Friday, February 23, 2007

Responsible Christian Stewardship of the Environment

My camera takes nifty pictures.

This is a post I've been meaning to do for some time now. With all of the mess in the news, which has sort of become a cafeteria food fight with words, it is necessary to put the issues regarding the environment into a Christian perspective. (Well, my Christian perspective anyway.) I told my good friend Chrissy from Living in the Midwest that I planned to do this. She has gotten involved with Christian environmentalism and is trying her best to motivate those around her to be more aware of environmental issues.

Some things we all agree on:
I'll start by outlining a few things we as Christians believe, most of which is pretty ecumenical.
  1. God created everything, and it was good.
  2. Man was given stewardship over the Earth, which means its not his but his to take care of.
  3. It is sinful to treat with disregard those gifts given to us by God, which includes this beautiful home in which we live, our bodies, our souls, etc.
  4. In the fullness of time, those who have known, loved, and served God in this life will receive a new Earth. (the ultimate reset button.)
  5. That life and Earth will never pass away.

Ok, so what do we have here? We know that God is the ultimate perfection and that his creation by its very nature is lesser than he is, right? Because created matter is never equal to God who is infinite something which is created can be damaged.

But just because we're getting a new Earth doesn't make our responsibility for treating this one well go away. What kind of servant leaves his master's house a mess? As followers of the Faith we have a duty and responsibility to keep the house in order to which we have been given stewardship. This is part of our duty as created beings. I do not however believe God has given us the proverbial sledge hammer or a crane to destroy our house. So therefore Earthly destruction by global warming or cooling or ozone depletion are out the window for me. I do not believe we have the power to destroy our Earth. Damage yes, destroy no. After all, we know both we and it are still here after the fullness of time.

Our main purpose in this life is to know, love, and serve God in this world. Humans are the zenith of all creation, as we were created in the image and likeness of God. Nothing we do matters one iota if we are not saints. So I believe environmental stewardship must fall within this context. By that I mean we need to practice vigilance and not be lead astray with many things attached to current popular environmental hysteria.

Not as green as you think.
There is a socialist party which is incompatible with our ethics, it is the best example I can think of for this topic of ecowackoism. I have often said that you can tell if someone is being honest about their environmental concerns by seeing what other views are attached to their platform. When socialism, communism, or liberation theology is attached to environmental concerns - watch out. I fear many well intentioned people are duped into political organizations like this due to their emotional appeal. Here is how the Green Party describes itself on its own website: (emphasis mine)

The Green Party of the United States is a federation of state Green Parties. Committed to environmentalism, non-violence, social justice and grassroots organizing, Greens are renewing democracy without the support of corporate donors. Greens provide real solutions for real problems. Whether the issue is universal health care, corporate globalization, alternative energy, election reform or decent, living wages for workers, Greens have the courage and independence necessary to take on the powerful corporate interests. The Federal Elections Commission recognizes the Green Party of the United States as the official Green Party National Committee. We are partners with the European Federation of Green Parties and the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas.
Red is appropriate don't you think? Those things scream communism. My point though is not to bash the Green Party. My point is in being stewards for the environment we must be careful with whom and with what we ally ourselves. We may not simply do a deal with the devil in order to have greener grass. Rather we must take our responsibility as humans on this Earth with which God gave us seriously by doing things in our daily lives that treat our home as a gift from God.

God first, humans second, everything else third.
This is the order in which we should view things. And everything below the other should serve the one ahead of it, and so forth. After all, He gave us the land and animals to sustain us. So I believe we must view our stewardship of His creation in the manner. If there are 100,000 starving people in some small Asian country we should not worry about the gasoline resources used to get there and feed them. We should not care if we feed them hamburgers or about their environmental footprints. The care of the people is of the utmost importance.

The same goes for economic policies. If the United States were to enact all of the policies current environmentalists demand we would be thrust into an economic peril, and our people would suffer. It would demand restrictions placed upon us that would damage our industry beyond repair. Not only that but it would diminish our place in the world (which is what our enemies want...btw...notice attached political motives). For more on this, read the Kyoto Protocols, which the USA correctly refuses to join.

Responsible Christian Stewardship
There are many things which we can do. The simplest one I can think of is not to litter. It sounds simple but go to any populated area in the country and its pretty apparent even regular people don't follow this rule. Another good idea is to take the step in adding a recycling bin in your house. Simple and effective ways in which we do not sacrifice our consciences and fall into error are often the best.

Another thing that is feasible is to help people who are effected in environmental ways. One way to do this would be to help the farming industry (which serves humanity) develop better techniques. We could fund organizations that help farmers afflicted by droughts for instance. Or find cleaner pesticides so crops will grow and provide better food for us. I don't mean to focus solely on farmers but my point is that the focus of our environmental efforts should be seen through the lens of helping people and not the environment for its own sake.

And the best way to some that up would be: Charity. Which is the greatest of the three theological virtues. We must have Charity in all things. As many of you know, Charity is defined as our love for God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Treating our environment well is a way in which we can love our neighbor as ourselves, but the environment should not come before our obligations to God or our fellow man.

Some articles:

Christian Ecology - by Stratford Caldecott
Be a Christian Environmentalist - Mary Beth Bonacci

A real wealth of wisdom:
Address of John Paul II to the Conference of Environment and Health (1997)

1 comment:

Chris said...

Very interesting. Thank you for posting this.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton