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American Jesus Hates the Environment?

August 23, 2010

In the ongoing battle between us (the church) and them, many groups have found themselves lumped into the all-encompassing “them.”  “Them” has included Catholics, New Agers, Democrats, emergents, women, universities, and Joel Osteen.  Even more troublesome than some of those, is the fact that environmentalists now find themselves opposite the church.

Somehow, taking care of  Creation has become vilified in some corners of Christendom.  How did this happen?

Actually, it’s fairly obvious how it happened.  Environmentalism became a concern of more liberal politicians, so the knee-jerk reaction was to be opposed.  After all, I think we’re all familiar with this formula:

I could absolutely be wrong, but it seems that we have let our politics come between us and the clear Biblical mandate to care for earth.  Not only do the Creation narratives of the first chapters of Genesis illustrate this, but throughout the canon we see God’s concern for the land… maybe the most interesting being found in the Jubilee plans of Leviticus 25.

Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.  ‘Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. (vs. 3-5)

God not only wants to ensure that humans be treated with dignity and given rest, He also wants to make sure that the land is given a period of rest.  It is not His will that humans strip the ground of all life-giving resources and then move on to the next piece of land.  All of Creation is broken, and He wants all of Creation to be drawn back to Him.  You.  Me.  Everything.

Almost universally, Christians look at the Old Testament and agree that God wants us to be good “stewards” of Creation.  Our main problems probably lie with differing definitions of just what it means to be a good steward.  One of our more well known passages on stewardship is Christ’s Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  Without going into detail, the man who did not improve that which he was trusted with was referred to as “wicked” and “lazy.”

Quite simply, to be good stewards we should work to improve Creation.

Later on in that same chapter of Matthew, Jesus commands us to take care of the “least of these”- even going as far as to say that failing to do so would result in exclusion from His kingdom.  One important question is this:  If we do not take care of our creation, who suffers the most?  It’s not the wealthy.

It’s the least of these.

Another reason that Christians should care for our environment?  Because Creation itself is a global witness of the goodness of God.  The Psalmist writes:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1-3)

Creation speaks well of a Creator.  Why wouldn’t we work together to protect that testimony?

Can environmentalism be taken to an unhealthy extreme?  Sure.  But let’s not ignore the topic altogether for fear of that.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rick Moore permalink
    August 23, 2010 12:14 pm

    Inconsisties are all around this world today. Environmentalists are concerned for the condition of the planet, yet I hear many of them downing hunters. The responsible hunters I know care as much for (and do as much for) the environment as do the environmentalists. Instead of working together they seem to hold a poor view of each other. It looks to me like they are heading for the same destination yet are on different highways. Why can’t they get on the same highway, work together, and have greater resources to draw from in reaching the same goal? The “Us and them” mentality causes me to think their is a hidden ulterior motive that is the true evil behind the facade. Deal with that “evil” and you deal with the true problem in our world today. The symptoms that come from the “evil” will be taken care of then.

  2. Wes permalink*
    August 23, 2010 12:26 pm

    I think I agree with your basic premise about the two groups probably working toward the same goal, Rick. However, I’m not sure that assuming evil as their motivator is any way to “get on the same highway, work together, etc.”

    The “us and them” mentality definitely goes both ways (in almost any dispute) and we have to resist the temptation of thinking that “getting on the same highway” must mean “getting on my highway.” (Not saying that was your thought, by the way). I think that both sides in this conversation have plenty of those inconsistencies- including the one’s you pointed out.

    The question I was getting at is this… do we throw out anything that smells of Creation care because of those that take things too far?

  3. Justin Underwood permalink
    August 24, 2010 3:55 pm

    Rick, I don’t want to be combative, but I would like some explanation. I come from a family of hunters and I’m not sure what they do FOR the environment besides “control the population.” Is that what you mean? From my experience, hunters manipulate the natural environment to get an edge and kill as many animals with the least amount of effort possible. What is their great contribution?

    I would like to walk in the beautiful hills of Tennessee in November without worrying about being shot. On the other hand, I would like to continue to walk in those beautiful hills and not have to see pictures of them in order to preserve them. From my experience, both go overkill. But the environmentalists seem to come from an altruistic stance whereas most hunters only want freedom, freedom, freedom to kill, kill, kill.

    Not all are like this. My father, for example, truly loves to experience nature with awe and wonder and sees God in His creation while he sits still for hours with snot freezing to his chin. I only wish he didn’t need to be motivated to kill something in order experience this.

    Extremes are bad. There is always a middle way.

  4. Rick Moore permalink
    August 24, 2010 4:50 pm

    Justin, first of all, you need to come to Texas where there is plenty of room to walk in wilderness without being mistaken for wildlife. In Tennessee that is a legitimate concern, much like my days in Indiana.

    The truly responsible hunters I know feed land that is dorment and create beautiful scenery. Yes, one of their purposes is to attract deer to their newly created food plots, but when they do, they draw the line at taking a deer that is too young, or taking too many in one season. They allow bucks to grow and only harvest them when they are mature. Remember that I am saying responsible hunters. I know there are many out there that do have the attitude you expressed and they should be corrected and educated on what is right.

    I cannot speak for other states but we have a wildlife over-population in Texas right now. It is becoming very severe. The problem is land owners are not controlling the wildlife population on their property. Just this week my wife was over at my parent’s house. They live on 3 acres in a subdivision on the edge of town but far from being out in the country. Picture the outskirts of Brentwood. Emily turned and was suprised to see a bobcat walking across the property and very close to the house. Undoubtedly the bobcat was looking for food. Like much of the other wildlife, the bobcat population is too great so they are having to search for food which is bringing them closer and closer to our cities. If the landowners would harvest when harvesting is needed the population would remain in check and they wouldn’t have to search for food in our cities. This has become a HUGE problem with the wild boar population in Texas. The wild boar ravages just about anything that it comes in contact with, and they are taking over Texas.

    I think part of the problem with both sides of the environment argument may lie with those who go to ridiculous extremes.

    I’m like your dad. I like to sit in that tree stand, and enjoy the peace of the country. It’s also a great time to read the scripture. I bought a camoflage Bible and carry that in hunting backpack. If your father doesn’t have one you should get him one.

    Good discussion.

  5. Justin Underwood permalink
    August 24, 2010 6:17 pm

    I’d personally like to see bobcats and wild boars ravaging Brentwood, but I think that’s beside the point.

    I agree in the middle way, and find it completely appropriate for Christians to hunt responsibly…it’s just not my bag.

    But what about concerns like climate change, deforestation, and endangered wildlife? Shouldn’t the church take a bold stance on these issues instead of joining with the Limbaugh’s of the world and linking them to socialists baby killers?

  6. Rick Moore permalink
    August 25, 2010 10:54 am

    I do agree that people in general should do what they can to care for the authentic environmental problems that exist. The extremist problems exist on both sides of the political aisle. The misleading needs to stop on both sides. We need to find the real environmental problems, and deal with them for the good of the environment and the people who will live in the environment long after we are gone. Generalizations need to stop as well.
    It seems there are too many people out there that get a forwarded email, believe the email to be truth and then they become an expert on the subject of the email. I get those stinking forwards everyday and ignore most of them. If I pay them the attention the sender wants me to, all it does is make me negative. There is too much ministry that God wants me to do for me to walk around yelling “We’re all gonna die!”
    I gotta go finish my sermon for this Sunday. See ya guys.

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