There have been many good theological and sociological studies on the reasons for the churches’ neglect of social issues. However, there has not, to our knowledge, been any study that deals specifically with Christians’ reluctance to get involved in environmental action. [This was written in 1990 when this was the case – Calvin B. De Witt has since written on this subject.] The purpose of this chapter is twofold: first to examine why Christians are reluctant greens, and secondly to expose and challenge non-biblical perspectives on life, so that the path can be cleared for the construction of a truly Christian response to environmental and ecological issues.
It is not the case that Christians have always been opposed to involvement in politics or social action. William Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, Elizabeth Fry and the Salvation Army are testimony to the contrary. They were involved because of their Christian commitment. The reasons for what has been called the ‘Great Reversal’ (i.e. the withdrawal of Christian social involvement) are manifold. John Stott in Issues Facing Christians Today suggests five reasons:
- reaction against liberalism in the church;
- reaction against the so-called ‘social gospel’;
- the pessimism that followed World War One;
- the spread of pre-millennial dispensationalism, the modern idea that Jesus will ‘rapture’ the church at any moment, with the prediction that the world would get worse until Jesus finally returns; and
- the rise of middle-class Christianity and the resulting identification of Christianity with middle-class values.