For many young evangelicals in Iowa, climate is front and centre

Seated around long tables over lunch, two dozen students at Iowa’s Central College opened their monthly meeting on sustainability by discussing the upcoming Iowa caucuses. Among other things, the group has organised marches to the mayor’s office and written letters to elected officials.

There was no official endorsement, but Efrain Garcia reminded students to register and show up. “This is a really big election, because we have a real shot at electing a person, you can determine who that person is, that really supports sustainability,” Garcia said.

Iowans will gather at different sites around the state on Monday evening to choose candidates for the 2020 US presidential elections.

For this group of students at Central College, a school affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, the election is just as much, if not more, about engaging with an issue many grew up talking about as it is about the issues that have historically driven evangelicals and other Christians to the polls.

“I come from a very conservative family and a very conservative background, and so I used to think the sustainability movement was a very liberal agenda and a very liberal idea. And I was very turned off to the idea that I was required to take a sustainability class, because it wasn’t something that I was interested in,” said Carter Terpstra, who lives in one of the green pods on campus, where residents are required to present projects in order to keep living there, such as examining the recycling system in the athletic facilities. All students are required to take a class on sustainability.

Terpstra started to change his mind when he saw that the issues the sustainability movement was trying to address were some of the things he cared about as a Christian.

“They’re fighting for justice. Why wouldn’t I be on board with that? But at the same time, there were some things where I was like, well, I agree and disagree with even within the whole spectrum of what sustainability is,” Terpstra said. “In hindsight now, it’s better that I was educated on it than not. Because now I know what it’s all about. My preconceived ideas did not meet reality.”

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