Warring Evangelicals Make Iron Eyes Cody Cry


I’ve blogged on green topics before (for instance, see this post), so perhaps I’m excluded from commenting on the recent environmental brouhaha as Evangelicals once again savage each other over an issue that neither side understands completely.

Several well-known Christians have signed an initiative asking for greater sensitivity to the issue of global warming. Iron Eyes Cody—The Crying IndianA wide variety of Christian leaders from Jack Hayford and Duane Litfin to Brian McLaren and Robert Yarbrough signed on the dotted line of the Evangelical Climate Coalition (ECC.)

Meanwhile, Chuck Colson, Ted Haggard, and James Dobson have said they don’t share that same feeling. And yet again, another highly vocal group of Christians has been brutally critical of the ECC, basically calling any Christian interest in environmental issues a concession to Gaia worship.

Like so many of these stupid battles—and they are stupid—the brutal misunderstanding, tortured Scriptural citations, and outright mean-spiritedness dishonors the Lord.

Here’s what I don’t get:

1. The harshest critics pull out the Great Commission factor. They act as if it’s impossible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Why is it so impossible to think that Christians can be good stewards of God’s creation AND evangelize at the same time? Why the bogus either/or argument? Whether we’re going door-to-door or just sharing Christ wherever and whenever, we still consume food, gasoline, and other resources. Can’t we think a little bit more about how we do it? Will that somehow negate Matthew 28:19-20? People arguing that we can’t do both are only doing so because they are short-sighted and simply wish to justify their own personal selfishness. And Jesus doesn’t think much of people who think of themselves first.

2. Even if you disagree with the global warming clarion call (and I’m certainly not convinced either way), what is the absolute worst that can come out of Christian leaders asking us to be more sensitive to the issue? We burn through fewer non-renewable resources? We’re more aware of our own personal wastefulness? We live more simply? Are any of those bad aspirations? Do any run counter to God’s word?

3. I don’t understand why some folks ignore the whole of Scripture when it comes to stewardship. The very first charge God gives Man in Genesis is to care for creation, yet some believers act as if that command has been rescinded. If they can point to chapter and verse that negate that charge, I’ll fully concede the point. Simply put: they can’t. Again, our entire lifestyle can be one of stewardship and simple living and those detract not one iota from our greatest purpose.

4. If it’s a matter of witness, what witness do wastrel Christians give the world when they toss trash out the windows of their ICHTHUS-labeled Chevy? Every week I see self-labeled Christians littering. Every week. Without exception. Why? What does that accomplish except to drive people away from the Lord?

5. Unfortunately, we’d rather fight than switch. If it’s all about showing the proper witness, then why not join the Sierra Club or the Audubon Society, befriend unbelievers in those organizations and lead them to Christ? We can witness anywhere, so why not right in the belly of the beast, so to speak? Salt and light—no matter where we are. And I’m not talking about joining environmental organizations just to convert people, but doing so because it’s the right thing to do.

6. Is there a truckload of weird New Age garbage wrapped up in environmentalism? Absolutely! You’d had to have sleepwalked through the last forty years to have missed that one. But as we all know, the Enemy tries to counterfeit or corrupt everything that God values. So why the shock on our faces that the Enemy’s got a grip on a lot of folks in the environmental movement? What are we afraid of?

7. Too many Christians have short (or selective) memories. I remember 1971 and the debut of the iconic Ad Council campaign simply called “The Crying Indian.” Remember Iron Eyes Cody standing on side of the road by a pile of trash with a lone tear streaming down his face? It’s considered one of the greatest commercials of all time. And what did it accomplish? By the end of that campaign’s run in 1983, litter in this country had been reduced by 88%.

I live not far from the Little Miami River, a historic waterway. A few years ago, that river was so filthy that canoeing companies that made their livelihood off the river were facing extinction. The water was so bacteria-laden from pollution run-off that anyone who fell in while canoeing faced a horrid gastrointestinal nightmare days later. Yet people who were saddened by what had happened to that beautiful river didn’t give in. Thousands worked to clean it up.

Today that river is pristine, with nearly all the driven-off wildlife having returned. Some folks cared enough to clean up that river. More cared to clean the air. Others focused on litter. People who were not satisfied with breathing smog and walking through empty pop cans did something about it. Who benefited? We all did. We live cleaner today because some people cared enough to make a difference. We can live even cleaner still.

Christians today have that same opportunity. Why should the children of the world show greater care of the Lord’s creation than we do?

