How Evangelicals from Two Churches in the American Southwest Frame Their Relationship with the Environment
- 328 Downloads
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.
- An Inconvenient Truth. 2006. DVD. Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Los Angeles, CA: Paramount Classics.Google Scholar
- Dunlap, Riley E., and Robert E. Jones. 2002. Environmental concern: Conceptual and measurement issues. In Handbook of environment sociology, ed. Riley E. Dunlap, and William Michelson, 482–524. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
- Eckberg, Douglas L., and T. Jean Blocker. 1989. Varieties of religious involvement and environmental concern. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 28: 509–17.Google Scholar
- Emerson, Michael O., and Christian Smith. 2001. Divide by faith: Evangelical religion and the problem of race in America. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Fitzgerald, Jonathan D. 2011. The suppression of sin in Evangelical abolitionism: The wilberforce problem. Religion Dispatches, July 29. http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/4943/the_suppression_of_sin_in_evangelical_abolitionism%3A_the_wilberforce_problem/.
- Green, John C. 2010. The faith factor: How religion influences American elections. Washington, DC: Potomac Books.Google Scholar
- Gupta, Sujata, Dennis A. Tirpak, Nicholas Burger, Joyeeta Gupta, Niklas Höhne, Antonina Ivanova Boncheva, Gorashi Mohammed Kanoan, Charles Kolstad, Joseph A. Kruger, Axel Michaelowa, Shinya Murase, Jonathan Pershing, Tatsuyoshi Saijo, and Agus Sari. 2007. Policies, instruments and co-operative arrangements. In Climate change 2007: mitigation, ed. B. Metz, O.R. Davidson, P.R. Bosch, R. Dave, and L.A. Meyer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Hershey, Marjorie R., and David B. Hill. 1977–1978. Is Pollution ‘A White Thing’? Racial differences in preadults’ attitudes. The Public Opinion Quarterly 41(4):439–458.Google Scholar
- Kanagy, Conrad L., and Fern K. Willits. 1993. A “Greening” of Religion? Some evidence from a Pennsylvania sample. Social Science Quarterly 74(3): 674–683.Google Scholar
- Lindsay, D.Michael. 2007. Faith in the halls of power: How evangelicals joined the American elite. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Mohai, Paul. 1990. Black environmentalism. Social Science Quarterly 71(4): 744–765.Google Scholar
- Payton, Robert L., and Michael Moody. 2004. Stewardship. In Philanthropy in America: A comprehensive historical encyclopedia, vol. 3, ed. Dwight F. Burlingame, 457–460. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO Inc.Google Scholar
- Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. 2008. U.S. religious landscape survey: Religious affiliation: Diverse and dynamic. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-full.pdf.
- Shaiko, Ronald G. 1987. Religion, politics, and environmental concern: A powerful mix of passions. Social Science Quarterly 68(2): 244–262.Google Scholar
- Shields, Jon A. 2009. The democratic virtues of the christian right. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, Christian, Michael Emerson, Sally Gallager, Paul Kennedy, and David Sikkink. 1998. American evangelicalism: Embattled and thriving. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, Nicholas and Anthony Leiserowitz. 2013. American evangelicals and global warming. Global Environmental Change. 23(5): 1009–1017.Google Scholar
- Strauss, Anselm, and Juliet Corbin. 1990. Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
- The Royal Society. 2010. Climate change: A summary of the science. London: The Royal Society.Google Scholar