On the 45th anniversary of Earth Day (April 22), the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) released results from its survey that focused on the government’s role in cleaning up the environment. Ninety-six percent of U.S. evangelical leaders support government initiatives to clean up air and water, according to the March Evangelical Leaders Survey.

“Instead of dismissing government action on environment, evangelical leaders are saying loud and clear that we all need to do our part in caring for God’s creation,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president. “Physical environment is foundational to the functioning of a healthy society.”

Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, said, “Just as we need police officers to patrol our highways, we need law enforcement to defend our rights to pure air and clean water. After abortion, the greatest threats to our pre-born children are the toxins we spew into God’s creation.” The Evangelical Environmental Network, an NAE member organization, works to equip, inspire, disciple and mobilize evangelicals in their efforts to care for creation.

Some evangelical leaders qualified their support for government action by expressing concern that the regulatory process sometimes becomes politicized. Others pointed out that environmental protection is a shared responsibility in which businesses, churches and individuals, as well as government, have responsibilities.

Jay Barnes, president of Bethel University, said, “It is part of good stewardship of the world God created to clean up our air and water.”

A few leaders shared specific examples of helpful government intervention. One was David Cyr, executive director of the NAE Chaplains Commission, who said, “In my hometown, Bangor, Maine, the Penobscot River had been polluted by paper mills. But new regulations helped restore the river, and after being absent for 19 years, the ocean run smelt returned.”

Jim Tolle, pastor of El Camino Churches in Metro Los Angeles, pointed to Psalm 24:1, which says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Tolle added, “We neither idolize God’s creation, nor utilize it irresponsibly, but we steward it and study it to discover more of God.”

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.