Saturday, April 19, 2008

CALL ME “ONE OF THOSE” TREE HUGGERS
My evangelical faith, along with responsible citizenship, calls me to creation care

FAITH AND CITIZENSHIP. Yeah, I’m one of “them,” one of those tree huggers. I try to participate in Earth Day and care for creation as an act of faith and citizenship. As an act of faith, because I believe God--who created this world--loves it as much as God loves humans, who are direct objects of divine grace. Our history and future of salvation is linked integrally to this planet, according to the Bible. Creation care is an act of faith, also, because the Biblical record of stewardship and faithfulness to the land compels me.

A LEGACY IN THE BALANCE. My participation in Earth Day and related environmental concerns is an act of citizenship because our national legacy on environmental responsibility hangs in the balance. Some would say our legacy is one of irresponsibility and degradation. That may be going too far. But even the most positive perspective must admit that we have far to go to pass on to our great-grandchildren a planet that is in at least as good a condition was we found it. More realistic assessments indicate that we're still degrading earth.

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY. The impact of end-times apocalyptic preaching and teaching on evangelical believers in the 60s and 70s became a self-fulfilling prophecy. By and large, the social impact amounted to a notable non-participation and withdrawal from hopeful actions in public institutions and community life. An unprecedented privatization of lifestyles and reactionary fear masking as “bold faith” are part of the legacy of prophecies of doom. The Apocalypse didn’t occur, but our unfounded suspicions and fears became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without positive participation, social engagement, and confidence in Kingdom principles, the public square has become more fearsome and its problems more complex and deeply entrenched.

APOCALYPTIC IMPACT. Apocalyptic teaching also shaped evangelical responses to the environment. Since the locus of salvation was presumed to be another world, since we were just getting ourselves ready to get on out of here in “the rapture,” since pollution and deterioration were further evidence of an impending hell on earth, what did we care? We did nothing. Actually we did do something: we used and consumed and demanded cheap fuel and cheap products like everyone else without a question (or a clue, perhaps) as to environmental cost or future impact.

MISSHAPEN STEWARDSHIP. It’s not just that environmental issues didn’t seem important to evangelicals. Environmentalists were lampooned and lambasted from many of our pulpits, in “Christianity Today,” and over Christian airwaves. What a legacy with which to live! What shall we tell our grandchildren when they ask us how our faith informed our stewardship of the world?

TODAY IS THE DAY. As always in the biblical faith, “today is the day of salvation.” Whatever has—or has not—been done in the past, today presents opportunity to repair the world. The present moment gives opportunity to reflect on the Scriptures which call for stewardship of the land, regard for cycles of life renewal, respect for the law of the harvest. Take time to contemplate the parables of Jesus. Without worshiping the earth, evangelicals can and should honor the earth out of reverence for--and in gratitude to--the God who created it and us. Faith, even so-called evangelical faith, calls for nothing less.

Earth Day 2008 is April 22 -- Get involved!

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