Thursday, June 30, 2011

Christianity and the environment

Eric Pierce
Environmental Studies, PHS 100A
June 28, 2011

Christianity and the environment

Recently I noticed that my church has been encouraging recycling by placing bins around the church and reusing the outside cover of the announcements. My pastor has also taught on the importance of caring for the earth that God has entrusted us with. There are also several Christians that I know that are aware of environmental problems and are encouraging others to help bring positive change to the environment. The Bible is very clear on environmental stewardship, in Genesis 1: 26-28 God instructs Adam how to manage his environment in the Garden of Eden. The earth is Gods and he has entrusted us to care for it (Psalms 24:1). Yes, God has given us dominion over the earth but we need to be good stewards and not wreck it, as God is the owner.
While I don’t identify myself as a Calvinist I do like what he has to say about the earth:
The earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation... The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition that, being content with the frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence, but let him endeavour to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things, which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us; let everyone regard himself as the steward of God in all things, which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things, which God requires to be preserved (Calvin, 1554)

Written in 1554, long before the environmental problems we face today, Calvin had the right idea of being good to the land and being a good steward to all God has provided. I believe that todays church needs to breakaway from the environmental policies of conservative politics. A survey done in 1995 showed that Christians who identified themselves as democrats are likely to have a pro-environment attitude while those who identified as conservative republicans are less likely to have a pro-environment attitude (Guth, Green, Kellstedt, & Smidt, 1995). I find it troubling that the survey found that most conservative Christian voters don’t support environmental policies. Do Christians not understand that God has entrusted them to care for his creation. Christians need to speak up and stop believing that they have no control over environmental policies. Just because someone cares about the environment doesn’t make him or her some extreme political activist.
Christians should care about the environment because recent environmental changes have brought suffering to the poor and weak. We are called to “Love our neighbours as ourselves”. Would we allow ourselves to consume polluted waters or live on polluted lands, I would think not. Christians need to address the use of fossil fuels and their effects on the environment. As stewards of Gods creation it is our duty to protect the environment. Christians can start electing conservative political leaders that support environmental policies. Most importantly we can all do our part by encouraging our church leaders to develop recycling programs for the church and to teach on environmental stewardship.

Calvin, J. (1554). Commentary on Genesis Volume 1. Retrieved 06 25, 2011, from Christian Classic Library:
Guth, J. L., Green, J. C., Kellstedt, L. A., & Smidt, C. E. (1995). Faith and the Environment: Religious Beliefs and Attitudes on Environmental Policy. American Journal of Political Science , 39 (2), 364-382

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