Monday, March 12, 2012

Evangelicals and the environment

I remember the first "earth day" in the seventies and how the Christians in my circles mocked the idea. I was living in Hong Kong at the time, a relatively poor dirty place at the time that seemed to care little about the environment. Then came earth day where we could think about saving the earth and it was well, not so popular among evangelicals.

Reflecting back on that and the lack of care that we have given the earth and even the lack of a theology of caring for the environment makes me wonder why this has not been a greater topic of concern for Christ followers.

A reading of Genesis one and two reveals that God did not create a shoddy world. In fact, He took his time, used all of His creativity and created the most amazing universe that we are still seeking to understand. And He pronounced it good. As the apex of His creation he created men and women made in His image and gave them the job of looking after "ruling over" His creation. The words "rule over" actually echo the fact that God "rules over" all of creation, including us. 

Given the beauty and care with which God created this world I cannot help but believe that those things that destroy that creation, or poison the fresh water He gave us or that trashes the environment is an affront to him. Clearly He gave us creation to use but not to abuse. When we see beauty why does it give us joy? Because it is an echo of the garden and the way God designed our world. Beauty is a mirror of God.

Evangelicals along the way who have raised their voices for a more responsible use of the resources God has given have often been marginalized and labeled as liberals by others. Why? If God created an amazingly good creation why are those who express concern for that creation treated as pariahs in the evangelical community? 

If one reads the account of the New Creation that is coming, God is going to redeem even creation itself with the New Heavens and New earth, so why should that not be a concern of ours today.

One of the byproducts of our trashing of His creation is the fact that much of our world does not even have clean drinking water. Consider what our lives would be like if we drank dangerous bacteria very day because of a lack of clean water. I write this blog in Bangalore, India, a country that desperately needs clean water supplies.

Concern for the environment should never eclipse our concern for the gospel message which is the ultimate hope for each individual. But it should not meant that we should not care about those things that God cares about. And my read of Genesis one and two is that He cared about the world he handed us to rule over a great deal. If it matters to Him, it matters to me. The first earth day was when God looked at His creation and declared it good. I hope that He can look at our stewardship and declare it good as well. At least what we can control.


Lee Wiser said...

An old friend who worked for the US Forest Service referred to himself as a conservationist. As as Christian conservationist in his view managed God's resources for the benefit of mankind. This included using and taking care of creation so that the resources would be available for for generation after generation. By contrast he felt environmentalists, in their zeal to save the environment, too often cross the line into idolatry. You don't have to be a "liberal tree-hugger" to care for the environment. Sadly the liberal environmentalist is the louder voice, and the conservatioist gets tagged with the label.

Elaine Boardley said...

I recycle all the time at my school and I'm sometimes made fun of for trying to keep things from just being thrown in the trash. Students/teachers can't seem to read or see the colors of the bins where the items should be placed. Like you, I believe we are responsible for helping to take care of our world.

Dennis Hesselbarth said...

Lee's comments reflect one of the huge problems with the church - the fear of being labeled, of associating with "them," whoever "Them" is at the moment. If we are following Jesus, sometimes we're going to look like liberals, some times we're going to look like conservatives. Sometimes we'll be accused of idolatry. So what? We need to do what is right in God's eyes, and not be so concerned about if it seems to make us bedfellows with "idolotrist" liberals or conservatives. We have no guts to stand out from the crowd in Jesus' name.