Project Director

Thompson, Michael

Department Examiner

Baker, Sybil; Yeager, Jonathan; Richey, Duke


Dept. of History


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


This thesis addressed the relationship between the environmental movement in America and Protestant Christianity. Currently, there is an assumption that Christians tend to have attitudes that are adverse to environmentalism. This study investigated the origins of the current narratives while analyzing the various factors that have contributed to changes in this dynamic over time. This was done through an analysis of various primary sources from the late 1960s and 1970s, a critical period of time in which environmentalism and Protestant Christianity became inextricably connected. In 1967, amidst a growing environmental movement, Lynn White Jr. released an essay that criticized the role of Christian theology in leading to ecological destruction. This historical piece was incredibly influential and in many ways helped shape the general perception that Christian theology is not concerned with environmental protection. It was also significant in that it elicited a response from leading Christian theologians and scholars of the time. In the years to follow, significant names and entities within Protestantism such as Francis Schaeffer, Christianity Today and The Christian Century engaged with White’s thesis, presenting various stances on the matter. The numerous articles written in response to Lynn White Jr. provided useful, relevant sources for analysis. An examination of these sources, contextualized within broader political and theological movements of the time, revealed that the Christian response to environmentalism was far more complex and nuanced than commonly assumed. Additionally, the sources analyzed in this thesis were indicative of the divided nature of Protestantism during this era. Despite theological differences, both conservative and liberal Christians were surprisingly receptive and sympathetic to the environmental movement. These revelations imply that a division between Christianity and environmentalism, whether perceived or actual, historical or contemporary, is not the result of theological differences, but is instead shaped by cultural, social, and political factors.


B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.




Human ecology -- Religious aspects; Conservation of natural resources -- Religious aspects; Environmental ethics; Christian stewardship


Environmentalism; Ecology; Stewardship; Christian; Mainline Protestant; Creation care



Document Type



48 leaves







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