The Land Ethic

> Religion and the Environment

Posted on: July 21, 2010, 5:04 pm Category: Opinions Tagged with: , ,

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