Create in Me a Green Heart

My pa-in-law is a meteorologist with the U. S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the past he’s voted both Republican and Democrat. And he’s served as a deacon in a Bible Church. So he’s an interesting person to ask about environmental concerns.

He used to say humans haven’t kept records for long enough to convince him that global warming is a manmade issue. Yet now he says we must do something. Immediately. He asks, “What can it hurt us to conserve, just in case?”

 In the interest of full disclosure, you should know I’m a fifth-generation Oregonian. So thirty years ago when I wrote for my school paper, I covered stuff like Earth Day and interviewed people about recycling. Oregon was into the environment before environmentalism was cool.  

Then we moved to Washington, D.C. And I watched the ghastly Potomac River become beautiful thanks to environmental advocacy.   

Though my family hails from the Pacific Northwest, they’re not tree-hugging zealots. In fact my dad owns a tee-shirt he would never wear in public that says “Pave the Planet.” (You know that’s satirical, right?) A branch chief with the Federal Highway Administration, he got annoyed when people would reject a highway needed to reduce traffic problems because one owl needed a gazillion-acre habitat. Still, Dad also worked a compost pile, grew his own veggies, has recycled for decades, and taught his kids to pack their trash out of the wilderness. So while he claims not to like extremists, he’s more “green” than anybody I’ve met in Texas, where I now live.

So now you know my biases when I say what’s on my mind … which is that I think we as Christ-followers can do a much better job of engaging the culture about conservation.

Often at the first mention of environmental issues, our response (at least the Americans among us) is to slander Al Gore. That is so misguided! Our first response should be to assert that God gave humanity dominion over the earth, so humans influence what happens here. And our second response should be to concede that we’ve probably corrupted that stewardship. (Our hamartiology demands it.)

Next, we need to bear in mind that environmental concerns extend far beyond the global warming debate. What about endangered species? What about pollutants such as mercury poisoning? What about dirty air making our kids wheeze? What about poverty and its effect on environmental choices. (If you had to choose between cutting a forest and feeding your children, what would you choose?) What about greed/consumerism and its effect on the environment? (If everyone on Earth consumed like Americans, we’d need three Earths to sustain us all.) By pooh-poohing such concerns as liberal propaganda, we shirk our God-given responsibility. And we fail to engage the culture where we actually have some common ground.

So here’s what I recommend… 

. Re-study Genesis 1. Recognize that even if we believe the earth will ultimately be consumed in fervent heat, we’re still charged to care well for God’s property. 

. Score a copy of the BBC series, Planet Earth. Watch it and marvel at the Creator’s imagination. The last episodes explore conservation, providing an array of viewpoints including that of the Archbishop of Canterbury. You don’t have to be Anglican to applaud his observations about mystery and wonder. 

. Go ahead and watch “An Inconvenient Truth.” I know I may receive angry mail for recommending this. I am not saying it’s inerrant! I just think we need to know the content if we want to converse intelligently.

 . Obtain a catalog from your favorite Christian academic publisher and select a book to read on the subject by someone who’s devoted a lot more time to thinking on this issue than you have.

. Repent of and cut consumption. Of heat and oil. Of clothing. Of stuff. Pursue community in your driving, your eating, your lifestyle. Ask God to enable you to think biblically on this issue. I mean really pray. And then seek to live in obedience.

. Share here (by leaving a comment) what you and/or others are doing.

The psalmist reminds us, “The earth is the Lord’s” (Psa. 24:1).  Elsewhere we read, “You made [humanity] ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds…how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8:6-9). We were made for this!   

Sandra Glahn, who holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a PhD in The Humanities—Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/Dallas, is a professor at DTS. This creator of the Coffee Cup Bible Series (AMG) based on the NET Bible is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books. She's the wife of one husband, mother of one daughter, and owner of two cats. Chocolate and travel make her smile. You can follow her on Twitter @sandraglahn ; on FB /Aspire2 ; and find her at her web site: aspire2.com.