Even if the whole global warming thing is a boondoggle, there’s no reason why we can’t all be less wasteful, live more simply, and show greater care of what God has given us. If the ECC accomplishes that tangentially, then we’re all better for their effort.

Now say it with me: UNLESS.

12 thoughts on “Warring Evangelicals Make Iron Eyes Cody Cry

  1. Ken Fields

    Great piece, Dan. It’s not only possible to preserve and protect our environment … it’s expected that God’s people will. If you read the OT carefully, crop rotation (and allowing the land a frequent ‘rest’) is not a new thing; it’s a God-thing!

    And for those who may disagree with your assertions here, I ask them to explain the meaning of “dress and keep it” in Genesis 2:15. Dressing the land has to do with subduing and controlling it. Keeping the land refers to preserving and protecting it.

    I realize that some may chafe at the idea of bringing Scripture into the discussion, but these just happen to be the same reasons I teach my children to throw their trash in a can rather than a creek!

  2. First off, I do agree with most of what your saying. Becoming a better steward of all that God has given us is definitely a good thing. However, putting the church in this position is a really Bad Idea™.

    First, having the church identify itself with a pseudo-science like global warming hurts our credibility. This hurts the primary mission of the church. (evangelism and discipleship) I would also claim that most church leaders are not scientists, and are in effect taking a position without comprehending the issue.

    Second, this reeks of bad stewardship. The time and resources that will be wasted on this wild goose chase should instead be channeled towards solving real problems that exist today. Like poverty and AIDS in Africa, for example.

  3. AlieraKieron

    Short answer?

    And Scott, the only ‘pseudo-science’ involved is the question of how much human beings are contributing to the problem, not whether or not the problem exists. The poles are shrinking. The polar bears are starving to death.

    It’s something that has always bothered me about the conventional Evangelical response: if God notes the all of the lowliest sparrow, how does he feel when an entire species goes extinct?

  4. If happen to be possession of some late-breaking hard evidence that proves global warming exists, and isn’t part of the natural climate change cycle, by all means point me to it.

    Please note, bogus studies based on broken statistical models (the “hockey stick”) and contrived laboratory experiments do not qualify as hard evidence.

  5. Anonymous


    Has the global temperature increased over the last hundred years? Yes. Not even late-breaking news.

    Was all that caused by man? No. Was any of it caused by man? Don’t know.

    The part most people don’t understand is that *global warming* isn’t necessarily caused by *humnanity.* Why they don’t get that, I don’t know. But they don’t.

    Global warming and cooling is a cyclic phenomenon. There are long cycles and hsort cycles. We’re coming to the end of a long cycle (100k years)… and the coming drop in temperature appears to be a doozy.

    Go look on the ‘net. There are several recent papers out there on the subject.

    I’d make an ad hominem attack, but I think everyone who believes the evidence thinks that those who don’t are blind, misguided, or selfish… or all three.

  6. Ken Fields


    In my opinion, Dan was not backing a specific position on the global warming issue. And frankly, I’m not either. Still, we are called to be stewards over all we’ve been given. This includes our finances, our family, our possessions, and the earth.

    If the earth is the Lord’s, and he has granted us the privilege of living here, are we not responsible to protect and preserve it? Why the aversion to following God’s command in Genesis 2:15?

  7. I don’t support those who are screaming “Global warming! Global warming!” like so many Chicken Littles. The whole issue may be nothing more than a common cycling of Earth temps, sun variations, or any of many other debunking ideas.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that we are doing a poor job environmentally in some areas and can always do better. For that reason, I support any initiatives that will save energy and resources while reducing pollutants. That’s just common sense, especially since many of us remember how bad things got in the Seventies.

  8. And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
    was a small pile of rocks,
    with the one word “UNLESS”
    Whatever that meant,
    well, I just couldn’t guess.

    “But now,” says the Once-ler,
    “Now that you’re here,
    the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear
    UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
    nothing is going to get better.
    It’s not.

    from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

  9. Stingray

    Excellent post, Dan. I worked in the environmental industry for 15 years and faced ethical issues several times. I often had to work with people with whom I shared one common goal — a clean environment — even though the rest of their agenda was horrific. “Family planning” NGOs and groups like Planned Parenthood seemed to essentially share boards of directors with environmental groups. If I had to work at an environmental meeting with, say, Jane from Bigshot Law Firm, our chit-chat would almost inevitably lead her to tell me that she was also on the board for one of the local abortion centers. Very troubling.

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