'The earth is the Lord's and everything therein' - Psalm 24
An edited version of this post was published in the Trinidad Express newspaper, June 20th 2013, under the column, Healthy Happy Animals - Healthy Happy Communities
The end is near. Finally, science and religion agree on something. Joking aside, we live in trying times. We face collapsing ecosystems and extremes of poverty, human suffering, and climate. We are losing species to extinction and our planet is increasingly unable to sustain us. To paraphrase the distinguished environmental professor Dr David Orr one thing is clear; both religious fundamentalists and environmentalists agree that things are going to hell in the proverbial hand basket.
There’s no denying (although we try) that environmental destruction is due to our activities. But the end of the world as we know it by way of an environmental mess is no longer just a concern for environmentalists. Numerous religious groups have issued a clarion call to action. Their reasoning is that if you believe that God made creation then it is a sin against God and humanity to desecrate the earth. Environmental destruction is destruction of God’s creation and there is a moral responsibility to protect and care for the earth. Over the next few columns, we will take a look at T&T’s major religious denominations (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism) and briefly discuss how all have a critical role to play. This week, we look to Christianity.
Care for God’s creation: What does Christianity say about protecting the earth?
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For His name, His alone, is sublime;
His splendor covers heaven and earth.
Recently a friend jokingly asked, “When Jesus comes back, what will he drive: a solar powered smart-car; a gas guzzling SUV; maybe ride a bicycle?” The question was posted on a social media site and one of the most memorable responses was that Jesus will probably hitchhike or use the bus as only God knows when it will come. ‘What Would Jesus Drive’ is actually an educational campaign initiated in 2002 by the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). According to EEN, it is a more specific version of the question ‘What would Jesus do?’ or, ‘Lord, what would you have me do?’ that Christians ask themselves to help them in their daily decisions as believers in Christ. EEN states that: “Pollution from vehicles has a major impact on human health and the rest of God's creation, contributing to global warming. Obeying Jesus in our transportation choices is one of the great Christian obligations and opportunities of the twenty-first century.”
The Bible is full of teachings that call upon Christians to fulfil their role and responsibility as caretakers or stewards to God, the rightful owner of the earth. It is a moral obligation. The Vatican speaks of modern social sins that include destroying the environment. Vatican City is the greenest state in the world and uses solar power to provide energy to its 40,000 households. Christianity teaches that humans are called on to care for the rest of God’s creation, not abuse it. Genesis (2:8-9), Job (38:1, 4), Colossians (1:15-20), Psalms (148:1-13) and other biblical passages outline our responsibilities towards creation. As one interfaith based organisation, Green Faith, puts it: “God calls us to exercise our ‘dominion’ just like God exercises his dominion – with wisdom, strength and loving kindness, not with destructiveness or wastefulness.”
Engaging in more than just lip service: An evangelical call to action
Christians’ role and their moral obligation as stewards for God is needed now more than ever to stem the tide of environmental destruction. As the eminent environmentalist Dr. James ‘Gus’ Speth said:
“I used to think that if we threw enough good science at the environmental problems, we could solve them. I was wrong. The main threats to the environment are not biodiversity loss, pollution, and climate change as I once thought. They are selfishness and greed and pride. And for that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation, something we scientists don't know much about.”
If your congregation or group is not actively involved in caring for God’s creation, lobby with your fellow church goers for environmentally themed biblical readings that inspire action and stewardship. Do a little research to get started. Encourage carpooling. Have a chat with your religious leader. Share your ideas and establish a green team with other passionate stewards. Organisations like Green Faith and the Evangelical Environmental Network have loads of resources and start up kits for places of worship to begin leading by example. There are even grants available for faith-based organisations engaging with environmental issues. It can begin by simply turning off unused appliances and equipment at your place of worship to reduce energy consumption.
If you have an example where your faith-based organisation has actively embarked on answering the call from God to be stewards for creation, feel free to share your story with us.
For more information, please check the following links:
Evangelical Environmental Network
Healthy, Happy Animals - Healthy, Happy Communities