That conversation eventually led [William] Morris to spend a month doing volunteer work with a Christian conservation organization in Kenya, cataloging rare bird species, mapping mangrove forests, and collecting data on coral reefs. His meals and his free time were shared with other Christian environmentalists and scientists, most of whom were Kenyan and notably did not share his evangelical American hang-ups. He marveled at how their faith was not only integrated into their environmental pursuits but was in fact integral to them.
“That’s where I really felt a sense of purpose for the first time,” he says. “That dichotomy finally went away of science versus faith. It was just a huge sigh of relief feeling almost, like, vindicated. I was like, ‘See, I knew it. I’m not crazy. I’m not the only one who cares about all of these things.’ It was this very holistic view that I never had gotten anywhere else. And I had to go all the way to Kenya to get it.”
Morris also began to see this holistic view all over scripture: in Genesis, where the mandate to have dominion over creation did not seem to imply callous exploitation but rather a call to wise stewardship, and throughout the Gospels, where Jesus didn’t assuage people’s suffering with promises of the afterlife but actually tended to their physical needs in the here and now. So, Morris pondered, wouldn’t loving one’s neighbor mean protecting their habitat? Making sure they could grow food, have clean air and water, not be subjected to forced migration or the “threat multiplier” that he knew climate change to be?
In integrating his faith with his environmentalism, Morris came to have a new understanding of what that faith entailed, one that he actually felt was deeper and more authentic. Before the world could be healed by the church, he reasoned, maybe the church needed healing through its engagement with the world. He would go home and preach the message of environmentalism.