Being Holy: Environmentalism

Calvin & Hobbes - Environment

It seems that a large number of Christians I come across are against being environmentally conscious.  I’m not exactly sure why this is and the attitudes seem to range from mocking those who recycle to being outright hostile towards those who try to be “green”.  And that’s not even counting the anti-global-warming crowd who are offended that anybody could even think that the world is being affected by how we live – apparently it’s all some liberal conspiracy.

This isn’t a post about the benefits of being “green”.  I’m hardly the one to speak on that; however, I do want to share some theological pondering on the issue which will hopefully get you to keep thinking about this topic long after you’ve finished reading my thoughts on the matter.

When I posted on my alma maters Facebook group about this topic, one student said: “I think this is one of many areas that Christians could take ownership on but we have largely left it to others.”  I think that insight hits the nail on the head precisely.  To be perfectly honest, I have never heard a good reason as to why Christians should not care about Creation.  I’ve heard many opinions over the years but none of them compete with the reason why we should care.  The simple fact of the matter is that stewardship of the earth…of God’s creation…is not an option for believers.  It’s a biblically mandated job – and we are failing at it.

Genesis 1:28
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”

The most popular reasons I’ve heard for why Christians should put their focus elsewhere besides the environment circle around politics, bad theology, science they don’t agree with, or the fear of “being liberal”.  The worst part of it all, in my opinion, is that American believers seem to think it’s ok to stay quiet or even be actively opposed to “being green” because we assume someone else will take care of it.  We think some other group or government will do our job.

I think it can be boiled down to fear; we all (myself included) are afraid of what the ramifications are of recognizing that God commanded humanity to take care of his creation.  We’re afraid of how that job will impact how we live which means we may have to actually think about what we’re buying and where it comes from or about what we’re eating and how that food was cultivated.  If we think about those things, we may have to examine how we can be so ungrateful for all the blessings we have.

That thinking may force us to do more than recycle cans or drive an electric vehicle.  And that’s not a bad thing.

I’m not saying all fear is bad though: there is legitimate fear in taking “being green” too far; we don’t want to come across as “Gaia is Earth, our Mother”, New Age people who take our job of being stewards of the planet and turn it into Earth worship.  Authors David Clark and Robert Rakestraw in their book “Readings in Christian Ethics: Volume 2” said the following about our reactions to that fear:

“Because of deep ecology [worship of the earth], some conservative Christians wrongly associate any environmental concern with New Age thought.  Some cult detectives, probing every viewpoint for New Age influence, reject any ecological viewpoint.  In other camps, those with interest in end-time biblical prophecy question any activity except ‘soul-saving.’  If Christ is coming back soon, why waste energy slowing down pollution of an earth that is destined for destruction anyways?” (p.383)

In my opinion, we have under-reacted to some issues and over-reacted to others.  Out of our desire to not make the earth into a false god, we have swung to the far other side of the spectrum and forgotten that the very first command God gave humanity was to rule over what he had made: to care for creation.

We are temporary stewards of this place and I firmly believe we can fulfill that job without failing to keep God as our center.  Being “green” won’t turn us into earth worshipers as long as we don’t put the creation before the Creator.  Being environmentally conscious will, however, honor our Father in Heaven .  As Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

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If you’d like to read more on this topic, I highly recommend the book I mentioned above.  Volume 2 specifically has essays written on both sides of hot-button topics such as environmentalism, wealth, abortion, and more which help the reader to think more clearly about the issues.  Little bit of a warning however: it’s not light reading.  Also, buying used is much, much cheaper.