“The Church as an Environmentalist” – Are we?

ChristinaTetonsChurch

Photo by Christina Warburg. See more of her landscapes at: christinaadelephotography.com

Are you ready for one of the most poorly interpreted passages in scripture? Following the creation story in Genesis, God spoke to Adam and Eve saying:

“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.”               – Genesis 1:28 (NIV)

So humans must be justified in absolutely anything we do to nature, right? We’re in charge.

Countless times, I’ve heard Christians interpret Genesis 1:28 in this way. Then, those same Christians spit that garbage-filled (pun intended) interpretation in environmentalists’ face.

For many Christians, this verse is the proof we need to eat lots and lots of bacon.

And clearly, from this passage we should know it is ok for commercial mega-farms to destructively plant the same crops in the same land for years on end…well, at least until that land can’t produce vegetation at all anymore. Depleting the earth of its nutrients is cool, because we get to subdue it!

“Sure,” some Christians say. “We know this forest is beautiful. But clear-cutting these trees will provide well needed jobs for our city. And the money made from selling the lumber will help repair our pot-hole-covered roads. And besides, we have dominion over the earth. So what if we cut down a few trees. God gave us this land.”

Such an argument is likely to be followed by the words, “Freeeeedoom!” or “Murika!”

I recently heard a radio pastor jerk a passage in Psalms out of context to prove global warming doesn’t exist. Apparently because God set the sun in motion to rise and set everyday, humans, no matter what we do to the earth, can not produce that so-called global warming stuff.

SERIOUSLY?!?!

Shame on you pastor. What about that whole piece in scripture regarding the “fall of humanity.” Are you saying that doesn’t apply to our treatment of creation? You want us to believe that we can reap destruction on each other, but that we can’t harm the earth?

Christians, those of us who make such arguments should be ashamed. If our destruction of God’s “good” earth isn’t classified as a sin, what is? We must start taking our call to be advocates of abundant life more seriously.

I realize more and more that most Christians lack a theological understanding of our role in caring for God’s creation. Many of us are down to recycle, but the buck stops there.

And hey, I can be totally guilty.

Confession: I have a deep love for Chic-fil-a. Almost everything about it puts a smile on my face. The peanut oil-fried chicken. The crispy bun. The perfect texture of the waffle fries. THE SWEET TEA! I love their food. I love their service.

But there is one thing that kills me about Chic-fil-a…their styrofoam cups. Come on Chic-fil-a! We live in the 21st century! I know on your website, you have cute little explanations of why you still use them. Because it’s good for your customers. The cups don’t sweat. Yada yada yada. But styrofoam? Seriously? Those cups will still be here in a thousand years.

This is where I am guilty. I eat Chic-fil-a once a month or so. Usually, I get it to go. And what do I have to do with that styrofoam cup? I throw it away because no where else recycles styrofoam. AHHHH!!! There it is. I’ve confessed!

I, too, need to learn how to make little sacrifices in every day life to help protect God’s creation. I could quit eating at Chic-fil-a.  I could take shorter showers. I could eat less beef. I could get more politically involved. THESE LITTLE THINGS ADD UP.

If you’re anything like me, you might wonder what impact small, personal life changes can make on the environment.  But there are many things each of us could do to improve our creation care efforts as the global church. If we did that collectively, it could have a major impact.

So it seems we need to get our theology right.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing a blog series entitled, “The Church as an Environmentalist.” These posts will attempt to provide theological support for why Christians are to be active in protecting God’s creation. They will also envision the positive effects the church could have by doing so. And who knows, maybe I’ll address a few specific issues, like commercially-driven mega-farms or energy conservation along the way.

The unfortunate point is, Christians are rarely at the forefront protecting the wilderness God created. Many of us often leave creation care to those who do not believe in God at all. But maybe if we had a better understanding of environmentalism as part of God’s call on our lives, we would do more.

Subscribe to this blog and join me through this series. Let’s envision “The Church as an Environmentalist.”

With eyes wide open,

Andrew Bellisle
Owner/Lead Guide
Network 5.12, LLC

Thanks for reading folks! If you would like to keep up with the rest of this series, please JOIN our Network and stay updated with future posts. Other articles that have been/will be included in this series are:

The Real Meaning of ‘Subdue the Earth’

“A Theology of Abundant Life”

“The Impact the Global Church Could Have”

“Ways to be an Environmentalist”

3 thoughts on ““The Church as an Environmentalist” – Are we?

  1. Great post! I think the church as a whole has been lacking in the department of creation care. Of course, we cannot expect one institution to be fully committed to every issue but what you point to is that not only are we not doing a great job of caring for God’s creation but oftentimes, we can stand in opposition to creation care.
    In the end, the theological presumption that drives this opposition sounds to me like “God only cares about the humans that He created.” While we are the only part of creation that is made specifically in His image, I believe that God is waiting to redeem all of creation, not just us. Indeed, Paul writes in Romans 8:22 that all of creation is groaning for the redemption of God.

    I see this a lot in how many Christians will respond to vegetarianism. There is this sense of moral outrage, as if by not eating meat we are disregarding our role to rule over the earth. But there’s a more critical analysis that I believe must be applied: is our current system of meat production and harvesting really glorifying to God (at least, to the extent that we accept it without reservation or doubt)? I’m not sure. And I’m not a vegetarian – but I would love to see more of us engaging in these issues!

  2. Pingback: The Real Meaning of “Subdue the Earth” | Network 5.12, LLC

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