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very first charge God gives Man in Genesis is to care for creation, yet some believers act as if that command has been rescinded.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.