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Environmentalism – the new religion

For the Church, the problem is clear. Environmentalism can offer all the upsides of faith – the sense of community, of certainty, of moral superiority – with none of the nagging doubts. The idea that Jesus died for your sins can be hard to get your head around. How much simpler, and how much more appropriate for our age, is the idea that you can save your soul, and the world, simply by shopping in the organic aisle.

Read the whole of this insightful little piece here.

And the Onion, as always, nails the issue:


More from the blog religious environmentalism here.

0 thoughts on “Environmentalism – the new religion

  1. Matt

    Hi Glen,
    I've got my 'yes, but' hat on today.
    Just because you see and want to critique the moralism or the messianic visions of the 'whole world in our hands' stuff does that mean that those actions couldn't be motivated from an understanding of the gospel and renewed understandings of the Creator/Creature divide and of stewardship/dominion?
    What I'm worried about is that Christian preachers go after 'salvation by recycling' in a way which exposes idols but in doing so implies that the gospel has no implications. In other words it looks like you can be saved in Christ and who cares what you do afterwards, the justifying God certainly doesn't. I'm bashing a caricature but it's one that I come across around these parts fairly often. People want to make justification by faith in Christ through grace alone clear - praise God! However, it can sound like you should do the opposite of what might be considered good to prove you are trust in God's justification (like not recycle ever again might be a silly example).

  2. Glen

    Hi Matt, Just running out the door so I'll probably sound a bit direct, but...

    Would you have the same reaction if a preacher was railing against the false gospel of "the body beautiful"? Is preaching against environmentalISM any more dangerous than preaching against our obsession with physical bodily perfection? In a sermon against 'the body beautiful' would you also want as many caveats like 'but of course a little exercise is a good thing and let's not stuff our faces with too many cream buns and the gospel, properly understood and applied, will yield beautiful bodies, etc, etc'?

    Just checking to make sure envoronmentalism doesn't have special status as a false gospel less knock-able than others :)

  3. John B

    Matt poses a great question. It's one that John Zizioulas has engaged at considerable length. He sees the ecological crisis as a result of the cultural loss of the sacredness of nature. Zizioulas contrasts the pagan response to this crisis with the Christian response. I think Glen is rightly going after the idolatry of the pagan environmentalism, which has become a fashionable spirit of our age. But here's a quote from Zizoulas in which he describes the Christian response to the crisis:

    "The Christian regards the world as sacred because it stands in dialectical relationship with God; thus he respects it (without worshipping it, since it has no divine presence in its nature), but he regards the human being as the only possible link between God and creation, a link that can either bring nature to communion with God and thus sanctify it, or turn it ultimately towards Man – or nature itself – and condemn it to the state of a ‘thing’, the meaning and purpose of which are exhausted with the satisfaction of Man."

    So in a very different sense than the pagans, I think that Zizioulas would affirm that yes, "We’ve got the whole world in our hands".

    Here's a link to the third lecture in Zizioulas' series, "Preserving God's Creation":

    The other two lectures in the series are available at that site also.

  4. Matt

    Hi Glen,

    I like direct! I guess what I'm grappling with then is actually a different issue of what 'truthfulness' looks like in the pulpit.

    It's never possible to say everything all the time and rhetorically it can be very effective in getting people to think (and push back) if you say something that is true as far as it goes even if it doesn't got very far! I worry though that as a regular practice it can erode trust in the preacher and careful thinking in the congregation.

    I mean that it winds me up when people take the rhetorical idol bashing slogan as the whole story. Inside I'm saying, "surely a "responsible" preacher who wants to be faithful to the whole counsel of God won't always be provocatively reductive even if it does help people to see their idols?

    As to environmentalism knock-away - I'm certainly not wanting it to have any special status. I am wanting to say that like body image etc it does matter. It must be demoted from ultimate place and Christ recognised for the place that he has and deserves but these are things don't then get relegated from thought or action altogether as a consequence.

    At least that's what I'm going to argue for now!!


  5. pgjackson

    Interesting article in the telly that. The clearest thing I've read on environmentalism as religion in ages.

    I have a massive suspicion that the whole environmentalism thing will be one of the (many) things subsequent generations will laugh at us for. School kids will write history essays about the ways in which it was a tool in the hand of the Statists, a balm for white middle class post-colonial guilt, and the eschatological/ missiological 'missing link' that rounded off the secular humanist religion we all followed back then. We'll be laughed at for falling for it. And the tragedy will be there'll be very little evidence of the people of God having been any different from the vast majority of everyone else on it (much, sadly, like a whole raft of contemporary issues).

  6. Pingback: Hindsight is a wonderful thing | The City of God

  7. Hiram

    Didn't Adam and Eve try to become one with nature after they sinned? Moses tells us:

    the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
    And they...hid themselves...among the trees of the garden.

    (Genesis 3:7-8)

    The first attempt to become one with nature was really an attempt to (i.)hide their sin, and (ii.)attempting to depersonalize themselves by blending in with nature.


  8. Glen

    Brilliant point Hiram. I just read of your namesake this morning - full of wisdom, understanding and skill! 1 Kings 7

    Amen! :)

  9. Si

    Here's an interesting response to the article, by Frog and Amy Orr-Ewing's latest venture, the Millennial's Think Tank. I'm leaving it without comment for the time being.

    The article above penned by Robert Colvile, a fellow Millennial, takes the debate over Generation Y’s apathy to faith further by suggesting that going Green is an alternative to religion. Colvile claims that being environmentally responsible has for many Generation Yers provided a sense of morality and community which he describes as a form of ’secular faith’. Environmentalism cannot offer all the upsides of faith and whilst it may contain the essence of moralism and some form of community it certainly doesn’t offer answers to the ‘big questions’ in life. The fact that Generation Y engages so much with ‘Green’ is because of their desperate need for community and a moral structure that they have failed to inherit. In a society that is unsure where it stands with regards to sex, family, relationships and even economics Environmentalism offers a moral crutch on which Gen Yers can confidently lean.

    If businesses wish to connect with Millennial’s they will have to show commitment to the cause, encourage community and facilitate change. Churches that are engaging Generation Yers are taking seriously environmental and ethical concerns because to choose God is by definition to choose Green.

  10. Glen

    Just heard on the radio that there are more members of conservation societies in the UK than political parties. Interesting!

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