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!