Why Christians Should Care About the Environment

Vantage Point

As Christians we believe the Earth is a creation of God, a precious gift on which we depend for the necessities of life. The beauty and complexity of nature speak clearly of God’s presence and power and have spiritual value.

Yet things are not as they should be: the temperature of our planet is rising, the atmosphere is polluted, acid rain poisons lakes and streams around the world, even the oceans. Thousands of species are going extinct. We are only just starting to understand the complicated webs of life on Earth, yet everywhere we look they are falling apart. Moreover, we are losing safe drinking water and fertile soil for growing food.

Although everyone on earth will eventually be affected, the world’s poor will suffer the most. The recent increase in “extreme weather events” such as hurricanes and droughts are thought to be the first effects of global climate change.

When global temperatures increase, the result is not just warmer weather. Polar ice caps melt and raise sea levels, flooding coastal areas; while inland climates become drier, creating deserts. People become displaced as fertile land is lost. Wars break out over scarce natural resources. Hunger, starvation, and disease grow worse.

Some of those scenarios are already happening in places where the poor have nowhere to go and nothing to fall back on. How we treat the environment is, in many ways, how we treat other people. Do we love our neighbors by polluting the world we all share?

Do we love and honor God by polluting God’s creation? After creating each part of the world in Genesis, God declared it good. God, whom we worship, who made the amazing complexity of the universe, looked on each of these things and called them good. Who are we to trample on this and exploit it for our own short-term gain?

Sometimes we overlook the proper care of the Earth, thinking that there are more important issues. And there are, but perhaps we have ignored our role as God-appointed caretakers of creation for too long. It is an important issue as well—an issue of respecting God and each other, and of justice for the less fortunate.

To learn more or to join with others in caring for creation, see www.crcjustice.org; www.greeningsacredspaces.net (Canada); and www.webofcreation.org (USA). For examples of what other Christian Reformed churches are doing, see “Earthkeeping in Action” in the April 2010 Banner.

See also: Get Off the Global Warming Bandwagon by Paul Rhoda.

About the Author

Kathryn Norman Guindon is an environmental consultant and a member of Calvin Christian Reformed Church, Ottawa, Ontario.

See comments (10)

Comments

The green gospel with its environmental spirituality, smug self satisfaction, works of righteousness salvation is choking the life blood of the gospel through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation right out of the church.

Social activism by forcing people to change their light bulbs isn't going to change peoples hearts, but the gospel of Jesus Christ will. For the church to be preoccupied with planetary salvation is a big mistake. It's Satan s way to taking our eyes off the Great Commission.

I love my neighbors. I love the creation God made.

Which is why I advocate increased capitalism, industrialism, and freedom. From what I can see, societies that have these elements tend to have the cleanest, safest environment and the lowest levels of poverty, hunger, destitution, and ill health.

Since these are also the things opposed by the vast majority of the global-warming crowd, one wonders just how dedicated they are to the poor and to creation. Maybe they're dedicated to a romanticist ideal that owes more to Rousseau than to Jesus? Let's all go back to nature! Well, the life of nature is, if I recall the quote correctly, "nasty, brutish, and short."

PNR:

For the most I agree with you but I would not leave it at simply "capitalism." I would have stated strongly regulated capitalism, given man's nature.

I well recallsome decades ago watching a video featuring Dr. Milton Freidman of the University of Chicago and Nobel Prize fame (as well as perhaps Ronald Reagan's favorite economist). Uncle Milty was in Hong Kong extolling the virtues of its relatively unregulated, free market economy (nowhere except perhaps Somalia is there a truly "free market" economy). He went on and on about the bustling nature of its business climate etc etc. Wonderful stuff.

Providentially (?) within a couple of weeks I read a report on the abysmal nature of Hong Kong's water quality in their harbor. Apparently, they were dumping a lot of "unregulated" toxic chemicals and "free market" poop into their harbor.

Made me think that all those old Levitical regulations in the Bible may have been Divinely inspired.

I am glad that you agree with the article on love of neighbors and creation, the Almighty's first act in time and space. May we ever seek to preserve what He declared "good!"

We might quibble about the extent of regulation needed - the older I get, the more libertarian I become but part of that might well be an over reaction to the excess of our current state.

Even so, it is far more likely that people will take care of something that belongs to them than that they will take care of something that belongs to "the public", so yes, some regulation is necessary.

PNR:

Libertarian huh? Sorry, I part ways there.

I was just listening to a report on the "free market" and "capitalist" environment of the micro-loan industry as it came to be in Bangladesh and parts of India.

