Baptist environmentalisms : a comparison of American Baptist and Southern Baptist attitudes, actions and approaches toward environmental issues.

Date
2013-05
Authors
Weaver, Aaron Douglas.
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Worldwide access.
Access changed 12/17/15.
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Abstract

This dissertation articulates how and why Southern Baptists and American Baptists have addressed environmental issues during the critical second and third waves of environmental history. With the birth of the modern environmental movement as a logical starting point, Southern Baptist and American Baptist attitudes and actions concerning key environmental questions in American political and environmental history are examined. These include: population explosion (1960s), energy crises (1970s), environmental backlash (1980s) and international ecological concerns (1990s to present). This dissertation argues that Southern Baptists and American Baptists, while enjoying some similarities along the way and despite their shared Baptist heritage, have adopted and promoted very different environmentalisms. The findings from this comparative study reveal that these dissimilar environmentalisms are due to four factors relating to ethics, political engagement approaches, the regulatory role of government and attitudes toward advancements in science and technology. First, Southern Baptists and American Baptists have embraced disparate environmental ethics. Second, Southern Baptists and American Baptists have taken distinct political engagement approaches due to differing theological commitments. Third, Southern Baptists and American Baptists have adopted different attitudes about the appropriate regulatory role of government regarding environmental issues. Fourth and finally, Southern Baptists and American Baptists have held contrasting perspectives on prevailing scientific viewpoints and advancements in technology. These four factors offer answers to how and why these two related historic Protestant denominations have taken such divergent paths with regard to care of the environment or God’s creation. Nearly forty years after the first-ever Earth Day on April, 22, 1970, Southern Baptists and American Baptists had come to embrace radically different environmentalisms. American Baptists preached and practiced an environmentalism that sought strict environmental regulations and was defined by an eco-justice ethic emphasizing the interconnectedness of humans with their environment. Meanwhile, Southern Baptists were preaching and practicing a distinctly different environmentalism. Southern Baptists abandoned the ethic of previous decades and replaced it with a decidedly more conservative ethic that continued to utilize the language of stewardship but was increasingly anthropocentric and strikingly development-focused. Also, an anti-regulation philosophy and skepticism of prevailing scientific viewpoints characterized their environmentalism.

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Keywords
American Baptists., Southern Baptists., Environment., Climate change., Environmentalism.
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