This chapter is a critical literature review of recent social science research describing and analyzing the participation of Christian churches in various phases of the human rights movement in Latin America. Spanning the period from 1964 to the present, such human rights activism took place in the contexts of authoritarian rule, civil war, democratic transitions, and the consolidation of democracy. The chapter focuses on the influence of Christian church leaders, laity, organizations, and resources on the origins, growth, and maturation of human rights-oriented social movement organizations (SMOs). Drawing on Douglas McAdam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly’s work on political process theory, this literature emphasizes the invaluable role of religious organizations in providing space, resources, protection, and framing to nascent human rights movements in the region during the 1960s-70s. Even so, the literature also grapples with the diverse range of political stances taken by Christian church leaders and activists, both within and across national-level cases. With the maturation of the movement and the transition to democracy, political process theory remained relevant, but failed to capture some of the key challenges and opportunities experienced by Christian activists, as opposed to social activists in general. Thus, scholarship shifted focus to organized religion’s capacity to build social capital and sustain meaningful Christian social and human rights activism.
Robin Globus and Bron Taylor
This article offers a description of the phenomenon of environmental millennialism. Environmentalism synthesises hard science and religion to formulate millennial themes. Although relevant ecological awareness dawned only in the middle of the twentieth century, man's mastery and manipulation over and of nature, have been inspiring Romantics with apocalyptic millennial visions ever since the nineteenth century. George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature traces the decline of the Roman Empire to indiscreet use of natural resources and predicted a similar fate at the hands of the Americans. The Romantics asserted hubris and arrogance as the roots of environmental degradation. In a postmodern era, new age environmentalism reflects both pessimism and hope in the environmental degradation induced by imminent catastrophe, and a makes a call to reverse the process. Its ultimate conclusions are indeterminate yet versatile. Environmentalism is activist in nature and secular in approach and critique.
Thomas A. Shannon
Evolution introduced the notion of change into the world of biology and also culture. Prior to this time, the dominant understanding of reality was governed by a static concept of reality. Clearly within this framework, we know that things grew and developed, and thus there were clear signs of change. Stasis was the dominant philosophical framework in which all life was understood. This sense of stasis extended from the biological to the social. Not only were species stable, so too were social classes. This article discusses the link between genetic engineering and nature, focusing on transgenics and traditional images of modeling human responsibility. In particular, it examines stewardship, the concept of created cocreator, playing God, reductionism, scientific materialism, and the transcendent potential of matter.
Daniel C. Maguire
A chastening look at our history shows that ethics and religion are no match for the efficacy of genetic inscription when it comes to the protection of our species and of our biological and terrestrial neighbors. Yet they are what we have, and in their own fashion they have all addressed the problem, including the problem of family planning and population pressures. This article focuses on the interrelationships among population, religion, and ecology and discusses humanity and the perils of power, ethics and religion, the natalist thrust of religions, Chinese religions and Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
Mary Evelyn Tucker
The environmental crisis has been well documented in its various interconnected aspects of resource depletion and species extinction, pollution growth and climate change, population explosion and overconsumption. It is becoming increasingly clear that scientific analysis will be critical to understanding nature's ecology; educational awareness will be indispensable to creating modes of sustainable life; economic incentives will be central to adequate distribution of resources; public policy recommendations will be invaluable in shaping national and international priorities; and moral and spiritual values will be crucial for the transformations required for the flourishing of earth's many ecosystems. It is in this nexus that the field of religion and ecology is making important contributions, within academia and beyond. This article explores the link between religion and ecology and discusses cosmology, symbols, rituals, and ethics as well as the contribution of religions to environmental thought and practice, intellectual influences on religion and ecology, the emerging academic field of religion and ecology, challenges to religion and ecology, the limits of science and policy; and the response of policy groups and scientists.
Lois Ann Lorentzen and Leavitt-Alcantara Salvador
Latin America faces environmental crises that directly affect the health and well-being of its people, especially the poor. This essay discusses the involvement of religious groups in the myriad environmental struggles found in Latin America today. It charts religious beliefs and practices of indigenous religions, focusing on Roman Catholicism, liberation theology, ecofeminism, Protestants (emphasizing evangelical and Pentecostal Protestantism), and diaspora religions of Latin America and the Caribbean. In each case, it analyzes religious symbols, theologies, myths, narratives, and rituals as they relate to the nonhuman world. It also examines the link between environmental ethics and action, the legacy of colonization in Latin America, religious syncretism and sacred/secular blurring, epistemology, and hermeneutics.
