A leading Christian conservation charity has challenged wildlife presenter Chris Packham for his public criticism of Christianity, which he claims 'doesn't help' to change people's attitudes about the planet.
To mark the programme's 10th birthday, Packham gave an interview to the Radio Times in which he said human beings were making selfish decisions about the planet.
"We've got to get to a state where we think about all life and not just human life," he said. "Christianity doesn't help: we're made in God's image so everything is there to be exploited by us. It doesn't help people's attitudes."
Dr Ruth Valerio, churches and theology director of A Rocha UK, said she was "saddened" by Packham's view that Christianity encourages people to exploit the earth's resources.
"We are fighting for the same things,' she wrote in an open letter to the presenter. "I would like to suggest, in all humility and politeness, that you have misunderstood the Christian faith."
Valerio invited Packham to "come and see with me first-hand some of the great work being done by Christians around the country to protect and restore the natural world".
She pointed out that Christians have been among the pioneers of the wildlife conservation movement. "The God of the Christian (and Jewish) faith is a God who loves and cares, nurtures and sustains, protects the vulnerable and fights the cause of the oppressed. To be made in that God's image (as I believe we have been) thus leads us to act likewise," she added.
"Your comment saddened me because it flies in the face of what is happening in the contemporary conservation movement. I was surprised to hear it coming from someone of your calibre.
"Indeed, I am sure you know that the roots of the wildlife conservation movement largely lie with committed Christians such as John Ray, Gilbert White and John Muir, and that some of the key figures in many of the larger secular environmental NGOs are themselves Christians," she continued.
"There is now significant recognition that faith communities (Christian and others) – which represent 80% of the world's population – give an ethical basis for the value of non-human species that the conservation movement otherwise struggles to articulate. In a world where hope is often so hard to find, we need to be working together, not alienating one another."
A Rocha UK is a Christian charity working for the protection and restoration of the natural world. It is part of a worldwide group of A Rocha organisations committed to conservation action as an expression of Christian mission.
Dr Valerio ended her open letter by reiterating her invitation for Chris Packham to meet with her and other A Rocha representatives to hear their vision, see the "practical action" being undertaken by Christians and to "conspire together as to how we can work to change this country for the good, acting in ways that take care of all its inhabitants".
NB... Before you get cross with Chris Packham, remember that he did famously insert The Smiths lyrics into his Springwatch commentary. Hilarious.