Jonathan Merritt was headed for medical school upon graduating from Liberty University in 2004, until, in the "clearest word I had ever gotten," he heard God's call to write. The writing life wasn't an immediate success; he says he received hundreds of rejections while attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Finally, after almost three years of trying, he got his first assignment. Today Merritt publishes articles in places like Relevant magazine and USA Today, and makes appearances on NPR and ABC World News. A book, Green Like God, will appear in the spring.
The high-energy Merritt calls himself a "faith and culture" writer who wants to guide evangelicals in a renewed approach to American society. "I feel God has positioned me to speak truth to my generation, which is in some ways doing things so much better than previous generations, and in other ways gets lost in the pride of youth." But he is best known for his environmental activism.
After an epiphany in a seminary classroom, Merritt launched the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative and convinced 700 SBC leaders to sign on. He is also deeply involved in the leadership of Flourish, a fledgling organization devoted to helping churches practice and teach creation care.
Question & Answer
Why are you an environmentalist?
I was sitting in a theology class with one of my favorite seminary professors, who was pointing out that general and special revelation are equally revelatory. "When we destroy God's creation," he said, "it's similar to tearing a page out of the Bible."
I was a staunch conservative who thought environmentalism was incompatible with my faith. I thought it was funny and cool to throw trash out my window in college. At that moment I thought, I would never tear a page out of Scripture. I left that room a different person. I knew I could not continue to live the way I lived.
What is the core of your approach to creation care?
A lot of people approach the environment by saying, "We can do better." But we have to start by saying, "We have sinned." We have to deal with what we've done wrong—by admitting that we have allowed our air, water, and land to be polluted—before we can begin doing better.
If you push deeper, you find attitudes that we have allowed to become commonplace—the consumerism, the relentless desire for more and better. These become the causes for the obvious problems we all contribute to. We emphasize dominion, as it is taught in Genesis 1:28, but we underemphasize Genesis 2:15, where we are told to tend and care for the garden.
How do fellow Christians respond to your message?
When I have conversations with the average pew-sitting Christian, I can almost hear an exhale; they're glad to know somebody is trying to offer a biblical answer. But when I talk to people in Christian leadership, I find that some are driven by ideology rather than theology. They believe we are in a culture war and that these are political battles that must be fought. The average Christian, though, wants to know what God thinks.
More: JonathanMerritt.com, FlourishOnline.org
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Green Like God will be available from ChristianBook.com and other book retailers.
CT blogged about Jonathan Merritt and Flourish '09. His website includes a blog and a speaking schedule.
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