Due to lack of appropriate government regulation (reminds one of The Great Recession we just went through), the predators of the capitalist banking were literally driving people to suicide.

I know the above is a dramatic anecdote but similar ones can be repeated almost endlessly.

I have relatives who have lovely lake front property and at times profess a kind of libertarianism--until that is, a wind mill corporation wants to exercise free market principles and build them off the shore of their condo. Then they desperately hound their government representatives to make it illegal through government intervention.

If I acknowledge the need for some form of regulation, I cannot be full-bore libertarian, can I?

But I do tend that way. The coercive power of the state always causes harm when it is employed. We must, therefore, be very careful in employing it. For every capitalist/free-marketer who abuses people, I can point you to a government official who does the same - and with the power of police and/or army behind him. It is particularly easy to find such examples in places like Bangladesh.

PNR:

You introduced the currently popular word, "libertarian" I didn't.

Now that you have defined matters a bit more, I would agree with you that total depravity exists in both the private sector and the public sector equally.

That is why we need a strong government.

My introduction to this came in a barber's chair some twenty years ago when the barber whose pretensions to intelligence were pasted all over his walls in the form of University of Michigan memorabilia.

In the middle of someone else's haircut, he stopped and announced that coming on the air was someone we all would very much appreciate. It was my introduction to Rush Limbaugh.

Now, as a youth of the sixties I was weary of the leftist rhetoric of "running dog lackies of the imperialist west." (I had both marched in war protests and allowed myself to be drafted) So, I perked up when I first heard someone on the right with that kind of extreme rhetoric.

It was easy to identify within minuted where Limbaugh was coming from--a kind of proto-libertarianism.

I almost got more than my hair cut when I concluded aloud that as a Calvinist I believed every segment of society was infected with total depravity, including the private sector (therefore needing "big government" to counteract "big business"--was that Teddy Roosevelt).

Therefore, in my opinion Rush Limbaugh and libertarians of his ilk were closer to Karl Marx in their understanding of human nature and its ability to create its own nirvana "through a withering away of the state."

I have seen nothing since to change my mind and waste little of my time except to check in regularly to see if there is anything new under the sun.

"Coercive power of the state" huh, I take it you are anti military then also. Interesting.

But back to the article: I do not want Paul's unregulated, free enterprise poop in my water supply.

Nope, not anti-military. In fact, served 12 years as a chaplain in the US Navy, including deployments to the Persian Gulf (2000), Afghanistan (2003) and Iraq (2004). One son is already in the Navy and the other heads to the Naval Academy in June.

But I'm also a realist - the power of the state is the power of the sword, that is, coercive physical force. It has its place in a fallen world, but it also has its costs, both moral and fiscal.

I would say we need a balanced government - balanced against private interests, corporations, community associations (including religious ones), and other layers of government. These should all provide checks on the unbridled ambitions of the others. It's what our founders called "ordered liberty", and it is a difficult balance to maintain.

Sounds like something with which I could agree, however, that does not seem to be libertarianism--the military being part of coercive power in any society.

Parenthetically, I believe in some ways the most important missionary force in the global village is the American military--because it operates under incredible and appropriate restraints. In my opinion that restraint extended to the recent Egyptian military's restraint in the recent crisis in that nation as they, as I understand it, were heavily influenced by American military training.

(thought game: what if it had been the Chinese or Russian military that trained the Egyptian army!)

Never said I was a libertarian. Said I lean more in that direction the older I get, but that this might be an over-reaction to current excess.

By "lean more", I mean I am far less willing to deploy the power of the sword than I used to be. Many sins carry with them their own punishment, and many times we use the state to help people avoid the consequences of their own folly - thus ensuring they never learn wisdom.

Take the article that sparked this conversation. The centralization of power in the hands of a few, the lack of accountability systems, the complete subservience of other goods to the one she advocates - what untold pain and suffering would result from it? Unintended, surely, but still very real. The article assumes we can achieve the ideal in a most un-ideal world through the use of a state's coercive power (a most un-ideal tool).

It won't be heaven, but leaving people to their own devices in this matter will keep us farther from hell than what she's advocating.

That does not mean no regulation. Regulation that prevents people from damaging what is not theirs at no cost to themselves is good, such as stopping somebody from dumping their waste into a river up-stream, since all the problems from that will belong to those downstream - these sorts of regs are appropriate. When these regulations expand because people think some law or rule can prevent any and all harms to anyone, however, even these become dangerous.

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