As J. Matthew Sleeth writes in his book Serve God, Save the Planet, “The Earth is our ship, an ark for everything that lives. It is the only vessel available to carry humans through the ocean of space, and it is rapidly becoming unseaworthy.” The threats to the Earth and our environment are real. Regardless of what one’s stand is on the causes of global warming (be it natural or human-induced), it is clear that our human activities are damaging our planet and its natural heritage. There is definitely no harm in taking precautions and doing our bit to reduce this damage.
Sadly, Christians (particularly those from the Evangelical tradition) have been slow to react on this issue, with a large proportion even taking a stance of opposing any notion of caring for the environment. Why do they object to creation care and any form of environmentalism? Common reasons include:
1. God is going the destroy the Earth anyway, now that we’re near the end times. Why waste time challenging God? Why go up against the inevitable? Besides, we’re going to be ‘raptured’ anyway, so we can leave this Earth and all its evilness behind.
2. We should be concerned about more important spiritual matters such as the salvation of souls and world evanglism. We shouldn’t be wasting time on earthly pursuits like environmentalism.
3. Everything on earth is created by God for our use and pleasure. We should exploit it and do what we want with it while we’re still here.
I personally disagree with every one of these statements and the theologies behind them, including: ‘rapture theology’ and various end-time scenarios popularized by the ‘left behind’ series; dualistic views that limit God’s redemptive work in history to a purely ‘spiritual dimension’ so that matters of salvation are concerned only with individual souls. However, I shall leave these discussions for future posts.
What I want to highlight here though, is that there are leaders from Evangelical Churches who are now beginning to lead the way forward on the issue of creation care. In 2006, a group of more than 80 pastors and leaders of Christian organizations across America came together to sign the Evangelical Climate Initiative, just a few days after the National Association of Evangelicals decided to sit on the fence on the issue of climate change – citing that “global warming is not a concensus issue”. Below are some excerpts from the Evangelical Climate Initiative’s Call to Action:
Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected first are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.
Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God’s world, and any damage that we do to God’s world is an offense against God Himself. Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and to protect and care for the least of these as though each was Jesus Christ himself. Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better. Love of God, love of neighbor, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action.
What will we do?