Sustaining the Gift of Creation
Everyday humanity’s ecological footprint grows. As Christians, how do we respond? Are we called just in relational aspects with each other, or is there also an environmental aspect that God calls us to?
On October 16, the Divinity School hosted a lecture by Richard Cizik called “For God’s Sake, Let’s Focus on the Earth.” Cizik is the President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good and is a speaker for the Good Stewardship Campaign (a movement to promote conversations about the environment and faith amongst college students and congregations). According to Cizik, there is an old way of thinking that “we have a spiritual life that has no connection to the world.” On the contrary, we are called to be a “blessing” to the planet, to protect it, and sustain it.
As I listened to Cizik, I realized that not only have I witnessed sustainable ignorance, but that I have acted in it as well. Our society makes it very easy to pick up habits that hurt the environment more than help it. We buy products we don’t need that used too many natural resources to make. We build roads and buildings and forget what the environmental effects might be. It’s habit, it’s all most of us have known, but is there a change that needs to take place?
There is quote from the movie The Matrix that comes to mind and fits well to this topic of humanity’s effect on the earth. In the movie, a non human, villainous character speaks of humanity and says:
Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.¹
Is there truth in this critique of humanity? Are we simply going from place to place unconcerned about how our actions are affecting the planet. With the overuse of resources and the destruction we have done to promote our own growth, perhaps we are a burden to the planet, a virus.
Humans have the tendency to act as if the environment was made only to sustain humanity instead of the mutual sustaining that God intended. Our food and resources do come from the environment and I believe God intended us to use them for our own sustainability. The question is have we abused our ability to glean and abandoned our responsibility to sustain the earth in return?
However, this is not to say that an abuse of the environment is the only way humans behave. We do indeed care for the earth God blessed us with. We appreciate the beauty of nature and the taste of food fresh from the garden. Leaders like Richard Cizik and environmental groups like the Good Stewardship Campaign are evidence that we do notice and we do care about the state of the earth.
I have noticed more and more people take steps to be a blessing to the planet. The idea of “going green” has saturated our culture. We are becoming more and more aware of the damage we have done over the years and we are making moves to repair the damage and even prevent further damage in the future. Instead of remaining the virus we are becoming the cure. But change is not easy. After all, these ideas of sustainability are not new; we just haven’t always been listening. But that is changing. People are becoming more aware, and there is a general desire to sustain nature.
God’s creations (such as the miracle of a seed forming a tree) are gifts. They serve as reminders of a God who is creative, loves beauty, and loves us. So, may we never neglect it. May we take care of God’s creation as Richard Cizik and other environmental evangelicals encourage us to do. May we as members of humanity and followers of God the creator be advocates for creation so that the creation may be sustained in all of its beauty for generations to come.
First Year MDiv
¹ The Matrix. Prod. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. By Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Perf. Hugo Weaving. Warner Brothers, 1999. DVD.