Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CALL ME A TREE HUGGER

I practice creation care both as an act of faith and citizenship

GO AHEAD, LABEL ME.  Yeah, I’m one of “them,” one of those tree huggers. I participate in Earth Day, I work on local and statewide sustainability initiatives, and monitor my own carbon footprint. Why? I 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 the humans who are direct objects of divine grace. Our history and future of salvation is linked integrally to this planet. It 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 environmental concerns is an act of citizenship because our national legacy on environmental responsibility hangs in the balance. Some say our national legacy is one of irresponsibility and degradation. Even the most positive perspective must admit that we have far to go to pass on to our great-grandchildren a planet that approximates the condition in which we first experienced it. 

SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY. The impact of end-times apocalyptic preaching and teaching on evangelical believers in the 1960s and 70s became a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding numerous aspects of stewardship. The social impact amounted to a notable withdrawal from hopeful actions and non-participation in public institutions and 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. It’s not just that environmental issues didn’t seem important; environmentalists were lampooned and lambasted from many of our pulpits and in “Christianity Today.” 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.

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