Over a decade ago, when Melanie Gish began working on her doctoral dissertation at Heidelburg University, her working title was, A Green Gap? – Conservative Skeptics, Evangelical Environmentalists, and the Dilemma of Global Climate Change.
Gish in 2010 interviewed 13 Christian leaders, including Au Sable Institute founder Calvin DeWitt, of the “creation care” movement. She also interviewed E. Calvin Beisner, founder and CEO of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which she described as “focused more on the opposition to the creation care movement.”
In 2020, Baylor University Press published Gish’s tome, retitled God’s Wounded World: American Evangelicals and the Challenge of Environmentalism. Baylor states that the book “traces the evolution of creation care and environmental advocacy movements within American evangelicalism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.”
In her Introduction, Gish proposes that “the creation care movement must be seen as a crucial mediating actor between religious and ideological poles and as an important addition to American environmentalism.” Earlier, Gish had stated the goal of her dissertation was to shed light on “the changing face of contemporary American evangelicalism” by focusing on evangelical environmental activism, “most notably activism with regard to global climate change.”
Gish provides an informative history of the creation care movement, with a focus on science versus Scripture; overpopulation versus abortion; anti-consumerism versus free-market capitalism; and government regulation versus individual responsibility. She asserts that American environmentalism is rooted in protests against the discourse of Manifest Destiny and the belief in human progress.
Jimmy Carter, she observes, was likely the first American President to lack “a quintessentially American ‘vision of abundance’,” as he followed a “conservation, not consumption” strategy in reaction to the politically imposed energy shortages of the 1970s. The landslide election of Ronald Reagan was America’s initial response to Carter’s gospel of limits to America’s future.
Nevertheless, Carter had invigorated the environmental movement, and Reagan’s eight years provided a foil that enabled the movement to grow. George H. W. Bush expanded the federal environmental bureaucracy, but passage of the Clean Air Act effectively brought “criteria pollutants” under control. Desperate for a new rallying cry, the environmental movement moved to “carbon pollution,” identifying carbon dioxide emissions from all sources as a bugbear to be corralled and neutered.
Ever since, the environmentalist movement has focused public concern on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and the Christian environmentalist groups, including the Evangelical Environmental Network, quickly became heavily invested in the narrative. Air pollution, water quality, species protection, and other environmental controls remained, but only the fight against “global warming” provided the opportunity for total societal transformation.
Creation care has thus become a largely uncritical partner in the globalist effort to rid the world of capitalism and usher in a carefully controlled world government that decides who lives, who prospers, and who must be sacrificed “for the greater good.”
[As Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, put it, “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.” Figueres admitted that the goal of the climate change activists was not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.]
Gish credits EEN director Jim Ball with turning “creation care” into a crusade against carbon dioxide, and thus against the entirety of the fossil fuel driven economy and thus into an anti-capitalist campaign. The EEN’s constant colleagues have included a litany of the Leftist green groups and Establishment paeans.
Peter Illyn, a product of the Jesus movement, is credited with developing a creation-centered theology that focused on those identified as being negatively impacted by climate change. Gish also credits Illyn for recognizing and supporting efforts at Christian colleges and churches to shift their focus toward ecological consciousness.
In her view, Illyn was more “politically unafraid” than other creation care leaders, a term which she does not define but which apparently means willing to work with secularist green groups and encourage government controls. But who might these heroes be afraid of? She never says.
Perhaps she means unafraid of the “wrath” of the Cornwall Alliance and its founder, E. Calvin Beisner, whose 1990 book, Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future, presented a very different view of the intersection of ecology and economics than what mainstream secularists, joined by their creation care Christians, were espousing.
Gish asserts that Beisner challenged the 1994 Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation over the quality of the science in support of its seven “degradations of creation” in and on its preferred “solutions.” But fundamentally, says Gish, the Cornwall Alliance has become as defined by its skepticism about the activist response to small increases in global temperature (often magnified to Hollywood blockbuster proportions) as the EEN is defined by its “politically unafraid stance toward climate change.”
Gish admits she is neither an American, nor an evangelical, nor an environmentalist, and her approach is to a great extent that of an inquiring mind and a puzzle solver. Thus she is able to see that Beisner’s opposition to the creation care movement is complex and faith-based. But then she makes the shocking statement that, “We (?) would therefore be wrong to simply dismiss Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance as a ‘liar for hire’” (as some of those she interviewed must have claimed).
And it is on grounds of theology that Beisner asserts the absolute need for close scrutiny of the environmentalist (globalist) movement. Cornwall’s mission statement includes both saving the spiritually lost through the gospel of Christ and saving the poor from counterproductive environment and energy policies; providing answers to false propaganda in news, entertainment, politics, and education; saving free people from government overreach (tyranny); and “saving the planet from the people who are saving the planet.”
The central issue for Beisner is not global warming per se but that stewardship is an individual responsibility grounded in obedience to God. The creation care crew, by contrast, seems willing to cede to a secularist, even anti-faith, international body the right to decide “our common future.”
By contrast, Don Gordon, founder and CEO of Christians Caring for Creation, in a biographical sketch, explains that his decision to devote “the next season of his life” to the care of creation was “driven by recognizing that climate change [not making disciples of all nations or even bringing three billion souls out of energy poverty] is the existential challenge of our generation.”
It is with this blinders-on devotion to the virtue-signaling climate change agenda that Beisner and his colleagues find fault. They question the premise that human civilization “needs” a “central organizing principle of civilization,” as Al Gore put it in his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance. [Note: by 2018, Gore had ditched “the rescue of the environment” in favor of “decarbonization” as his preferred organizing principle.]
And that, to the “creation care” skeptics, is the fly in the ointment. How can Christians accept the idea that civilization must be “centrally organized” by fallible humans who just might be making massive mistakes on the one hand and using brute force to cover up their failures on the other? And how can decarbonization, or anything else, take precedence over feeding the poor both physically and spiritually and making amends for denying them access to the blessings we take for granted?