It begins, “What have they done to our fair sister?” If you have had a chance to skim the Vatican’s latest offering, you might understandably think you know from what I am quoting. After all, in Laudato Si’ (Praise Be to You) the second sentence introduces us to “our Sister, Mother Earth” and the third reads, “This sister cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her.” Yet my opening words come not from the pope, but from another Francis—Francis Schaeffer. They initiate what one might well call an evangelical encyclical on the care of our common home. Pollution and the Death of Man was published in 1970 and has remained in print ever since, and in light of the recent missive from Rome, it is well worth reading again.
At the start of his lengthy exploration of humanity’s relationship in, to, and with God’s creation, Francis the pope quotes from the 13th-century Canticle of the Creatures written by his papal namesake hailing from Assisi, Italy. True to his penchant for engaging with the contemporary culture of his time, Francis the Presbyterian minister from Germantown, Pennsylvania, was quoting from the Doors.
Evangelicals, of course, recognize no popes of our own and bestow no official spiritual laurels. But over a decade after his death in 1984, CT canonized, if you will, Schaeffer as “Our Saint Francis” in a 1997 cover package. In his 2008 book, biographer Barry Hankins said Schaeffer was “the most popular and influential American evangelical of his time in reshaping evangelical attitudes toward culture, helping to move evangelicals from separatism to engagement.” He popularized the idea of “worldview” ...1