The Theology of Earth Day
Where is it that you go to seek the presence of God? If you are like the majority of Christians, your answer to that question is nature. There is just something about an untouched forest, with its ageless trees, vibrant greens, and gentle wind, that reminds us of the presence of God. I may be crazy, but I believe this was by design. Remember the story of Elijah when God told him to go out to the mountains so that the Lord could reveal himself? Elijah went out to the mountains and he encountered the mountains colliding, an earthquake, and a fire. In each of those phenomenons, Elijah looked for God in the chaos, but God wasn’t there. Instead, God showed up in the gentleness of the wind (1 Kings 19:11-18). Just like us, Elijah sought the presence of God in nature. And he wasn’t the only one! Moses, Hagar, John the Baptist, and even Jesus all had experiences with God in nature.
But why is that? Why are we drawn to nature in such a powerful way? Can I suggest that it is because that is where we came from? In the beginning of the Bible, it is written that God created us using the dust of the Earth. The Earth is not only a part of who we are, it IS who we are! Our entire being was created solely by dust and the breath of God (Genesis 2:7). It makes total sense that we would be drawn to nature to seek God because that is where our relationship with God began! So imagine this; if God loves us so much that Jesus was sent to die so that we could be reconciled with Her, what do you think God’s relationship with the Earth is? I would argue that God’s love for this planet mirrors His love for us: passionately and unconditionally. So then what is our responsibility to the Earth as co-Creators with God?
When I was in 6th grade, I became obsessed with endangered species. I was so passionate about caring for animals and the planet but had no idea what a 6th grader in rural Ohio could do for the planet. I started getting “Save the Whales” and “Plant More Trees” shirts and asked my mom if we could start recycling. I quickly adopted the “tree-hugger” title in my youth group at church and would be playfully mocked by my youth group leader about my love for animals. Never once were my endeavors taken seriously in church and I never really understood why until one day, an elder made it a point to tell me that we didn’t need to take care of the planet. I was baffled and asked why he would say that. He proceeded to tell me that when Jesus returned to the Earth he would bring fire and destroy the entire planet. Looking back, I wish I would have known more Scripture so that I could have humbled that elder where he stood, but 13 year old me was not that advanced. Thankfully, what I lacked in being advanced, I made up for by being incredibly stubborn. I brushed off the elder’s comments and continued on my way to save the planet, but his words have always been stuck with me. How could a Christian believe that God didn’t care about Creation? Why is it so out of the realm of possibility that God cares just as much about the planet as He does about humans?
I think the scriptures do point to the fact that God cares for the Earth, and I would assume that most Christians would agree that God loves the whole of creation deeply. Where the disconnect seems to be is what our role or responsibility is to Creation. Many Christians would agree that we need to take care of the Earth, but then fail to live that conviction out. God’s Creation is under critical condition. Many scientists believe that the Earth will be at “the point of no return” where we will no longer be able to make up for the harm humans have done to the planet by 2030 (un.org, 2018). That’s only 11 years away. Serious changes have to be made in our current abuse of the planet before God’s “good” Creation will be irreversibly destroyed by humans. I long to see Christians take responsibility to lead this movement of caring for Creation. We cannot claim to love God and love humans and ignore God’s Creation- both the planet and humans are being negatively affected by pollution and climate change. We must repent and reconcile with the Creation- but how? I believe our action starts at home before going global, so I’ve put together the following list of suggestions on how to make your home and lifestyle more Creation-friendly.
Reduce first, recycle second. Recycling is great, but in a world drowning in plastic, recycling is not having a big enough impact to make a difference in our environmental decline. Instead of relying on recycling, try to reduce your use of plastic. Replace your single use plastics with reusable options. Refuse straws in restaurants, take your tumbler to the coffee shop, always bring reusable bags to the grocery store, shop bulk, use bamboo toothbrushes, and don’t purchase anything that cannot be recycled once you are done with it.
Buy used. Consumerism is a killer. 32 billion new garments are produced for the US market each year with 64% of those ending up in landfills (epa.gov). Not only are we filling the landfills with the fruits of our consumerism, but we are also causing air and water pollution through the production of those goods. Buying used, thrifting, and donating can drastically affect the amount of textiles that end up in landfills and the ocean, as well as decrease the factory emission impact on the environment.
Eat more veggies. There is a definite stereotype that just popped in your head when reading that suggestion- I encourage you to challenge that. Meat production is the biggest cause of air and water pollution in America. It is also largely responsible for deforestation as factory farms create space for more pastures and factory infrastructure. The average American eats 2-times the recommended amount of meat a day. We must challenge the overconsumption of meat in order to have a positive impact on Creation. Not everyone feels convicted to be vegans or vegetarians, but I encourage you to limit your consumption of meat to 2-3 times a week or only having meat on the weekends.
Ready for more? Read Between God and Green by Katharine Wilkinson.
Lindsey is an Indianapolis transplant by way of rural Ohio. Her background and upbringing helped set her a on a trajectory towards ministry, specifically working with those suffering from homelessness. Her heart also has a deep passion for creation care, racial and gender equity, and empowering women to mobilize for social change. Lindsey’s efforts are driven by her love for the Creator and desire to leave the world better than how she found it. She considers it an absolute privilege to be the mother of her spunky daughter, Jade, and the wife of her college sweetheart, Josh.