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Theology prompts greater commitment to creation care among evangelicals, despite fears of “sacralisation of nature”

A survey in France shows that 76% of evangelicals know of Bible passages related to environmental care. Jean-François Mouhot (A Rocha) sees “a generational change in the churches”.

AUTOR 7/Joel_Forster PARIS 07 DE NOVIEMBRE DE 2023 13:02 h
Photo: [link]Brian Yurasits[/link].

A rising interest in environmental issues and ecology means “a generational change in the churches” that could make a difference in society, a Christian historian in France told Evangelical Focus.



A first of its kind survey conducted by IFOP among 1,000 people (274 of them “practising” Protestants, over half of them evangelical Christians) gives interesting insights about the “internal dynamics” of evangelical Christians in relation to environmental issues.



As reported in a previous article, Protestant Christians in France seem to have more interest in creation care issues than others. At the same time, half of the surveyed (54%) think ecology could become a sort of “new religion” that “sacralises nature”.



 



Evangelicals engaged but some sceptical



Detailed data shared by Christian creation care NGO A Rocha France with Evangelical Focus shows that it is evangelical Christians that have the most “defensive attitude”. Only 66% trust scientists when it comes to environmental issues (compared to 86% of Lutheran and Reformed).



But this does not translate in a rejection of scientific theses such as the one that says that “climate change is mostly caused by human action”. A 66% of all evangelicals responding to the survey agreed with this idea, even more among those who attend church every Sunday (71%).



It is more, 80% of practising evangelicals agree that “we need to radically change our lifestyles now to combat environmental degradation”, says the survey.



85% of members of evangelical Christians surveyed think “more” should be done to care about the planet, a percentage that is higher than among non-Christians (76%).





[photo_footer] Some of the conclusions of the survey. / CNEF, A Rocha France [/photo_footer] 



The Bible has something to say



Asked about the role of the Scripture, 76% of evangelicals responded that they knew of passages of the Bible that address this issue, a percentage notably higher than that of Reformed or Roman Catholic respondents to the same survey.



8 in 10 evangelicals also agreed that humans are “guardians” of creation. And nearly 9 in 10 supported the idea that “caring about the planet means to care about our neighbours”.



Finally, almost 2/3 of the evangelicals surveyed said they agreed that the church should talk about environmental care and climate change on a regular basis. 43% agreed the issue should be included in the preachings of pastors, and 39% were in favour of including it in prayers in church contexts.



 



Jean-François Mouhot: listening to the objections



A Rocha France’s national director, Jean-François Mouhot, commented on the findings of the survey in an interview with Evangelical Focus, clarifying that the outcome are not fully representative of the French reality but can help paint a picture of how evangelical Christians see the whole issue of creation care.





[photo_footer] Jean-François Mouhot, during his interview with Evangelical Focus.  [/photo_footer] 



Mouhut says he “can understand the fears” of some Christians who fear ecology may become some sort of pagan spirituality, as “there are movements that have a tendency to sacralise nature”, including “certain New Age philosophies and even worship of nature”. His organisation and others address this fear “stating clearly that we truly love God as Creator”.



Mouhot is an environmental historian who has told courses at university and published in French newspaper Le Monde and in British The Guardian. He acknowledges the “benefits” that oil, coal and gas have had on the wellbeing of societies in the past and even today but says this progress should not lead to conclude that “all the effects of the use of energies are good. We need to reconsider how we consume energy, because we now have a diagnosis that is very bad”.



Listen to the full interview:







 



Caring about the planet, a spiritual issue



Looking at the scientific reports on the future of the planet could make “people freak out” and get “anxious”, says Mouhot, and there is where the Christian faith offers a hope and meaning that is not found in secular contexts, the director of A Rocha says.



“The two major commandments in the Bible imply that we take care of creation (loving God and loving our neighbour), because with climate change and the loss of biodiversity we are damaging the places where our neighbours live”.



In France, A Rocha has produced books, a website with questions and answers, and “we go to churches who invite us to preach on a Sunday morning or giving an evening talk”.



To respond to the demand from Christian communicators, the Christian group has “a network of almost 150 ambassadors” across the country.





[photo_footer] Smog and heavy traffic in Krakow, Poland. / Photo: Jacek Dylag. [/photo_footer] 


Young generations: anxiety and hope



In the fight against climate change and for sustainability, “there is a danger in the new generations to think they are better than those before them, and Jesus tells us to be careful about these ideas”.



The gospel’s perspective is one of grace and gives a chance to “reconsider and perhaps repent for selfishness and injustice” and the “idols of consumerism”, says Mouhot.



“There is an opportunity to talk about Christ to a generation that is getting very anxious about these issues”, he says. “There is hope, that hope is in Christ, so let us re-focus on God. Let’s get involved in these issues, we can be salt in this world that now is aware that it is going nowhere”.



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