"If there had been no Christian experience in my life there would be no Earth Day--or at least I would not have initiated it."
-John McConnell, Jr., credited for the first governmental recognized Earth Day, March 21, 1970
You got it right. The founder of Earth Day was a Christian and he credits Christ as the inspiration for his humanitarian work. Today when I flipped open Vital Magazine I fell upon an article about John McConnell being the founder of Earth Day and his Pentecostal heritage. I remembered seeing the little Google note that Today is Earth Day. I admit that I am a bit ambivalent when it comes to environmentalism and politics. I do believe that we have a God given responsibility to take care of the earth and that we should take it quite seriously (Revelation 11:18). My problem is that I don't trust politicians (i.e. Al Gore promoted a tax on oxygen to preserve the Rain Forrest; when gasoline prices began to rise after 911, Democrats talked about raising the price high enough to greatly decrease consumption; etc.) and I don't think caring for the earth implies that we should go back to the horse and buggy days or line the coffers of political hacks. I think McConnell would agree.
As it turns out, McConnell's parents, John S. and Hattie McConnell, are listed as a founding members of the Assemblies of God according to Assemblies of God Heritage Magazine. His father was a traveling Pentecostal evangelist and his grandfather, Theodore Ward McConnell, was present at the Azusa Street Revival.
McConnell distinguishes his purpose for Earth Day as “a climate of peace and justice as a prerequisite for ecological preservation,” rather than the political protest against pollution by Senator Gaylord Nelson who hijacked his idea.
"John McConnell, Jr.’s interest in earth-care developed in part from his own lifelong study of Scripture. He explains his simple logic, stating, 'We love God ... [and therefore should] have an appreciation for his creation.' To clarify and define this logical 'appreciation,' McConnell, Jr. cites Psalm 115:16, 'The earth has been given to the children of men.' He connects this promise to the command in Genesis 1:28, that humanity is to 'subdue' the earth. 'We’re caretakers upon earth.... "Subdue the earth" — I think that meant to take care of it.... In other words, if you take care of it, it’s not going out of control.' McConnell’s call is not for earth worship, but for responsible stewardship of the earth that all people share."
"The cutting edge of freedom and order has often been people with a strong love for Jesus and what he taught." (McConnell, unpublished introduction to The New Covenant, cited in A/G Heritage)
Interview with John McConnell, Jr., Pentecostal founder of Earth Day, AGTV
The Unexpected Roots of Earth Day, Vital Magazine
John McConnell, Jr. and the Pentecostal Origins of Earth Day, Assemblies of God Heritage Magazine
Earth Day, Wikipedia entry
John McConnell, Wikipedia entry
Denver Post Obituaries, Vagabond youth led Earth Day founder John McConnell to life of peace
Pentecostal Origins of Earth Day