When Did Environmentalism Become Anti-Christian?

Generally, I make it a point not to comment on politics. Okay, that’s not true. I often comment on social issues that have political implications, but I generally don’t make comments about specific politicians. But when politicos start talking theology, they have branched over in to my area, and I feel reasonably justified in responding to their comments.

Recently presidential candidate Rick Santorum stated “we were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth…. We should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.” He also said that environmentalism is “a worldview that elevates the earth above man and says that we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the earth.”

I think Mr. Santorum has confused the Book of Genesis, which positions earth and all creation as a gift to cared for, with a rationalization for the exploitation of the earth’s resources.  It is not often that I quote from the Book of Leviticus, but one the passages I heartily agree with is chapter 18, verse 28. “And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out just as it has vomited out nations before you.”

Do you know that the members of a Presbyterian church do not own the building? The deed to the building and the property is held by the Presbytery, and the congregation is entrusted with the care and keeping of the property. This is to remind us that the church does not belong to us, but to God.  In the same manner, the earth does not belong to us, but to God, and we have been entrusted with its care and keeping.

Even one of the frozen-chosen fathers of reformed theology, John Calvin, agrees that we are called to care for the land. “…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 a 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 endeavor 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 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 every one 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’s Commentary on Genesis)

The Christian stance on environmentalism can’t be to drain the earth of all the resources we can and hope that Jesus comes back before we render our planet uninhabitable.  The earth is a gift. A gift that is to be appreciated and cared for and nurtured so that it might bear fruit for many generations to come.

Environmentalism doesn’t raise the earth above people. It raises up the earth for the benefit of the people. When we care for creation, we care for ourselves. One of the tenants of the reformed faith is that we are called to live in grateful response to the love and grace of God made know through Jesus Christ.   Surely part of that response is caring for this planet on which we have been placed.

–Rev. Anne Russ

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