Today is Earth Day 2010. I know this for two reasons: First, the Sprout channel, a 24 hour channel devoted to programming for infants and toddlers, has been making a huge deal of Earth Day with the release of their new cartoon “Dirt Girl.” Second, there is a huge “Earth Day” reminder on my Google Calendar. What is a biblical Christian response to the purposes and activism of Earth Day? Here are a few thoughts.
The Earth plays a significant role in the storyline of the Bible. Even today it is longing to be freed from its current state of corruption caused by original sin (Romans 8:21-22). Genesis 1-3 provides the context for human responsibility of the Earth as we have been given “dominion” over it (Genesis 1:26). Thus, I find it difficult to understand how any Christian could argue with the assumption that the Earth is a gift to all humankind and we, especially as Christians, should take care of it. In this way, I offer my full support to the purposes of Earth Day insofar as they relate to our increased awareness of the Christian responsibility to be good stewards of our planet.
Having said that, let me emphasize a few points from that last sentence. Although Earth Day is obviously not a Christian based holiday, it should nevertheless stir us up to a Christian response to the Earth. This may very well, at times, cause a difference between what our thinking should be as Christians compared to the universal purposes and assumptions of Earth Day 2010. For example, if you read the simple “2010 Campaign” section on the Earth Day website, you will read things like “the world is in greater peril than ever” and “climate change is the greatest challenge of our time.” Those are statements that are heavily debatable not only from a scientific-secular point of view, but also contradict the Christian worldview of what poses the greatest threat in our day. The greatest threat is not climate change, but rather him who is called the “god of this world” and continues to blind the eyes of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the truthfulness of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4). In short, when our passions are more turned to a concern over the temperature of the earth than they are the eternal security of our neighbor, then we have failed in our most basic responsibility as a Christian which is to Love God the most and our neighbor as ourselves. People are more important.
Another underlying assumption of Earth Day, and one that is being forced fed to millions and millions of teenagers, is that we (especially in the west) are most recognizable by our hostility, stupidity, and apathy toward the Earth and its care. This was my one complaint against the movie Avatar. It basically depicted us as complete morons who destroyed the Earth. The Earth is viewed as the innocent hero and humans are viewed as the cold-hearted enemy. Pastor Kevin DeYoung describes this well when he says, “Too often a model is assumed where the earth is a healthy organism and
humans are cancerous cells. All we do is pillage, pollute, and destroy.
The world would be better off without us. Our goal then is to minimize
our “footprint” at all costs. All we do, it is implied, is consume the
planet’s valuable resources.” This way of thinking, of course, is a gross overstatement and contradicts the importance of humans in the world as taught in Scripture. Humans are God’s crowning achievement, not the Earth. And humans have a lot to offer, as we already have, in making the Earth a place where we can call home.
Finally, the continued assumptions of global warming will sometimes cause a polar division between those who believe and those who don’t. As a Christian, the legitimacy of global warming should not sway us one way or another at the end of the day. Although we deserve to be told the truth about the scientific assertions made about global warming, Christians have a responsibility to love and care for the earth. Even if the news came tomorrow that global warming is a false threat, it should make little difference in our approach to the environment. We are called to be good stewards with our without the threat of global warming.
So, I believe Earth Day to be a great example of how not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” As Christians we should allow this day to remind us of the great responsibility and honor God has given to us in regard to our care for the Earth. That doesn’t mean we have to believe and adhere to every aspect of Earth Day. But it shouldn’t drive us completely away either.