Whatever one calls it, taking care of the planet is a spiritual value. In all the concern voiced about the environment this Earth Week, one American faith group has been noticeably on the sidelines.
Evangelical Christians have often been slow to join environmental efforts. When they do, the results are often divisive. Richard Cizik, for instance, resigned in December as vice president and governmental liaison for the National Association of Evangelicals after several breaks with evangelical orthodoxy. Many view his years-long push for greater environmental concern among evangelicals as the top of his “slippery slope.”
Nevertheless, calls for “earth stewardship” are biblical. Judeo-Christian scripture records our first parents’ divine assignment to “dress and keep” the garden in which they were placed. While Genesis records their removal from that first paradise, nowhere were they or their descendants subsequently authorized to damage the planet.
Some Christians discount the need for earth stewardship by misplaced prophetic emphases. If Jesus is coming back soon, some have reasoned, the planet should be the least of his followers’ concerns. An ultra-short timeline for the planet may be an appealing answer to many of the world’s problems, but private interpretations of prophecy have often damaged the credibility of Christians over the centuries. Besides, to trash the planet uncaringly while preaching the imminent return of Christ is to ignore his own admonitions to do good until he actually returns.
Even when evangelicals agree with the need for creation care, many appear hesitant to get involved when the champions of such causes have traditionally ranged from liberal Christians to self-labeled pagans. These people are often on the opposite side of other issues such as abortion and gay marriage from conservative Christians. We believe, however, that working together where there is common ground not only accomplishes more good but earns credibility for evangelicals with the very people they hope to influence with their understanding of the Gospel.
The bottom line of creation care, earth stewardship or environmentalism is that preserving a clean, healthy and attractive environment for those around us and those who are yet to be born is one of the most basic ways to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
NEMS Daily Journal