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Early Careerists at HSS Boston: Melissa Charenko November 13, 2013

Posted by sandyclaus in Early Career, Profile, Uncategorized.

SONY DSCMelissa Charenko, “The Historical Debate about End Times and Environmental Action among Evangelical Christians,” Melissa Charenko (University of Wisconsin-Madison) Session Su13: Studies in Modern Science and Religion, Adams, Sunday, November 24, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

I first came across this topic when Ron Numbers was teaching for a semester at the University of Toronto as the F. Ross Johnson-Connaught Distinguished Professor in American Studies. I was searching for a paper topic for his course and I decided that I should merge the discussions that we were having about science, medicine, and religion in America with some of my interests in environmental history. I started by looking for religious responses to environmentalism and found that, in the evangelical periodicals that I started with, the response to environmental issues was very different than how others have characterized them: in both the popular press and the standard historiography, the second coming is usually cited as a reason that Evangelicals do not care about the environment. Yet I was finding that Evangelicals writing in religious periodicals were advocating environmental action because of their eschatological beliefs. This seemed like a topic worth exploring and my talk at HSS presents my findings from the larger paper.

Looking through evangelical publications from the 1960s until today was lots of fun. I kept turning pages expecting to find the story that I thought I knew, but was always surprised when I found another article, like the one here from Christianity Today, that seemed to tell a very different story. After sorting through lots of sources and constructing a narrative about what Evangelicals think they should do for the environment in light of their end times beliefs, I then tried to work out where the common picture of Evangelicals’ environmental beliefs comes from. I was only briefly able to cover this aspect in the HSS talk, but this detective work was really engaging.

I’m looking forward to sharing this work in Boston and hearing all the other panels. As usual, there looks like many talks well-worth attending!


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