creation care

“Creation Care” sounds like it could be a brand name, and in a way it is. It’s a sly evangelical euphemism for the word “environmentalism.”

creation careChristians on the conservative end of the political spectrum can give a hoot and not pollute. No stretch of the imagination there. But what these green-minded fundagelicals might also do is never, ever, ever use the word environmentalism to describe their heartfelt save-the-planet activism.

The reason is, you see, that for decades the word “environmentalism” has been co-opted by the liberals, left-wingers, progressives, and hippies. And heaven forbid that any of the handful of pro-life pro-school-prayer evangelical tree-huggers would accidentally get lumped in with those acid-washed hold-overs from the 1960s. (In case your sarcasm detector doesn’t work over the Internet, that was some right there.)

Now me, I love everybody on the political spectrum. Left. Right. Middle. And if you want to help make the planet a little better for our generation and the next, then I love you even more. I don’t care what term you choose to describe your planetary cleanup efforts. Call it creation care. Call it environmentalism. It’s all good in the hood to me (and don’t you dare drop any litter in that neighborhood).

It’s actually ironic that some of the environmentally minded evangelicals disapprove of the word “environmentalism” for allegedly carrying a lot of extra baggage, because the evangelicalese term “creation care” has its own set of monogrammed luggage.

For example, creation care isn’t a plug-and-play synonym for environmentalism. No. The term “creation care” is substantially rooted in biblical theology. Christians who use the term “creation care” most likely believe that the church’s obligation to be good stewards of the Earth is a biblical mandate and not simply an ideological or political position or a personal preference. They would say that we have to save souls, yes, but that we have also been commissioned as stewards of God’s creation (they might even point to Genesis 2:15).

In a nutshell, the theology behind the term “creation care” is not so much “we should keep the planet nice because we have to live here” but more to the point of “it’s our job to take care of the planet because God is just letting us borrow it until he comes back.”

The term creation care has long been associated with the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), an evangelical Christian group dedicated to the cause of biblically based environmentalism, and in fact the earliest discovered use of the term in print is associated with that group (see the 1978 quotation below). The EEN’s website is, naturally enough, creationcare.org, and their magazine is called, unsurprisingly, Creation Care. The EEN has done more than anyone to help evangelicals approach environmentalism as a sacred duty.

As I wrap up here, I’ll just add that the term creation care seems to be experiencing something of a revival in popularity the past few years, though the term itself has been in use since the 1970s.

Read on below for some especially choice quotes that show how Christians have used the term creation care over the years.

 