  • Sharifa Stevens

    I really appreciate your

    I really appreciate your taking the time to talk to us about this, Sandi. I’ve adopted a lot of not-so-great habits since I moved from New York (where recycling is a mandate).

    I’m thrilled that at work, I was able to request a recycling box to put papers in, and that my department voluntarily recycles plastic bottles and cans. It’s not extremely green, but it’s a start.

    I also resonate with the "luxurious" aspect of green living. The problem of poverty can prohibit some people from participating in greener living. In some parts of Africa I have visited, conservationists are more concerned with the lives of animals in the savannah than they are with the livelihood of the folks who hunt those animals for survival. And in the Bronx, where I grew up, my mom would have a choice: make a larger carbon footprint to find fresh vegetables and fruits in Manhattan, or settle for neighboorhood markets. Supermarkets in my part of town sold a lot

  • Donna

    Living Green
    What a great article… altho I must admit I had to look up hamartiology! Hee hee. I say amen and amen. I live in northern Idaho, and know I’m so blessed to live in this beautiful world that God has created for us. And I believe w/o a doubt we have a God given responsibility to take care of the earth and its creatures. I also appreciate what you said about poverty and those who are starving because someone who isn’t hungry and has plenty decided to ‘protect’ some part of nature. I just don’t believe God would do it that way.

    So, I agree, it is what God would have us do, and if that means I need to have less stuff, consume less and grow more, then that’s what I need to do. Not to be Green, but to be responsible as God has commanded me to be. To the earth and to the human race.

  • Heather A. Goodman

    We love that Planet Earth

    We love that Planet Earth series, along with the Discovery Channel one.

    I’ve been amused by the fact that people who believe in evolution (which has an element of survival of the fittest) take more time to care about creation than Christians (who believe God created the earth and humans are the care-takers). That’s a gross generalization with many exceptions, obviously.

    I’m lucky enough to live in a community that supports recycling of all things plastic and paper. I also take my own re-used shopping bags to the grocery store. (Though I’ve had to start keeping them in the car lest I forget!)

    For me, it’s looking at the big picture–not how will my one recycled piece of paper make a difference, which often feels useless,

  • Mary DeMuth

    Incremental Steps
    Sometimes I get really overwhelmed at trying to be green. I’ve finally come to a place where I know myself well enough that I can’t be entirely green all at once. So I’m doing it incrementally. Eventually I want to do vermicomposting, but that will have to wait until I gt the curbside recycling bit down. Every little bit helps, but if you try to create too many habits at once, you’ll get discouraged.

  • jonah

    Yes..i agree…
    yES iM AGREE…..Sometimes we failed to realizes and think , that being to much hook into the world made us prone into unrighteousness in the sight of God……
    We are too knowledgable in the things covered the world , but failed to discover the real essence and who really made all of those things under and over the earth,….
    God is A great God,… He made us for the purpose….
    Acctually, I really loved Green,…. because Green always reminded me to be more hopeful..in all circumstances.. upside down..through Gods leading and being more committed to our Great Creator..GOD…
    GOD bless and more power…

  • bleek

    so, you love Al Gore?
    you’re a Christian, living in Texas, and you love the Democrats? I’m irate.

    (You know that’s sarcastic, right?)

    I was so blessed to walk into my office at DTS this morn and find a “Thanks for recycling” card on my desk. plus, the Rolo was a bonus.

  • John

    Al Gore
    Nothing wrong with conservation and cleaning up but
    AL GORE? Why would you use his film as a reference? or
    baseline. Did you know that the scene where the ice breaks off
    in Antarctica is from a movie and was digitally created? Watch


    There’s a lot more about this idiot (who by the way makes millions for talking )if you care to research it.Also check out junkscience.com

    • Sandra Glahn

      Al Gore an idiot?

      Why use Gore's film as a reference? Because he won the Nobel. And that means to engage the culture on this issue, we need to be conversant with what they've seen. I recommend watching "An Inconvenient Truth" for the same reason I'd recommend reading The Origin of Species to those who plan to egage with scientists who believe in evolution. 

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