Monday, October 15, 2007

Environmentalism: Dirty Word? (Deja Vu)

I published the following post a few months ago, but am now reposting it (with some additions) in honor of Blog Action Day. The blogging community has been asked to post something about their feelings on the environment-how it relates to faith or what you think should be done about the environment, so I am republishing this post because it thoroughly sums up my view. RE-ENJOY! :)

The devil has two horns: the horn of pride that says there is nothing we ought to do, and the horn of despair that says there is nothing we can do."

Environmentalism. It's a term used to describe a broad and DIVERSE range of concerns, beliefs, and initiatives pertaining to the atmosphere, the earth, the earth's resources and creatures who inhabit it. As opposing views in America become more and more polarized (and thus more cliched and shallow), an increasing tension has emerged between evangelicalism and environmentalism. There are many factors that contribute to this tension, and being that I identify myself with Christianity, I will address the mindset and/or objections coming from SOME Christian camps.

1. Association. SOME Christians deem environmentalism as a cause of democrats, liberals, New Agers, feminists, abortionists, gays (bit of a stretch), and atheists who refuse to worship God, so they worship nature instead. These stereotypes (yes, stereotypes) taint environmentalism for many believers. But I believe that we have unfairly over-lapped environmentalism with separate issues, perhaps neglecting a divine call to godly environmentalism and stewardship. I am unsure why non-christians who are involved in environmentalism are met with such hostility or bewilderment from believers. Whether non-christians know it or not, their desire to maintain God's creation is an act of obedience to the innate order God has set up: to be in awe of His glorious creation and treat it responsibly. It can also the manifestation of a person's deeper desire for God. Instead of branding them as tree-hugging hippies, we should recognize their appreciation for creation (even if it's misguided) and use it to reach out to them.

2. The Global Warming Debate. A good portion of American Evangelicals dismiss the concern over global warming for a myriad of reasons. Some honestly believe there is not enough conclusive evidence to prove that mankind is causing global warming or that global warming is even an imminent threat. A valid position. Some speculate that the earth is just going through its natural cycle. Other believers reject global warming on the grounds that Revelation lays out the demise of the world, and global warming ain't it (although one might argue that just because global warming might not cause our demise, it could still do some horrendous damage). And yet, I fear that SOME others have confused their politics with the tenets of Christianity. Some leaders discourage belief in global warming under the guise of religion when it has more to do with the effects on big business regulations. I am no scientist, so I don't pretend to have the answers about global warming, but I can see how some Christians view the hype as alarmism, but I also see how godly people are concerned about global warming, and that in no way should diminish the validity of their faith. Rejection or acceptance of global warming should in no way serve as a barometer to measure whether or not someone is "Christian" enough. The evidence is viewed and interpreted differently, and neither side (if dealing with the facts honestly) should be scrutinized for their stance. And here is an interesting tidbit of information I learned recently. It seems that there is a HUGE miscommunication about what exactly Global Warming entails. Most people who dismiss global warming are under the impression that Global Warming means the whole world is getting hotter and will eventually combust into flames or something. But actually Global Warming as more to do with weather instability, then it does with rising temperatures. So basically, there will be disproportionate weather patterns in different areas. Some areas will get too hot, others too cold. Some areas will get mass amounts of rain, hurricanes and floods, while other areas will experience drought and famine. Whether you buy that or not is another is up to you and your own research, but you should at least know WHAT you are dismissing. Anyway, global warming (just one aspect of environmentalism) has pushed the Christian community further away from environmental movements.

3. End-Times Mentality. SOME believers are so certain that Jesus' return will be SO VERY VERY SOON and the destruction of the earth is inevitable that environmentalism is deemed a useless waste of time and a deceiving distraction from "real moral issues." This mentality puts forth that the earth and our pilgrim-like earthly existence are temporary, so those who would put energy into a dying earth are "worldly" and in SOME VERY SMALL EXTREME circles, even the enemies of God.This End-Times mentality is disturbing for a few reasons. One, because every generation of Christians since the time of Jesus have believed that Jesus would surely return in their time. Could Jesus come back today? Absolutely. If He will or not, is another story. And since NO ONE knows the when (no matter how badly people want to pretend to know the when and how), it is bad theology to use the return of Christ as an excuse to dismiss environmentalism. Two, our temporal earthly existence does not negate our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth while we are here.

