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Fracturing Over Creation Care? Shifting Environmental Beliefs Among Evangelicals, 1984–2010


  • Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Melissa Wilde, David Gibson, Jerry Jacobs, Andrew Fenelon, Joanna Veazey Brooks, Diana Khuu, Carla Medalia, and Andrew Hogan for their assistance.

Correspondence should be addressed to Sabrina Danielsen, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, 3718 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. E-mail:


While evangelicals have been popularly portrayed as caring primarily about social issues including abortion and homosexuality, there have been more reports in recent years of evangelical leaders, congregations, and institutions shifting focus to environmental issues. Are evangelicals shifting attention to and becoming more progressive in their views on the environment? Moreover, are evangelicals fracturing over the issue of environmentalism, as some have suggested? Using content analysis of three evangelical periodicals (Christianity Today, Sojourners, and World) from 1984 to 2010, I find not only that attention to environmental issues has increased over time, but also that the discussion has grown increasingly polarized and politicized. This change represents a potentially important break with the Republican Party and the Christian Right, as moderate evangelicals have moved to the left on environmental issues. Even among highly religious, self-identified evangelical political elites, there is more diversity in views and political leanings than is commonly assumed. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of a lack of alignment between evangelical elites, traditional Christian Right leaders, and the Republican Party.