Stewardship?

Possibly the most infuriating thing about my time at [small liberal arts Christian college] was the flippancy towards the natural world we lived in. There were lectures in which I was told "the world was built for catastrophe and God's not going to let us destroy it", and my personal favorite was the chapel service in which Relatively Well Known Theologian claimed that people concerned about the environment were "Foolish, Faithless, and Fearful" because "Air pollution is actually a picture of the Resurrection. Living organisms died and became fossil fuels, which we burn and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which encourages the growth of plants. It's life coming from death"

That's a statement I cannot repeat without literally shaking in rage. I live in a state where it's unsafe to eat fish from many of our rivers and streams because of mercury deposits from coal plants. That doesn't sound like Resurrection, Redemption, or any other variation on that theme to me.

I don't understand the hostility towards environmentalists that's so pervasive in the Christian subculture. Is this tied to Texas oil? That's quite a leap of logic....but there are lots of conservative evangelicals in Texas, and lots of oil.

And in all honesty, the conservative evangelicals mocking environmentalists are only one piece of the problem. It's the part of the problem that makes me most angry, because of Genesis 1. God created the world, said that it was good, and handed it over to man to rule...as children of God, shouldn't our desire be for the world to continue to be good? Romans 8, especially verses 20- 22 comes to mind also (For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.). I'm tired of Christians who tell me "the world was built for catastrophe, God is sovereign and will not let us destroy it." Well, that may be so, but God has let us conduct countless wars and genocides, develop the atom bomb, exploit child laborers....He may not allow us to exterminate all of creation, but I'd rather not try to find the limits of His permission.

We've become so dependent on oil- a nonrenewable resource that is quickly running out (the current estimate is about another 40 years), and coal, which is procured by tearing apart our mountains, never mind the damage to our lungs, plants, fish caused by burning it. Oil and its byproducts runoff into our streams, disrupting wildlife... careless use of hormonal birth control has produced hermaphroditic fish, and there's so much more.

And while the open antagonism of a handful of people irritates me, the real problem is the apathy of the majority. There aren't many ways to disrupt apathy. Human beings aren't moved by rational, logical explanations of threats. Nicholas Kristof has written two recent columns on why people do not respond to environmental threats and why they fail to react to humanitarian concerns. He's remarkably insightful as always. I think what it comes down to is that we know the Fall through our emotions and we understand Evil because of how we react to its presence. Our logical minds are of little help here. While a story about a single child starving, or one snapshot of a bird smothered in oil just seems emotionally manipulative and contrived to me, we are wired to care about specifics.

I don't want to emotionally manipulate people, but I do want to make them aware of realities around the world. The line between the two is a lot less distinct than I wish it were. Unfortunately, there is no 12-step guide to breaking people out of their comfort zone.

Comments

paul bowman said…
I think it's right to be concerned about the head-in-the-sand attitudes that persist in various places. But it's also useful (especially for maintaining emotional equilibrium!) to keep in mind that the tide of public opinion is very much with you — not with them, the industrial-era reactionaries so to speak. Not even among evangelicals does [small 'conservative Christian' lib. arts college] clearly represent the mainstream anymore. And it's far from commanding substantial respect in the broader mainstream. The question for the generation who'll be in their 30s & 40s within the next 10 years or so isn't 'environmentalism, or more rampant unchecked exploitation?' but 'environmentalism on what terms, to what ultimate end?'

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