American Politics, Christianity, and the Pursuit of the Eco-Friendly Mom

Austin Hill

4/13/2008 12:01:00 AM - Austin Hill

Recycle products. Start a compost pile. Take the bus. Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

The action items above, which appeared in a list of “strategies to help your family make this world a better place to live” might seem like something you’d find at the homepage of the Sierra Club.

But not this time. These directives were listed in a recent editorial appearing on the website of the Evangelical Christian publication, “Christianity Today.”

Entitled “Looking After God’s Creation,” the article was directed to parents - - moms in particular - - and was authored by Lucy Kraemer, a single mom who belongs to a local Baptist church near her home. In concluding her message to parents, Ms. Kramer wrote “your example will serve as the most effective tool in teaching your young child about honoring God’s creation.”

Now, if I were writing here about theology, I would argue that the intended ends of the human person is to “honor God,” not his creation, yet one of the means by which we humans can achieve this objective is to exercise wise stewardship of the earth.

But I’m not writing about theology, so I’ll leave this discrepancy in the hands of the editors of “Christianity Today.”

I am, however, writing about our country, our culture, our politics and our public policy. And Ms. Kraemer’s editorial is yet one more shred of evidence that, as public policy concerns go, “conservative Christian America” isn’t thinking and acting they way it once did.

I’ve asserted this before here at Townhall Dot Com. I’ve made the case that while in previous years the public policy concerns of conservative Christians may have been largely focused on abortion, the definition of marriage, and parental rights, today, younger generations of both Evangelical and Catholic Christians are interested in a much broader array of issues.

“That’s a lie from the liberal media” I was told in an email from an angry staff member at a large, Christian activist organization. “You’re just another Christian-basher, like all the rest, Hill..“

Oh, really? And do we regard “Christianity Today” as being a part of that big, scary, collective monster affectionately known as the “liberal media?”

Or how about Forbes Magazine? Rich Karlgaard, the astute business and economics writer, author of the daily blog “Digital Rules,” and Publisher of Forbes Magazine, has also noted as I have that “conservative Christianity” in America seems to be shifting in a different direction these days.

“The church I attend is Christian and evangelical” Karlgaard recently wrote on his blog and in the magazine. “The mood of the congregation is moving left. The music is tilting toward a folk-rock sound of the 1960s and 1970’s…The younger clerics don’t identify themselves as ‘Christians’ but as ‘Jesus followers.’ I would guess that many of them are Barack Obama supporters, but I don’t ask…The mainstream secular media, as usual, ignores this story.”

It is not my goal to “Christian bash,” and I certainly don’t think Karlgaard intends this either. Likewise, I’m not suggesting that one editorial in “Christianity Today” suggests a trend.

Yet the expression of environmental concerns in the theologically conservative “Christianity Today” suggests a shift in sensibilities among the broader Evangelical community in America; Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton being welcomed into the pulpit of Evangelical mega church of Pastor Rick Warren to talk about combating A.I.D.S. provides similar evidence of this shift. And the presidential endorsement of the tax-hiking, school choice opposing Governor Mike Huckabee by prominent Evangelical activist Dr. James Dobson signals a clear abandonment of the limited government, free market economic sensibilities of Ronald Reagan (just how “pro family” is it to deny educational choices to children, anyway?).

While the upheaval continues in the pews, some might be inclined to ask “how do we make sure these folks vote Republican?” But that’s not the right question to be asking - - at least not yet.

The question for today is “how do we connect these worthy objectives to sound economic principles?”

Think about it. If the goal is better care of the environment, we must consider if private citizens, corporations and organizations can change people’s environmental behavior (the “recycling movement” is the best example of such a behavioral change, most of which has emerged without governmental mandates); or if we must have our government enact more environmental laws and spend more of our money enforcing them.

If social care is one’s goal, then the question is pretty straightforward: can a church or private sector charity organization care for human souls better than a governmental bureaucracy?

Presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have grand visions of a more environmentally friendly and more socially “just” society, and the only means they offer of achieving these visions is to expand the government’s level of control over our money, and our very lives.

Lets hope that American Christians begin trusting again in themselves, their faith communities, the transformative power of their own values, and sound economic principles - - and stop relying on governmental power to solve our societal problems.