Martin Marty is not an evangelical commentator, but he does comment on evangelicals frequently, and his writings are often useful to me, to see how our work is viewed from other Christian perspectives. The Martin Marty Center at University of Chicago publishes Sightings, a stream of reflections on faith in public life. I’m not a current subscriber, but Al Tizon sent me one of Marty’s columns last week, on “Evangelicals and the Environment“, well worth noting for its paternalistic tone as well as its content.
Marty reviews a recent book from the Wheaton College community called Christians, the Care of Creation, and Global Climate Change, a nice volume for its slimness (would that other books were as economical with their length). It’s recommended reading…
But what’s particularly interesting to me is the care Marty takes to distance himself from Evangelicals, lest his non-evangelical audience mistake his sympathetic observations for whole-hearted approval.
We’ll see more of these sorts of pieces in the future, as more evangelicals join the environmental conversation.
It’s a combination of head-patting approval, finger-wagging for being tardy, tut-tutting about our evangelical hang-ups, and instrumental use of our creation care efforts to goad mainliners into action. Nothing lights a fire under Episcopalians and Unitarians on social issues like saying “Look, even the evangelicals are on board with this issue!”
It would be nice if we could get something better than a “most improved” award.
We should also begin to see a standardized proviso emerge in commentaries about evangelical environmental action, as with commentaries on evangelical social action–a note that these new development are encouraging, and that these are native fruit from seeds planted in the evangelical garden long ago by people like Francis Schaeffer, Cal DeWitt, Ron Sider and others.