Book Review: Caring for Creation by Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas
This review is of Caring for Creation by Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas. Released in 2016, Caring for Creation is an guide aimed at evangelicals on responding to the realities of climate change and fostering a healthy environment. Though many books have been written on stewardship and care of the environment for and by Evangelicals, there are minimal politically conservative authors who have addressed stewardship, while also taking on the role of wrestling through the politics and realities of climate change. These authors have a unique paradigm and experience to combat and correct modern conservative viewpoints.
Though I do not consider myself politically conservative (nor do I consider myself progressive), I own that there are many declared values by conservatives that I do connect with. I also realize that I live in an area where the urban centers are progressive, but the suburban and rural areas are radically politically conservative, and for many it has been that way for generations, almost like a rite of passage. As someone who lives, works, and plays in a politically conservative area – I approached this book with the hope of finding ways to connect those I love to healthier practices of stewardship and to help others comprehend the undeniable affects of a changing climate. This book is story, scripture, and science – and overall it is done fairly well, leaving me with great hope for what could be.
Mitch and Paul start their guide with a powerful challenge to the evangelical followers of Jesus, which have been sadly known and defined by their objections to and denials of the evidences of climate change. In their opening challenge, the authors clearly state that “being open to data, facts, and science doesn’t make you liberal. It makes you literate. Scientifically literate. It means you favor data, facts, and evidence over conspiracy theories, manufactured misinformation, and cherry-picked industry spin. We live in God’s creation and – as stewards – have a holy obligation to treat it as the remarkable gift it is.” This statement needs said, and said again, by many individuals, in many spheres of influence. As authors, they state their own purpose and mission as “caring for people, overcoming challenges, and providing a tangible hope for the future with clear air, pure water, a solid economy, and good jobs – that’s what we and countless others are attempting to do.” This is also the underlying theme and purpose of the book as it works through it’s various stories, scriptural mandates, and scientific facts (from across many spectrums of history and political thought).
Using story, science and scriptures, though perhaps science more firmly, the authors work through the evidences and affects of a changing climate and together they attempt to counter both conspiracies and common rebuttals to the science of climate change. They also outline that climate change is about saving the environment, but it is also about creating a better world for our children, as they explore the way increased pollution and climate change is changing our health and the necessities we need for full and healthy lives. I should note that though one of the two authors was/is a pastoral leader, neither are deeply theological or deep in their exegesis of scripture (there was more to be explored and stewarded here). However, like detectives they are political conservatives exploring the witness of the concerns of our natural world as they also wade through the settled and unsettled sciences, but speak to a need for faith and science to come together for a better tomorrow. That collaborative future needs to be our vision. That hope of a better tomorrow for all – from children to the natural world to the economy – needs to be a driving vision for addressing climate change. They authors point out that “social science research is clear: Fear doesn’t drive people to accept the reality of climate change.” This shared vision for a better tomorrow must be greater than fear.
In uniquely addressing conservatives for a little, the authors challenge, “Conservatives conserve. I remember a time, not that long ago, when conservative and conservation went hand in hand, and there was deep respect for the scientific method…Roosevelt kicked off America’s National Park System, the envy of the world. Harry Truman launched the National Science Foundation. Richard Nixon launched the Environmental Protection Agency. Ronald Reagan consulted with scientists, supporting a band on harmful chemicals eating away at the ozone layer. And George H.W. Bush signed the Clean Air Act into law and developed a market-based solution for acid rain…What changed? The balance between protecting our home and protecting the financial interests of campaign donors got seriously out of whack. When in doubt, follow the money.” This statement of following the money is important.
As stated above, the authors describe themselves as Evangelicals and political conservatives. They are also not new to this conversation. Paul Douglas has been a meteorologist for over thirty five years on radio and television; and has become a successful entrepreneur. Mitch Hescox previously worked in the coal industry and as a pastor (for over 18-years), before leading the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). Mitch’s work with the Evangelical Environmental Network has brought him before Congress, the White House and countless media sources. As authors, they thoroughly know and defend their paradigms and postures.
For those of followers of Jesus, we must own that the earth, resulting from God’s creation, “was formed by and for God, for Jesus. Unfortunately, too many Christians, especially evangelicals, don’t understand the imperative to “tend the garden.”” We need to not just believe what is happening around us, but work at tending the garden. Regrettably, “those of us among the dwindling number who count ourselves as Christian, like the concept that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for our sins and wiped our slates clean. We love to have our mistakes taken care of so that we can get into heaven, but we really don’t want to change our ways.” That is most unsettling for me. I know many people don’t want to change our ways - not only in science and climate change - but addressing areas of sin and brokenness in our life too.
It is not just me and these authors that notice that inability to desire change and pursue better practices of caring for the natural world. Those around us notice too, and the authors point out, “Churches are losing many from the current generation. Why? Because many younger people…see no relevance in the church. They’re not looking for heaven; they want a better world. But all they’re seeing is an institution trying to preserve itself through the current culture wars; pointing fingers, hating, and especially not being filled with love or mercy. Secular humanism appears much more loving than the church to so many today.” Jesus took interest in us, moved into the neighborhood and gave us a way back to God (the Creator). Why then can’t we mirror his incarnational approach with those around us and in the next generation? The good news of a better world might help others see the source of good and ultimately the hope we have in a restored created order.
 Hescox, Mitch, and Paul Douglas. 2016. Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House), 13-14.
 Hescox, Mitch, and Paul Douglas. 2016. Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House), 16.
 Hescox, Mitch, and Paul Douglas. 2016. Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House), 101.
 Hescox, Mitch, and Paul Douglas. 2016. Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House), 93.
 Hescox, Mitch, and Paul Douglas. 2016. Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House), 74.
 Hescox, Mitch, and Paul Douglas. 2016. Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House), 76.
 Hescox, Mitch, and Paul Douglas. 2016. Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House), 78.