Some conservative Christians consider environmentalism to be a Trojan horse that threatens Western civilization with a revitalized paganism. Even among religiously and ideologically complex characters, such views can be found. This essay takes up such assertions and argues that religious perceptions and practices have decisively shaped environmentalism in America to such an extent that much environmentalism can be considered a nature religion. It then characterizes three major types of what is termed “green religion” that have emerged in American culture, reflecting on their impacts, both domestically and internationally, while speculating on their long-term influences upon religion and environmental politics, both in America and beyond. It also examines the attitudes and practices of European Americans toward nature from European contact to the twentieth century, the seeds of environmentalism in the twentieth century until Earth Day, environmentalism from the 1960s and Earth Day (1970) forward, civic earth religion, and environmental action. Finally, it discusses green religions as environmentally concerned world religions, as “nature-as-sacred religions,” and as postsupernaturalistic “spiritualities of connection” to nature.
Lisa H. Sideris
In recent decades, the rise of religious environmental ethics and ecological theology has engendered a number of positive and fruitful connections between the study of religion and other disciplines. Probably no tradition has worked harder than the Christian tradition in the quest to locate—or create—positive environmental teachings. In part, the Christian response was generated in the aftermath of Lynn White's now famous critique of the tradition (or, more broadly, the Judeo-Christian tradition) decades ago. White conferred to Christianity the dubious distinction of being the world's most anthropocentric religion, arguing that “it is God's will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.” Within ecotheological circles, there is also a general sense—often promoted by Christian ecotheology as much as by its critics—that the Eastern religions have always been more or less on the right environmental track. This article deals with religion, environmentalism, and the meaning of ecology. It also describes the ecological model and the mechanical model of ecotheology.
Roger S. Gottlieb
Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada), an organization formed by India's leading environmentalists, has been struggling for seventeen years, trying to halt the construction of dams on the Narmada river. The global scope of the Narmada campaign and other international struggles indicates that there is no inherent incompatibility between science, technology, the political defense of human rights, environmentalism, and religion. This article cites several examples of religious environmentalism in action, including the Religious Witness for the Earth's protest against the energy policy of the Bush administration in Washington, DC on May 3, 2001; the demonstration against the Maxaam Corporation at Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County, California on January 26, 1997; the coalition of independent African Christian churches and traditional African religions to repair the ravaged landscape in southern Zimbabwe's Masvingo province; the sixth annual and tenth anniversary meeting of Sisters of Earth, a loose network of nuns, in Fayetteville, Arkansas on July 15–18, 2004; and similar actions in other countries such as Taiwan and Sri Lanka.
Holmes Rolston III
Both science and religion are challenged by the environmental crisis, both to reevaluate the natural world and to reevaluate their dialogue with each other. Many theologians and ethicists have become persuaded that religion needs to pay more attention to ecology, and many ecologists recognize religious dimensions to caring for nature and to addressing the ecological crisis. Somewhat ironically, just when humans, with their increasing industry and technology, seemed further and further from nature, having more knowledge about natural processes and more power to manage them, just when humans were more and more rebuilding their environments, thinking perhaps to escape nature, the natural world has emerged as a focus of concern. This article examines issues surrounding value in nature; the connections between science, conscience, and conservation; Eastern and indigenous faiths; nature and human nature; ecology as a science and its joining with human ecology, where the religious dimension is more evident; environmental justice; and humans are moral agents.
Calvin B. DeWitt
In building the movement called evangelical environmentalism, there were two great needs. First was the need to build a creation theology, and more specifically a creation-care theology. This was achieved by an academy of evangelical scientists, ethicists, and theologians who grew in numbers and publications from 1980 to the present and, becoming aware of itself as such, officially became the Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists in 2005. Second was the need to find ways to put this evangelical creation-care theology into practice. Various work to meet this need was attempted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the World Evangelical Fellowship creating the first evangelical environmental network—the International Evangelical Environmental Network—in 1992. This, in turn, led to the formation of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) in 1993. This essay discusses the widespread secularization of American society, evangelicals and evangelicalism, evangelical relation to human authority, theology and Sola Scriptura, pre-1980 roots of academic evangelical environmentalism, development and emergence of academic evangelical environmentalism, and development and emergence of the EEN.