God Is Green: My Religion And The Environment
Over the years, science has become more and more open to interpretation, and this means heated debates over what should be a simple fact: the Earth’s climate is changing. As if the debates between the professionals weren’t disconcerting enough, we have to add the drama between political lines and religious groups. I was educated in a conservative Christian environment. This was an environment dedicated to teaching others that if we’re going to call ourselves followers of God, then we’d better be preserving His creation.
This morning, a friend of mine, who is not an environmentalist, nor does she possess a science background like myself (a biologist), had read my post about the young evangelicals and asked me why more people who are members of the religious community aren’t of the same mindset?
I’d like to answer this with a concrete answer. I’d like to give her, and anyone else interested a definitive answer as to why the religious community isn’t falling all over itself to care for God’s creation. Instead I see bumper stickers comparing abortion and endangered species, and slogans condemning those who choose concern for a baby seal with abandoning the gift of human life. So instead of accepting responsibility for the whole creation, the religious community tends to interpret this at their will:
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 of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”
Of course, this is the beauty of an ancient text. And there are so many variations in the denominations that rely on the Bible as their main source of reading material. In theory, the religious community should be able to engage in enthusiastic debates about the text and voice their opinions in a forum where they are heard and accepted. I don’t need to tell you that this is not always the case.
“For constructive dialog to happen, Christians must stop conflating differences in interpretation of Scripture with differences in commitment to Scripture. We must respond to one another’s questions, arguments, and ideas in kind, with more questions, arguments, and ideas, rather than avoiding the conversation altogether by dismissing one another as unfaithful.” ~Rachel Held Evans
My educational background includes classes in Biblical history and language. I know how to translate the original texts, and to understand from a cultural standpoint what was meant by “rule” and “subdue”, but that’s not the point here. I can spend my entire day talking to someone about how we are commanded in Genesis to care for the Earth and by “ruling” we are taking responsibility for the quality the Earth is kept in. It’s one of my favorite topics. It’s also one of the topics I typically find my Sunday school class members walking away from.
The environment is a topic not often embraced in sermons and Sunday school classes because of a wide range of differing opinions as to its importance. But there are differences of opinion on all topics; it’s just that when a controversial topic enters the religious gates, it becomes a means of determining your “love” for the Lord over your personal interests. I don’t understand how some can look at the praises written in Psalms for the beauty of creation and not see the mere amount of breathtaking artistry that surrounds us on a daily basis in nature. How can God Himself not be interested in the Earth. He’s created our minds to discover ways to find cleaner coal, or search for ways to reduce the impact of asthma on our children, or find an end to the climate crisis. God’s not leaving us without an option to care for ourselves and our surroundings.
“That God gave to man a dominion over the inferior creatures, over fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air – Though man provides for neither, he has power over both, much more over every living thing that moves upon the earth – God designed hereby to put an honor upon man, that he might find himself the more strongly obliged to bring honor to his Maker.”
John Wesley made it clear that the honor comes by treating creation with respect, not arrogance. Regardless of my denominational affiliation, I’m going to agree with him. Honor is earned, not assumed. We have the power to find the solutions to protect the “fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” And let’s not forget that our children are the most deserved recipients of this respect.