American Jesus Hates the Environment?
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.