creation care n. A movement among some evangelicals to promote the protection and care of the environment; a theological concept that the church has a biblical obligation to protect and care for the Earth; a euphemism for “environmentalism” used by some evangelicals in order to avoid what they perceive to be the liberal and secular overtones of the term environmentalism.
1978 Indiana Gazette (Indiana, PA) (22 Aug.) 6 : “There is a connection between recycling materials and acting out our faith because we are called to maintain the environment.” … Stan LeQuire, director of the non-profit Evangelical Environmental Network in Wynnewood, PA, calls the efforts “environmental theology.” He says at least 1,000 of the 25,000 churches he’s contacted have expressed an interest in it. From the pulpit, ministers are urging church members to adopt recycling programs, start energy conservation efforts, sponsor clean-up activities and other special “creation care” projects. 1995 Nathan, Wilson Empowered Evangelicals 196 : We Christians should embrace creation care…. Creation care is not a matter of being a liberal or a conservative. It is not partisan politics, although many of these things have to be hashed out in partisan debate. 1995 Campolo Is Jesus a Republican or a Democrat? 133 : If you sense a leading of the Lord to make creation care a part of your ministry, follow through right now. This is a movement in which immediate action is crucial. 1996 Randy Frame “Greening of the Gospel?” Christianity Today 40/13 (11 Nov.) : This groundswell can be documented in many ways, including by the increase in evangelical organizations dedicated to creation care. The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), Christians for Environmental Stewardship, the Christian Environment Project, and the Christian Society of the Green Cross are among the Christian organizations that have formed within the past three years. “For many years, we felt very lonely,” says Scott Sabin, executive director of the San Diego-based Floresta, founded in 1984. “But that’s all changed.” Even organizations not known primarily for an emphasis on creation stewardship, such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), are taking a look at environmental issues. Staff workers are being trained and encouraged to engage chapter members in projects to protect and preserve the environment. Terry Morrison, IVCF’s director of faculty ministries, says, “We’re trying to get our people to think in terms of creation care at all levels of our ministry.” 1998 The Witness vol. 81 16 : The dilemma of evangelical environmentalism—preferably, “creation care”—can be boiled down to the title of preacher and professor Tony Campolo’s 1992 book: How to Rescue the Earth Without Worshipping Nature. 2000 creationcare.org (16 Aug.) : Evangelical Environmental Network. This unique evangelical ministry was initiated by World Vision and Evangelicals for Social Action as part of a growing movement among Christians to respond faithfully to our biblical mandate for caring stewardship of God’s creation. EEN was formed because we recognize many environmental problems are fundamentally spiritual problems. 2005 New York Times Mag. (3 Apr.) : [NYT:] “As a leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, you are going up against tradition by trying to persuade your 30 million members to care about pollution, global warming and environmentalism in general…. Yet evangelical Christians are famously suspicious of science, which has long been a synonym for atheism. Isn’t that why they reject both evolution and environmentalism?” [Richard Cizik:] “The Scriptures themselves, right in Genesis 2:15, say watch over creation and care for it. The air, the water, the resources—all have been given to us by God to protect…. A lot of conservative evangelicals have a problem with the environmental movement. I don’t call myself an environmentalist. I say I’m an advocate of ‘creation care.’” 2006 Bauder, ed. Is the Political Divide Harming America? 65 : In recent months, for example, the unusual convergence of the religious right and environmentalists has received increasing attention. “Creation care” is the new phrase du jour for environmentally minded Christians. 2007 New York Times (8 Mar.) : Jim and Kara Ball spend a lot of time thinking not just about what Jesus would drive, but also about how his people should wash their clothes, light their bathrooms, clean their windows, shop for groceries and furnish their living rooms—the day-to-day elements of what some Christian environmentalists call “creation care.” 2007 Knapp, ed. For the Common Good: The Ethics of Leadership in the 21st Century 71 : This thing called environmentalism is not new and not left-wing…. Though religious conservatives prefer to call it “creation care,” or “providential living,” it is the same thing. 2007 Orlando Sentinel (FL) (2 Jul.) : Until recently, the national evangelical leadership included those who denied the scientific consensus that global warming exists. They rejected the notion that climate change is primarily a result of human activity and feared that significant remedies would cost too many jobs. [Joel] Hunter and his allies reject these notions and have adopted the term “Creation Care” as an evangelical euphemism for environmentalism. “We’re approaching it with a biblical agenda rather than a political agenda,” he said. “The church should be about replenishing as much as repenting.” 2007 The Economist (1 Dec.) 38 : Mr Cizik has gone a long way towards transforming the thinking of American Christians about the planet. It helps that he is no liberal softie: he still opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research. Even so, Mr Cizik and other green evangelicals have faced an uphill battle. Their preference for the term “creation care” is a reflection, in part, of the horror that the word “environmentalism”—tinged with secular humanism, even liberal paganism—still strikes in the evangelical psyche. 2010 McCracken Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide 155 : The idea of participating in the new creation holds that creation itself must be protected, restored, renewed, and respected. This important issue is big for Christian hipsters and most of the key figures within cool Christianity. Call it what you like: environmentalism, going green, or creation care. The point is, Christians are getting on board and are more and more involved in the push for a cleaner, sustainable environment. 2011 Newman Green Education: An A-to-Z Guide 19 : Most commonly called creation care, environmental stewardship in Christian circles is also known as missionary Earth keeping, ecojustice, ecomissiology, and evangelical environmentalism. 2014 McQuilkin, Copan An Introduction to Biblical Ethics: Walking in the Way of Wisdom 492 : It seems wiser that Christians should speak with greater theological clarity about “creation,” “creation care,” “theology of creation,” and the like rather than the often ideologically loaded—and sometimes anti-Christian—language of “environmentalism” or “ecology.” 2014 Miller The Age of Evangelicalism: America’s Born-Again Years 146 : Veteran NAE staffer Richard Cizik offered outspoken support for “creation care,” a Christian euphemism for environmentalism.

3 thoughts on “creation care

  1. Very timely in the midst of so-called environmentalists who flew to DC on private jets with seemlngly blatant disregard for the human community. Thank you for giving me a better phrase to use to describe the mandate to be a steward to the precious gifts God has provided for us.

  2. I think you nailed it: it’s a way of saying “environmentalism” without identifying with a political agenda.

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