Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Christian Environmentalism (guest post)

with Ineloquent Anthem on hiatus lately, we have a wonderful interlude from my good friend, Ryan Mulligan:

It is my personal belief that there is a need for maturation within the Christian faith. It is time for a more sophisticated (and yet, simplified) Christianity. For too long Christians have turned a blind-eye to environmental concerns. There are few spokespeople from the Christian faith that are willing to stand up and say that their God created this earth and therefore it’s their job to protect its integrity.

Growing up I was always confused when I heard Christians (primarily in the United States) talk about environmentalists as though they were part of a radical segment of the population. I also heard the argument that a concern for nature was running the risk of worshipping it and in turn, it can lead to idolatry. Even though I found that argument to be ridiculous, I always found myself a little nervous to tell my Christian friends that I was an environmentalist because of the baggage that came with the term.

I clearly remember travelling to Costa Rica apart of a mission trip with my youth group. While there I thought I was in an untouched paradise. I remember thinking that clearly this was close to Gods unadulterated created beauty. A few friends and I were wandering through a wooded area surrounded by beautiful trees. As we approached a river running through the forest my heart sank. I looked down to see about ten or fifteen McDonalds take-out bags. At that moment I realized God had created a beautiful amazing world and us humans are failing to appreciate and take care of it. If we see nature as something that can be abused or with dollar signs in our eyes, then we are missing the heart of the creator.

While attending bible school, a professor reminded me that when God created, he did so with a perfect order in mind. This creation was made out of his imagination and through his creativity and in the end “it was good”. God created beautiful oceans, tall strong trees, animals free from chemicals, crops free from pesticides and clear, beautiful, blue water. As we watch our world be polluted with man-made pollutants, Christians have stood on the sidelines watching their Creators creation be basterdized.

When I was baptized I was told that the water represented a washing away of impurities as I entered a new phase in my faith journey. Unfortunately for our Christian friends in India and the developing world, this sort of symbolism during baptism is becoming more and more obscure. With sludge, pollutants, oil, human waste and the like, found in their water an entire young generation of believers will never understand the same symbolism of baptism we have understood since the time of Christ.

Most of us will be familiar with Psalm 23. The symbolism of the first verses is incredibly power
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
I pray that we don’t lose that powerful imagery that David gave us in those verse.

Now, symbolism isn’t the only reason Christians should be mobilized for environmentalism. Our scripture commands we mobilize. Genesis 2:15 says ”The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”. Returning to my professor in bible school that taught a created order of all things, this verse tells me of a created order in which God’s creation takes care of his creation.

Genesis 2:8 “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”

We often don’t think of our God as a gardener but this verse clearly demonstrates a God that cared enough to plant something useful and beautiful at the same time. The Genesis writer also saw fit that God be identified as the planter and creator or Eden. This cannot be ignored. As we see the blooming of a flower, the rushing of a river, or the peacefulness of a forest, perhaps they further reveal an incredible creator. When I draw a picture or write a paper, it originates through my creativity and through my mind. Therefore how can we not see this earth as an outpouring of God and the manifestation of his love?

Another reason we must acknowledge out impact on the planet is that people are being affected by our actions. As Jesus calls for us to care for the marginalized, we must acknowledge that environmental degradation is marginalizing people.

A term emerging in some circles is “Climate Justice”. It is the idea that climate change is an ethical issue.  It emphasizes the idea that people are being affected by climate change and it is causing deeper poverty, displacement of people, and drought. From my work at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), I can tell you that without a doubt, climate change is affecting millions of people in Africa and other island nations around the world. The devastating 2011 famine in Somalia has its roots in climate change and resulted in the death of tens of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable. 

So what am I asking? Am I asking you to walk to work, change your light bulbs, and eat local food? Well yes! But in fact I’m asking more than that. When an oil company is telling Canadians about economic benefits of oil do your Christian role. Be caretakers of this earth. Ask questions, demand accountability, demand transparency, and demand life over profit. I’m not saying all oil development is bad or that it doesn’t have benefits to the economy but rather I am saying: Ask questions, demand accountability, demand transparency, and ensure we are treasuring life over profit.

When industrial, nuclear and human waste is being dumped in to Canadian and international waterways do your Christian role. Be caretakers of this earth. Ask questions, demand accountability, demand transparency, and ensure we are treasuring life over profit.

When the Canadian Government chooses to forgo environmental responsibilities do your Christian role. Be caretakers of this earth. Ask questions, demand accountability, demand transparency, and ensure we are treasuring life over profit.

In the end I am simply asking Christians to stand up and say: “Excuse me, my creator also created this planet and we demand his creation be treated as an extension of him.” God is good and this planet is a gift of love from our creator. 

Luke 19:38
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Nature cries out in worship to God and in turn we should sing along.

This is not political, its not about money, its not about anything other than taking care of the outpouring of God’s love for us.

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