Christians may sing the old hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth” with fervor, but they have shown considerably less enthusiasm over the years for maintaining that beauty, according to many Christian environmentalists. “Up until now, [evangelicals] have dealt largely with how the Christian life should be lived apart from an understanding of the Lord’s creation,” says Calvin DeWitt, director of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in Michigan and professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin.

But DeWitt and other advocates for the environment are optimistic that such evangelical apathy may be fading. “There is a growing sense of concern and commitment [about the environment] spreading across the evangelical community,” agrees Roberta Hestenes, president of Eastern College. That growing concern has been evident on several fronts of the environmental movement. For example, earlier this month several evangelical delegations joined representatives from around the world to discuss environmental problems at the United Nations-sponsored Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Last month several evangelicals were among a group of religious leaders and scientists that issued an appeal for united action to protect the global environment. “We are people of faith and science who, for centuries often have traveled different roads,” the declaration said. “Our two ancient, sometimes antagonistic traditions now reach out to one another in a common endeavor to preserve the home we share.”

Those who signed the declaration included the nation’s top scientists and representatives from Catholic, Jewish, and mainline Protestant organizations. Evangelical signatories included DeWitt, Hestenes, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist ...

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