Tri Robinson is a homesteader, former school teacher, Vineyard church pastor, church planter, and NGO founder. As an American conservative Evangelical Christian, he admits that creation care is not usually part of the package – in fact it took him six months to prepare his first sermon on the topic, he was so nervous about speaking about the issue. In the end, he received a standing ovation at all three Sunday services at his church when we first preached on the issue of how we should be treating creation. As is his habit, he had put in place projects to help the church members put his teaching into action, one of which means that they now have a large vegetable garden on their church grounds.
Will Fraser, who plays the part of the narrator and also appears in the film, was a Christian ‘in a loose sense’ before he started this production. He recognised the need to raise awareness of what’s happening with the environment. He wanted to film someone who had committed their life to this issue, and also to film in an area that demonstrated the relationship that could exist between people and the rest of creation. He is also an Englishman fascinated by America. These three factors led him to Tri Robinson.
This film is an exploration of Tri’s life: his family, his journey to faith, the church he planted in Idaho, and the way he has helped his church to live out their conviction that creation care is a God-given responsibility. We see footage of interviews with Tri, and his life in rural Idaho – his ranch, friends and family, church, and the charity he helped found. The story is also loosely structured around seven Bible passages that are key to Tri’s theology of creation care. Should we focus primarily on people, and sharing the Gospel? Isn’t it all going to burn anyway? This is a very gentle but direct look at what the Bible has to say about the non-human parts of creation.
Tri says some very quotable things: ‘With dominion comes responsibility’; ‘People are thinking of themselves, of their own lifetime. They’re not thinking of their descendants, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren and what’s going to be handed off and left to them. Long as it’s okay for me, then I’m good.’; ‘Maybe on the surface it’s about recycling aluminium cans or something. But what the biggest issue is, is when the environment goes down, the poor go down first. The church is called to participate with the Lord in this hour in very strategic and functional ways.’
This pastor’s passion for creation care is obvious, but he realises that for Evangelical Christians to come on board he needs to make a Biblical case. He is easy to listen to because he doesn’t try to make people feel bad – he just states his case and moves on to what we can actually do. His lifestyles reflects his views, and his children who live nearby have similar gardens full of vegetables and sustainable projects. This isn’t a side line or a discretion, is it simply part of ministry in an otherwise regular large American Evangelical Church. It’s an inspiring and challenging story.
I would recommend this documentary to anyone who is not sure about the connection between Christian faith and environmental activism. In his narration, Fraser describes how, in the making of this film, he became a committed Christian. He says that he hopes this film will not just raise awareness among Christian of the need for creation care, but will also help non-Christians to see the value in Christianity.
Cowboy and Preacher was premiered in July 2018, and has just been released on Vimeo (rent or buy), Amazon Prime, and DVD.
Watch the trailer
Explore the Cowboy and Preacher website and order the DVD.
Study the seven creation care Bible passages
Find out more about Tri Robinson