Bjork-James, “Lifeboat Theology”

Bjork-James, Sophie. 2020. “Lifeboat Theology: White Evangelicalism, Apocalyptic Chronotopes, and Environmental Politics.” Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2020.1839527.

Abstract: In this paper, I use insights from extensive ethnographic research with evangelicals in Colorado Springs, Colorado to investigate how competing ethical understandings of time and the future underpin conceptions of and responses to ecological collapse. It argues that a dominant apocalyptic chronotope in US evangelicalism makes the future earth redundant, an understanding that Christian Right leaders have linked to decreased interest in environmental issues. This dominant evangelical view looks to the future with anticipation when a promised and ever-close apocalypse and rapture will signal the end of the earth. The temporal structure of climate change clashes with this narrative about time and the future of the planet. In contrast, a new theological understanding is emergent among younger evangelicals, where Christ’s return is understood as involving a remaking of the earth, and not an ejection from it. This contrasting view makes the care of the planet a crucial Christian priority.