In the next few weeks I’ll be writing variations on a theme here at Mere-O and I’m interested to know how you all feel about the theme itself.

A few weeks ago we were contacted by an organization that plants trees in the name of Jesus and they sent me their founder’s book.  I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of thought and love it demonstrated, but wasn’t yet sure what to write.

After a weekend in Oregon reading too much John Muir (I take that back, just enough John Muir), I found my little heart breaking as our plane descended into the Los Angeles basin. His tales of the beauties of California are not my own. I never had the chance to see much of what he saw because it was paved over or dried-up before I was born. And so a blog series was born.

It seems that environmentalism (or creation care if you want to be Jesus-y about it) is something most people have an opinion about, especially if they are religious. Some of the more common reactions to the word are, “UGH I hate liberal agendas. Also Greenpeace.” or “Jesus cared about sparrows, man. Consider the lilies of the field and live sustainably.” Environmentalism has long been politicized, but it has, I think, more recently been framed as a moral issue, causing its role in our lives to become  even more hotly contested.

So before I begin, I’d like to gage the general opinions of the audience so I know who I’m writing for. Any gut reactions out there you want to tell me? Do you shudder when you hear the word “environmentalist”? Do you believe that the natural world is spiritually significant? Does how we treat creation reflect how we understand God as Creator? I s this topic overplayed? Uninteresting? Invaluable? Tired? Fascinating?

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Posted by Cate MacDonald

10 Comments

  1. It is an excellent topic! I love Muir, bring in Tinker’s Creek and Wendell Berry as well.

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  2. I’m not one who fancies the word “environmentalist” just because of what its come to signify (much like “feminist”). Sure, I like the environment and think God has called us to properly steward it. However, much of the environmentalist movement of the last few decades has sought a worship of the creation instead of the Creator (see Romans 1).

    With much of this green stuff there seems to be a fine line between Biblical stewardship and outright paganism (extreme enough for ya??). I didn’t used to think the line was that blurry, but given how many Christians jump on the earth-worship bandwagon, it must be.

    That’s my initial reaction. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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  3. I’m interested in what this organization has to say! Planting Trees in the name of Jesus? I want to hear more. =]

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  4. Stewardship is important but I think it’s easily misunderstood as ownership. Stweardship is a duty to take care of something as if it was yours but it’s not yours. You cannot throw it away the way you can the sofa in your house that you’ve grown tired of seeing day in day out.

    But even then the word has its problems in that it implies superiority. The steward is like a father figure who is supposed to ‘take care’ of the thing he has stewardship over. But the environment is bigger than us and we are the ones who depend on it rather than the other way around. The oceans, for example, don’t need us but we need them. Stewardship then isn’t so much taking care of the environment but taking care of us in the sense that we keep our own worse instincts towards self destruction in check.

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  5. I am so excited by the variety of the replies so far! Exactly what I was hoping for from our readership. Thanks and keep them coming.

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  6. “Do you shudder when you hear the word ‘environmentalist’?”

    YES! But only because I think, “Oh, crazy man who held up all those people in the Discovery channel building”; and then I think, “Oh, Al Gore and that massage therapist with her spineless friends”; and then I think of the new presidential bioethics counsel – so “practically” focused, as opposed to the former president’s counsel – so “philosophical.”

    I shudder because we’ve had to coin the term “creation-care,” so we can actually care about the environment – I mean creation! Bah, come Lord Jesus and save us from all these seemingly unnavigable and parodied terms (or come Jesus through Cate McDonald!) and show us how to gracefully and graciously love you, our neighbor, and the earth you created with the Father in the beginning of it all.

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  7. I’ll +1 Joseph Sunde, he expressed my thoughts as well.

    Though I don’t know about idea of a steward as a position of superiority. I was always under the impression that a steward was hired by the owner to take care of things in their absense. So while there was some form of power given to the person they never had before, there was also a lot of responsibility and accountability, so ultimately it was a position to be taken with respect and humility.

    Maybe you can make that one of your side topics to the series Cate 8^D

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  8. “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation.”

    From John Paul II’s theme for World Day of Peace, January 1, 1990.

    “The destruction of any part of creation, especially the extinction of species, defaces the image of Christ, which is etched in creation.”

    From, What is Happening to Our Beautiful Land? A pastoral letter by the Catholic bishops of the Philippines.

    When man disobeys God and refuses to submit to his rule, nature rebels against him and no longer recognizes him as its “master,” for he has tarnished the divine image in himself. The claim to ownership and use of created things remains still valid, but after sin its exercise becomes difficult and full of suffering (John Paul II 1988).

    “No ecological party is to be taken seriously if it closes its eyes to the extermination of countless numbers of children in the wombs of their mothers (Pope John Paul II as cited in Caldecott 1987, 10).”

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  9. I think the topic is important, at the very least, because we are becoming more and more “unecological”, in the sense of ‘compartmentalized’ from the reality of it (but we can have a nice desktop image of a tree on our computer)

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  10. I see a lot in the Bible related to environmental care. For instance, God teaches us how best to manage fruit orchards (Lev. 19:23-25). He reminds Israel that even when he has ordered her to utterly destroy a city, she should not destroy the fruit trees, which would take a long time to mature if Israel had to replant them(Deut. 20:19). Work animals get a weekly sabbath, just like the people of Israel, their slaves, and foreign visitors to the community (Ex. 23:12). God says that when we take eggs from a nest, we should not take the mother bird — and like the command to honor our own parents, this command comes with a promise: “that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.” (Deut. 22:6-7)

    So it has been hard for me to hear “environmentalists” painted as people whose priorities don’t match ours as conservative Christian believers. Because it seems like “environmentalists” have priorities that line up with the priorities God set for us from the start.

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