Heaven And Nature Sing: How Evangelical Theology Can Inform The Task Of Environmental Protection (And Vice Versa) -- By: Russell D. Moore

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 57:3 (Sep 2014)
Article: Heaven And Nature Sing: How Evangelical Theology Can Inform The Task Of Environmental Protection (And Vice Versa)
Author: Russell D. Moore


Heaven And Nature Sing: How Evangelical Theology Can Inform The Task Of Environmental Protection (And Vice Versa)

Russell D. Moore*

* Russell D. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral concerns and public policy entity of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, with offices in Washington, DC and Nashville, TN.

When asked about his earliest memories of growing up in the Mississippi Delta, Willie Morris talked about killing ants. Morris, the Southern essayist and former editor of Harper’s magazine, told an interviewer about a time, early in his childhood in Yazoo City, when his friend Bubba walked up, to find Morris on the sidewalk killing ants, as Johnny Cash might put it, just to watch them die. Bubba looked at the ants, looked at Willie, looked back at the ants, and pronounced, “The Lord ain’t gonna like that.” Morris said, “And I guess he didn’t.”1

It is hard to imagine things as inconsequential to the arc of history than the extinguished nervous systems of some insects a half-century ago. But, for some reason, Morris remembered that little rebuke. Perhaps the memory was random, as some are, but perhaps it was the beginning of a conscience awakening to how, in small things, a human person could learn to use power destructively and capriciously. Or perhaps it was because that memory reminded the writer facing his own mortality that there was an account to be had at the end of this age, by Someone who weighed all things in the balance.

Most evangelicals would affirm that the totality of human stewardship includes the shepherding of the creation around us. In light of the contemporary ecological movements, especially since the fractures of the culture wars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, conservative evangelicals and secular environmentalists often find ourselves talking about each other, though rarely with each other. Both sides are seeking to appeal to consciences, in different ways. I could prompt a cascade of “Amens” in a sermon—or retweets on a Twitter feed—by noting that our legal system protects darter snails but not unborn humans. A secular environmentalist could evoke cheers on “The Daily Show” by lampooning conservative Christians for claiming to be “pro-life” while ignoring toxins in the atmosphere that produce birth defects or spontaneous abortions. These are appeals to the conscience, but they are rarely a conversation from one conscience to the other so much as they are self-reinforcing “red meat” (or, I guess, “green leaf” as the case might be) for the already-convinced bases.

Recent years have forced ...

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