The word stewardship, once associated primarily with church committees in charge of fundraising, now includes a broader, more holistic sense of responsibility.
Michael Crosbie, editor of Faith & Form, an interfaith magazine devoted to religious art and architecture, says many congregations are integrating the nuts and bolts of how “to be good stewards in the micro sense” of maintaining buildings and balancing budgets with a broader “sense that there is a religious reason for doing it.”
He also believes that green building may be far more extensive than anything that can be measured by applications for LEED certification, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)
“A lot of congregations are trying to be green but not going that extra step,” he says.
That includes Zovath. He says Ark Encounter won’t apply for LEED certification, even though it will use LEED techniques and include information and displays about them for public education.
Just saying you’re going to build green, like advertising food as “all natural” or “heart healthy,” can be an empty gesture. And the LEED standards are no panacea. They don’t, for example, distinguish between buildings we need and theme parks we don’t.
But even the discussion of green architecture at an attraction devoted to the inerrant word of the Old Testament is a fascinating cultural moment. Biblical literalism offends many people not just because it requires believing the implausible but also because it is seen as an impediment to large-scale consensus on science, including the science of global warming.
The existence of a green Noah’s Ark in Kentucky suggests a strange possibility for evolution on the subject. It might be easier, and quicker, to gain consensus on how to combat global warming than it is to convince the last, but still powerful, holdouts against the manifest scientific truth of climate studies. Given that the Green Building Council estimates that 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions each year come from buildings — more than transportation and industry — widespread changes in architecture could affect the environment even without agreement on the science behind it. Fear of soiling God’s garden may be more powerful than fears of an epic new flood.