God's Wounded World
American Evangelicals and the Challenge of Environmentalism
Imprint: Baylor University Press
272 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: October 2020
Although evangelicals and environmentalists at large still find themselves on opposing sides of an increasingly contentious issue, there is a counternarrative that has received less attention. Since the late 1970s, evangelical creation care advocates have worked relentlessly both to find a common cause with environmentalists and to convince fellow evangelicals to engage in environmental debate and action.
In God’s Wounded World, Melanie Gish analyzes the evolution of evangelical environmental advocacy in the United States. Drawing on qualitative interviews, organizational documents, and other texts, her interdisciplinary approach focuses on the work of evangelical environmental organizations and the motivations of the individuals who created them. Gish contrasts creation care with mainstream environmentalism on the one side, and organized evangelical environmental skepticism on the other. The religiopolitical space evangelical environmental leaders have established "in-between but still within" is carefully explored, with close attention to the larger historical context as well as to creation care’s political opportunities and intraevangelical challenges.
The nuanced portrait that emerges defies simple distinctions. Not only are creation care leaders wrestling with questions of environmental degradation and engagement, they also must grapple with what it means to be evangelical and live faithfully in both present-day America and the global community. As Gish reveals, creation care advocates' answers to these questions place moral responsibility and cultural mediation above ideology and dogmatic certainty. Such a posture risks political irrelevance in our hyperpartisan and combative political culture, but if it succeeds it could transform the creation care movement into a powerful advocate for a more accommodating and holistically oriented Evangelicalism.
Introduction: An Unlikely Alternative
1 Evangelicalism and Environmentalism
A Contextualizing Overview
2 Theology First!
The Beginnings of Green Evangelicalism
3 Pioneer Creation Care Organizations
4 Politically Unafraid Evangelical Environmental Organizations
5 Organized Evangelical Environmental Skepticism
6 Apolitical Creation Care Organizations
Conclusion: In the Middle but Not Necessarily of It
In the present climate of culture war polarization God’s Wounded World: American Evangelicals and the Challenge of Environmentalism offers a timely reminder that the evangelical engagement with politics must not be reduced to the Christian Right. Gish offers a sophisticated and compelling analysis of the creation care movement that has sought to make environmental stewardship as much a principle of biblical theology and Christian social ethics as the protection of unborn life.~Jan Stievermann, Professor of the History of Christianity in the United States, Heidelberg University
Clearly argued and meticulously researched, this book makes a significant contribution to a topic of great political, moral, and spiritual significance. Highly recommended.~Roger S. Gottlieb, author of Morality and the Environmental Crisis
All too often, evangelical culture is treated as a monolith. Melanie Gish’s smart and empathetic book chips away at that myth, revealing the surprising diversity of modern evangelical attitudes to the environment, including a fascinating minority report of green evangelicals for whom creation care became a biblical imperative. In the process, Gish shines a light on some of the ideological refugees of the American culture wars, raising deeper questions about what it means to be evangelical and conservative today, and what it could mean in the future.~Brett Malcolm Grainger, Assistant Professor of Spirituality, Villanova University