“The Church as an Environmentalist” – Are we?

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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”

Zion’s “Narrows” – Stepping Confidently

“Become familiar with the warning signs for flooding.  People have drowned inside the narrows from unexpected storms.”

Gulp.

One of Zion’s rangers sent us a shock as she described the danger of through-hiking the Narrows.

“But don’t worry,” she said. “Step with confidence and you’ll be fine. The biggest trouble people have is tripping on rocks while in the river. Even when you can’t see the bottom, you need to step hard. You got this.”

Comforting…

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Approaching the mouth of “The Narrows,” one will witness the red sandstone cliffs standing resolute over the river’s neighboring greenery.

The next day, my bride and I went on the greatest adventure of our honeymoon. About sixty percent of our sixteen-mile hike was spent in the Virgin River. The surrounding sandstone walls seemed ablaze as they towered over our trail, made of flowing water.

And all the while, we learned the meaning of the ranger’s advice to step with confidence. When waist deep, we often could not see the rocks below our feet.

Stepping timidly, pawing for security in our landing, often ended poorly. This shy approach proved frictionless upon contact with the rocky river bed.

But when we lifted our feet high through the water, believing our soles would land firm into what we could not see, we moved quickly. Stepping with confidence became the victorious approach.

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In places inside “The Narrows,” light barely grazes the surface of the water.

In life, we too cannot always see where our feet will land next or what adventure lies ahead. When faced with such uncertainty, sometimes the best approach for our feet is to plunge them forward, stepping faithfully into the secure landing prepared for them. And like Laura and I experienced on our hike, choosing to step confidently is completely worth the journey.

For those of us who believe in God, this idea is part of the promise we receive.  When faced with the unknown, whether into blessings or hardship, we must step confidently and faithfully.  We can do this because we believe that our good God has prepared each step of our way, sustaining and encouraging us along the adventure.

With eyes wide open,

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

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The Virgin River flows steadily through the maze of red sandstone cliffs, standing 2,000 feet above the canyon floor.

Rock Climbing and Managing Risk

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Logan Erf on “Anthill Direct” in Eldorado Canyon

For months, I awaited my friend Matt Dodson moving to Denver. He arrived last Sunday. And having climbed together while students at Belmont University, it was only fitting to strike rock together as soon as possible. Tuesday was the day.

Ripping its way through our rolled-down windows, the wind fueled our energy as we drove to Eldorado Canyon. Our goal of climbing “Yellow Spur” seemed to blur out the radio. There was nothing else. Sunny skies welcomed the upcoming climb. The moment was filled with ecstasy.

But as we pulled into the state park, we began to see them. Grey clouds were easing their way into view behind our destined summit.

Quoted a 5% chance of thunderstorms by the park entrance ranger, we still decided to approach the climb. As we toiled forth a mile, the 700 foot elevation gain seemed to bring us closer to a darkened sky. Onward, we hiked every inch of it.

And as we found the first pitch of the climb, flaked our ropes, prepped our gear, and I tossed on my climbing shoes, I became more psyched for the lead. Then, as I placed my first foot onto the rock, we heard it—a booming echo through Eldo’s walls. Thunder struck.

At this point, we were left with a choice. With the clouds appearing to move away, it seemed unlikely for the storm to blow directly through the canyon, but there was still the chance of danger upon the sandstone above.

I think in my past, I may have chanced it.

But, life has a way of changing. This is no secret. Circumstances ebb and flow and our outlooks on the world change with them. I will soon partner with the most beautiful woman in my life; our wedding date is July 18th. It will be the happiest day of my life thus far. I also increasingly yearn to inspire an adventurist culture towards a spiritual understanding of creation. I have many reasons to live. Tuesday was not to take my life for granted. The chance of lightning strike, however slim, was not worth the climb.

Matt and I gathered up our belongings and headed home.

A famous climber and base jumper, Dean Potter, and his friend Graham Hunt recently died while wing suiting in Yosemite National Park. I had the pleasure of meeting Dean a couple of times, and I know some of my friends in the park are suffering the loss of these two individuals.

I have watched over the past couple weeks as climbers nation-wide have responded to their death. Some have stressed the “decision-making” that led to it. On the other extreme, many have commended them for “going out doing what they loved to do.” I hope that both extremes can agree upon one thing. These men were cherished. They lived in this world just like we do, and they had further aspirations for their life that will never be accomplished. This should be tragic to us.

Yet so many responses to their death tried to hit on something beautiful about their final act. Can risk really be beautiful?