Environmentalism, like anything, can be distorted and abused. It can be turned into a form of idolatry by placing the earth and its fullness OVER the well being of human beings and "worshipping" creation, instead of the Creator. But I would contend that the other extreme of raping the earth and opposing (sometimes demonizing) movements of environmental preservation is not only poor stewardship, but a violation of loving your neighbor AS YOURSELF. As long as God has placed precious life on this earth, we must do what we can to preserve and maintain the earth, which in turns preserves human life. Many preservation efforts are about keeping waters from being contaminated, keeping animals from extinction (which affects the balance in nature), keeping lands healthy and fertile, so they can harvest food, etc. etc. Those are all preservation efforts that, for a Christian, are just as much about loving our neighbor, as it is caring for creation. Without maintaining clean water, fertile lands, and animal life, many humans would needlessly suffer and die, as they already do. A "Jesus is coming back, so we don't worry about the state of the earth" kind of attitude, is not only lazy, but harmful. When millions of people (mainly children) die every year because they do not have access to clean water, or their land cannot produce food, or pollution corrupts the air (which spurs on all kinds of diseases), then environmentalism IS a MORAL issue. By neglecting the earth or abusing it, we harm our neighbors. It's easy to dismiss the efforts of those trying to preserve clean water as "worldly" when we have an abundant supply of it, but I bet environmentalism would be viewed as a Godsend, if we couldn't get clean water, or food from our lands. That is a reality for millions of people.

Currently, there are environmental movements within the evangelical community (The National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelical Environmental Network, Restoring Eden, etc.) that are coming under fierce criticism from many conservative evangelicals. It saddens me to see their efforts belittled as a "lesser cause" or "a waste of time." If these faithful servants of God are caring for the environment because they desire to honor God's creation and better the quality of life for our neighbors, families, and future generations, then it's not a lesser distraction, but an act of obedience, a manifestation of loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and STRENGTH, and loving their neighbors as themselves. And it should not be so easily dismissed. Here is the website for the terms of Creation Care signed by hundreds of evangelicals:


Peter said...

I loved this post first time around. Good thinking adding the brief definition of what global warming actually means. I was talking to some guy at church that said global warming must be a farce because Florida is setting record COLD temperatures. I guess people really do think Global Warming asserts that the whole earth will burst into flames! ha.

hamiam said...

Peter - totally - which is why many environmentalists have embraced the term "Global CLIMATE CHANGE" so as to avoid those assumptions.

Tia - I just gave another dear sister your blog link. I think you would enjoy her post today.

I've been lurking periodically, but school, work and family have taken away the time :)

Keep up your excellent works here!

seth said...

Revelation specifically describes the destruction of the earth and since we ARE living in the last days, recycling or litter patrol is not going to "save" the planet or the anyone else for that matter. Let the unsaved clean up the earth, christians have a higher calling.

Tia Lynn said...

Seth, do you realize that nearly every generation since the time of Christ has been convinced that they were the last generation? YOU don't know and I don't know, nor does ANYONE else know, when the end will come. In the meantime we are called to be stewards of the earth, to honor God's creation and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Jason Witt said...

Again, by looking for the end of the earth for the return of Jesus, we are not looking within. He said his return would be within us. And those who don't watch for his return within them will suffer his coming when he comes like a thief. Should he come like a thief to you, or should he come and bless you and stay with you today, and not "someday" when you have hurried the end of the earth? Also--the post about Revelation predicting the end of the earth is not quite true. Why don't people who teach on Revelation quote the book itself? To quote Revelation, there will be a "new earth." Since God will make a new earth, why don't we see it as our duty to help with that?

Tia Lynn said...

Very Good point! Thanks for weighing in Jason!

KreativeMix said...