Today is Earth Day. Originally observed in 1970, Earth Day marked the beginnings of the Environmental movement in America. Some really good things came from the original Earth Day. As awareness was raised, it led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, passages of the Clean Air Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. People were getting on board with the idea that we needed to protect the earth. It seems bizarre to me that no one felt the need to do this until 1970! But 45 years ago, this was a radical concept.
In many ways, this is still a radical concept, especially in Christian circles. And sometimes it seems like we have even further to go now than we did in 1970.
I have listened in on Facebook and actual conversations regarding climate change, endangered animals and creation care. What I hear is disheartening. Granted, these discussions often polarize people down political lines, but it seems to divide by religious lines as well. And I’m sad to say that too often, the self-proclaimed Christian’s way of looking at this issue is not the same way God might look at it.
We humans have a tendency to forget that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1) If God created everything that exists, then God owns everything. Including the Earth. We are merely managers. We do not own the planet!
Christian Piatt wrote about this recently, saying:
“We Christians have been greatly affected by the industrial revolution in ways that have negatively impacted our relationship with the rest of creation…. The notion of dominionism falsely teaches within some Christian circles that the planet is ours to use as we please. And some even go so far as to suggest that anything we can do to help hasten the end-times gets us that much closer to heralding God’s kingdom on earth.”
There will be no Kingdom on Earth if we destroy the very planet we live on!
God may have in fact, placed humanity in charge of the earth, if you read Genesis 1:28 literally: “God blessed [the humans] and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
But subduing and ruling does not mean that humans can do whatever we want and not expect negative consequences. We have gotten way too complacent with our disposable, consumeristic culture. Just about everything made today is designed to break down and be thrown away. And all of that trash adds up. The smog-filled skies over Beijing, the melting glaciers in Greenland, the vanishing islands in the Pacific due to sea-level rise, and the extinction of entire species world-wide, tell us that we need to be doing something very different. These are not warning signs – the warning signs were ignored long ago – these are consequences.
So what do we need to do? First, we need to repent. As God’s people, we need to repent of raping the Earth, destroying creation, being lousy managers of the planet, and placing avarice and ourselves above God. Then we need to get busy undoing whatever damage we can, and work together with the global community to live more gently on the Earth.
“That may sound all very good,” you might say, “but it isn’t very practical.”
Perhaps not. However, I plan to do my part, however small that is. So fill up your reusable water bottle, recycle that envelope, ride that bike, or plant a tree. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Every little bit helps and hopefully we can celebrate Earth Day in another 45 years.