Dean and Graham risked it all. Was there beauty in that?

Is there anything for which I would risk everything, including life itself?

For climbing I would not. The people and aspirations for which I live outweigh death on a rock. Sure, climbers constantly face the challenge of risk assessment. Some may even consider the risk of death worth a climb. I myself climb routes that I believe have no serious risk of death. The point is we choose the level of risk we engage when we choose which route to climb.

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Andrew Bellisle cleaning the summit of “Anthill Direct” on a different day in Eldorado Canyon

I think life often works the same. There are daily risks of failure, looking the fool, pain, embarrassment, health issues, injury, hurting others, and getting hurt. Like an impending storm, so many of these things are out of our control. We can only control our reactions once they have happened.

But often, we do control our risks by placing ourselves on a certain path. Depending upon which path we choose, certain risks will arise. And we each beautifully decide some of these risks are fully worth taking!

For instance, I know in marrying Laura, I will embrace certain risks: hurting her, being hurt, failing to put her best interests at heart, watching as she goes through sickness and health, seeing her cry, letting her down. But ultimately, these risks are minimal compared to the incredible gain of spending my life with the most beautiful woman I know. She has my heart. She’s worth the risks. And I hope to be for her.

So what risks are we willing to take? Which are worth it? Some are. Some aren’t. It may not be as simple as the cliché, “The greater the risk, the greater the reward.” Perhaps the phrase should be, “The greater the risk, the more sure we should be it’s worth risking.” Then, it can be beautiful.

Let us be selective and wise about the routes we choose. Let us be selective and wise about the risks we take. This is our responsibility. Risks—that are truly worth it—can and should be beautifully taken. Find what those are for you. Embrace them. And go risk it.

Eyes wide open,

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

Levitation 29

A gentle ember rose amidst the surrounding cliffs. It was past 5 am just outside of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, and we emerged from our tents focused on the ensuing climb.

Nothing disturbed the serenity, not even the voices of other rising climbers. The moment was impenetrable, the calmness frozen into the morning air.

Things stayed this way for quite some time. My climbing partner for the day, Rett, jet-boiled water and added it to oatmeal and coffee grinds. We drove into the canyon. We took a last oh-so-precious stop in the porter next to the trailhead. And then we hiked the long but magnificent approach to the base of Levitation 29, our looming challenge of the day. Through it all, serenity remained.

Driving in to Red Rock

Forecast: 68 and sunny.

Jacket: still in the car.

I believed it would only get warmer. And more importantly, I embraced the idea that the morning calm would last the day.

I was wrong.

Each pitch of the climb took us higher into the whipping wind. Apparently, Red Rock Canyon is known for causing chapped lips, but the wind became a larger issue than dry skin.

Starting out on the 1st Pitch

Because of my idiotic choice to leave the jacket behind, my discomfort developed into a more prevailing concern. What was once a mild shiver steadily formed into a more and more violent shake.

The wind was becoming so incessant that I forgot the morning tranquility. Calmness was gone. Painful, howling chaos was all I breathed in. I even no longer noticed the incredible journey of the climb I was on, making each move brainlessly, distracted by the gales that imprisoned my attention.

I was cold. To be honest, I was miserable – a descriptor I have never before used on a climb.

Uncomfortable, missing out on the climb, and even unable to effectively communicate with Rett on the route, it became clear:

The wind tyrannically ruled the day.

But delicately tucked within these grueling hours of climbing, were a few distinct, beloved moments on the rock. Their brevity made them no less adored.

In these cherished seconds, for when the wind would cease, warmth was restored, the glorious views of the canyon faded into my vision, I could properly call commands to my climbing partner, and overall, life would return with vivacious color. I was taught a lesson in this.

Chaos, noise, and discomforts – we so often bring them upon ourselves.

Whether we choose to leave behind our jacket, fill our iCalendars to the brim with meetings and projects, keep the television playing in our homes for the entirety of a day, or constantly place ourselves in the public to feel less alone, we are deciding each day to besiege ourselves with loud, distracting, and ultimately harmful winds.

Sadly, we get so caught up in progress, that unnecessary clamor becomes the norm. We don’t even notice the destructive behavior of our busy-ness anymore.

I am grateful for the rest, for the shelter from the wind that consumed my attention on Levitation 29. The quiet gave me a new appreciation for stillness.

But I now wonder how often I become voluntarily captive to other winds of the world. And I wonder – what serenity am I missing because of their howl.

Andrew Bellisle

Founder of The Network 5.12

Levitation Summit

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