Tri Robinson spoke today at the Stegner Symposium on “Religion, Faith, and the Environment” at the University of Utah. Robinson is a pastor from Boise who described his journey from a young boy who found God in the outdoors to a career as a pastor. He described the journey of evangelicalism in the United States over the course of the 70s and 80s and argued that evangelicalism dropped its early interests in creation care when the environmental movement polarized around the question of population control. The more environmentalists focused on population control in the 80s, evangelicals were drawn increasingly to a concern about abortion and the sanctity of life. This led to many Christians feeling that environmental degradation was simply a sign of the times and something to accept as inevitable and it meant, he argued, that they lost sight of the sanctity of all earthly life.
During the Gore/Bush election, his children approached him and asked: who can we vote for? If we vote for one, we vote against the sanctity of life, if we vote for the other, we vote against the well-being of the planet. Why, they asked, have you never given a sermon on environmental stewardship? Why has Christianity remained silent as the earth is being plundered? He described feeling convicted and turned to a serious study of the Bible with a green pen, looking for insight about stewardship. He drew special inspiration from the Old Testament. He finally got up the courage a number of years ago to give his first message about stewardship. He spoke and his audience of some 3000 hearers was silent. They then rose to their feet and applauded. He realized that they had been waiting, hungry for instruction on caring for the earth, needing permission to pursue their concerns. Today environmentalist evangelicals are no longer an anomaly.
He had come full circle and had finally found a way to honor the God he found in the woods, the God Paul speaks of in Romans 1:
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Up next, Elder Marcus Nash of the LDS Church will be speaking. More anon!