Between God & Green – review
Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change, by Katherine K Wilkinson, July 2012. Oxford University Press, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-1998-9588-5. RRP £18.99
This book is based on research carried out in the USA during 2007 to 2009 by a consultant to the Boston Consulting Group who has also taught environmental science at Oxford University. It provides a wealth of material and some deep insights written in a clear but inevitably somewhat academic style.
The research included interviews with both leaders and ordinary members of evangelical churches. It is estimated evangelicals account for 25/30% of the US population so for those who are concerned with effective action on climate change they are a vital group.
In the USA the term evangelical is often taken to imply people who are deeply skeptical of the science of climate change and of the need to tackle it. The author met many such people and this perhaps still represents the majority of people in evangelical churches. But amongst the leadership there are many now who see this is a major issue which Christians are called on to address urgently.
The author’s summary of how and why these widely divergent positions exist was very enlightening to this reviewer who is not an evangelical. Although much of what she writes applies particularly to the USA, for example the links between the Right wing of the Republican Party and right wing evangelicals, many of the insights would be helpful in understanding people of similar views in the UK.
What is particularly fascinating is the description of the growth of a movement which encouraged evangelicals to address climate change. To even mention this was like a red rag to a bull and the patient courageous work of a number of church leaders is inspiring. Also notable is the help they received from Sir John Houghton who is great supporter of CEL.
The “middle ground” to which the author refers still seems to be somewhat elusive. Perhaps the area where this is most likely to develop is in the increasingly broad acceptance of “creation care” and care of neighbour as being essential elements of a Bible based Christianity. The author quotes several testimonies of people who moved via this area to subsequent acceptance of the centrality of climate change.
The environmental movement worldwide has to accept that it appears to a great extent to have failed to capture the hearts and minds of people overall or to energise them to take action. The book suggests that religion with its focus on ethical values has an important contribution in motivating people and the author maintains that a link between secular and religious environmentalists is both possible and essential if the necessary action is to occur. It will be a long road ahead. As one of the major evangelical leaders in the USA puts it – “ right now ………. we’re kind of wandering in the wilderness, but we’re making for the promised land.”