How Evangelicals from Two Churches in the American Southwest Frame Their Relationship with the Environment
In this article, we analyze the ways in which Evangelicals frame a rhetoric of environmental concern and environmental apathy, with a larger focus on the latter. Heeding calls to further explore within-Evangelical differences, we compare environmental narratives of 20 leaders and laity of a predominantly white Southern Baptist congregation and 20 leaders and laity from an African American Baptist church, both located in a Southwestern American city. We find, especially on the topic of climate change, that most Evangelicals in our study readily evince environmental apathy, which we explore in depth. In particular, we find a belief in a rigid hierarchy of God, humans, and then the environment; a belief in the sovereignty of God; and evangelical eschatological beliefs help generate narratives of environmental apathy. There are different environmental narratives, between the two congregations, that are framed in terms of political affiliation and socioeconomic status. But we find little evidence to suggest that religious beliefs foster different environmental attitudes across the two congregations. We conclude with future research directions and implications for those who wish to foster environmental concern among Evangelicals.
KeywordsEnvironmentalism Evangelicals Religion Race Stewardship
We thank Henry Hancock, Sally Huang and Virginia White for providing valuable feedback on early versions of the manuscript. We also thank Rice University Religion and Public Life Program (RPLP) research fellows for their indispensable care and careful attention to the study. This research was supported by the Jack Shand fund of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion as well as the Rice University Shell Center for Sustainability.
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