GALEN HOLLEY: Ecological theology isn’t just about global warming

I recently posed this question to an evangelical friend. What, I asked him, is your bone of contention with environmentalists? Don’t you agree that Christians are commanded by God to be good stewards of the earth?
My friend assured me that evangelicals do love the environment, and despite the fact that he thinks the Greenpeace folks are zealots of the flora and fauna, he agreed with their basic premise that the earth is ours to take care of and we don’t do a good job.
Ultimately, he conceded, as do scientists, the earth is doomed. How long it takes for that doom to arrive, and how it arrives, is where the debate comes in.
Evangelicals disagree with environmentalists’ claims that the end of the world will be caused by humankind.
The Bible, as my friend pointed out, says that God will bring the hammer down, not SUV’s.
The compassionate Christian also has to consider quality of life issues.
Bringing a halt to the extraction and usage of natural resources would have a catastrophic trickle down effect worldwide. Jobs would be lost, national livelihoods would go belly up, people would starve and freeze.
In the debate about global warming, which my friend is convinced is a hoax, a lot of other environmental considerations are being forgotten, many of them having direct bearing on the proverbial kingdom of God and how well or how poorly it’s being realized.
The earth is the mother that sustains life, but life is a curious thing because it basically works by animate objects exploiting inanimate objects.
Life, in this sense, is a little like cancer. It multiplies and spreads by feeding off its host until it consumes everything, killing both the host and itself.
What happens when our planet’s natural resources are used up?
Some evangelicals, particularly those who vehemently oppose the environmental movement, often make the mistake of speaking of human life as if it existed independently from the inanimate world that sustains it.
Scientists say our world can support about eight billion people, a number we’re rapidly approaching. We can blame the tightening of the resource noose on developing countries, where birth rates are exploding, but that’s shortsighted.
The industrialized world uses at least three times more energy than the developing world. If someone seized the world’s food supply today, and distributed it according to the diet of the average American, it would only feed 1/3 of the world’s population.
Nearly five billion people in the world have so little water, food and other necessities that they’re barely clinging to life. On the other hand, an exclusive luxury club of some 600 million, almost exclusively North Americans and Europeans, enjoy a standard of living unprecedented in the history of the world.
Theologically speaking, perhaps Christians would do better to stop fighting over global warming and to focus their energies on trying to stop gobbling up the world’s resources, including the oil that powers our behemoth, suburban troop transports.
How many times did Jesus beat this drum? It’s also the ethos of the Native American: Take only what you need, don’t horde and hog and eat food off the rest of the world’s plate.
When viewed through the lens of the gospel, the environmental problem really stems from the sin of gluttony.
All of us – Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelicals, all of us – are taking more than we need. If we cut back our consumption, we slow down, at least a little, the clock that ticks inexorably toward the end.

Contact religion editor Galen Holley at
678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.

Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal