11/14/2004

Am I an Environmental Wacko?

I've heard it from more Christians than I'd care to count: anybody who stands up for the ecological issues is an "environmental wacko."

I think it is unfair rhetoric to call all who are concerned with the environment a "wacko."

I agree that secular environmentalists are often guilty of turning the environment into a god to worship--which is idolatry, and is certainly "wacko."

But I am an environmentalist not in that same vain as that. I am an environmentalist because my Christian Theology demands it. Humanity's original mandate is to be the Image of God, which means (among many nuances) that we are God's vice-regents, having dominion over the planet--we are to "take care of" God's creation (Genesis 2:5).

In redemption, God's purpose is to restore our original nature--the image of God in us is redeemed. We are to again be his vice-regents in the Kingdom of God, doing God's will on earth as it is done in heaven. We are to live as an eschatological people--we are to live in the here and now as the incarnation of our future hope, living out our mandate to reflect God as His Image (back to God in worship, and out into creation in "taking care of it” by reflecting God's love and care and compassion and grace).

Our Western Christianity does not take Romans 8:19-21 ("the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay") seriously, thinking that this created world is not part of the redemption of Christ, that our souls will be whisked away and this physical world will be destroyed and replaced. We have a tendency toward almost a Gnosticism (thinking that the physical world is evil because it is material, and the spiritual world is good because it is immaterial) instead of remembering the biblical teaching that God created a physical world that was “very good.” We forget that redemption (as found in the end of Revelation) includes a renewal of the entire cosmos. Redemption is the remaking of creation once evil, which has distorted and defaced creation, has been dealt with. As N. T. Wright says in his lecture Creation and New Creation in the New Testament, “If the second coming is about people being snatched away from this present world to live somewhere quite other, you probably don’t need to bother too much about transforming this world; if the second coming goes with the expectation that God is going to redeem creation, we have a mandate already.”

As we live out this mandate in the here and now, we are going about the work of pronouncing the GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. In our participating in doing God's will on earth, we are involved in God's Kingdom invading and taking over the evil Kingdoms of this world. Kingdom work is not only “saving souls from Hell and getting them into Heaven” but also participation in every way God’s will needs to be done on earth RIGHT NOW as it is done in heaven.

One of the "kingdoms" of this world (among many) that destroy lives which God wants to liberate people from is the Kingdom of Greed/Unfettered Capitalism/Economic Globalization (see Tom Sine's book Mustard Seed vs. McWorld).

Here is why I am offended with being called an environmental wacko:
When corporate greed (and our greed in wanting fat portfolios because of the stockholder economy we live in) overrides our mandate to care for God's creation, it is THEN that we are being idolatrous!

In our proper fear of being idolatrous of the environment, we are not taking seriously enough our idolatry of what causes ecological destruction. “Since the leaders of McWorld view economic growth and efficiency as the greatest good, creation is viewed as simply a resource to be used in the cause of accelerating economic growth. This has fostered a reductionistic view of God’s creation and has placed major areas of the environment in peril.” (Sine, p. 63)

Or, as the National Association of Evangelicals say in the new statement For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility, “Human beings have responsibility for creation in a variety of ways. We urge Christians to shape their personal lives in creation-friendly ways: practicing effective recycling, conserving resources, and experiencing the joy of contact with nature. We urge government to encourage fuel efficiency, reduce pollution, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and provide for the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats.”

This statement by the NAE is not “environmental wackoness.” It is sound theology applied to a desperate situation in our nation and world today.

7 comments:

Byron said...

Bob said, "I've heard it from more Christians than I'd care to count: anybody who stands up for the ecological issues is an 'environmental wacko.'"

Bob, if you've heard it from more Christians that you care to count, can you actually name one Christian who has put it in the exact terms you just stated? First names will suffice...

See, I take issue with your premise. Of course "it is unfair rhetoric to call all who are concerned with the environment a "wacko". I just don't know any Christians who do this...seriously. There are..."people who are concerned with the environment"...and then there ARE..."wackos".

Bob Robinson said...

Byron,

Now that you've clarified what YOU mean by calling people environmental wackos, I'll take your name off the list.

> Mike
> Steve
> Michael
> --Byron-- (scratched out, since when he seemingly lumped me in with the environemtal wackos last month in our discussion of the president's environmental record, he did not mean it)
> Everyone in a Adult Sunday School we attended (about 20+)
> Cris
> Tim (until I convinced him otherwise)
> Any Christian I talk to who listens to Rush Limbaugh (which is quite a few!)

Okay, that's enough.

But the point (other than maybe my over-statement to make my point that FAR TOO MANY evangelicals presume that environmentalists are all wackos, which is my general experience), is that good Christian Theology calls forth a genuine concern for the environment.

Please interact with THAT! That is what I'd like to sharpen, through good theological conversation (especially with people like Byron, who I know is very astute theologically!)

Thanks!

Bob Robinson said...

I have to add a few more names (though I said I gave enough) to the list:

>my own wife, Linda (though I hope she's comin' round)
>my in-laws
>AND myself not too long ago...That's why I know there are a lot of them, because I used to agree with them!

Byron said...

Well, maybe; but I'd say that I have at least a level of concern about the environment, and no one has accused me of being a wacko. I just think you overspoke a little bit, that's all...

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks, Byron.

Sometimes in our need to make a point, we sacrifice clarity on the altar of rhetoric. And I get passionate about stuff when I feel that I’ve discovered a glaring weakness in the way I used to see things in my earlier Christian walk.

How haughty I’ve been! I used to belittle people so much, thinking myself so holy and “on the right team!” But now I see that so much of what I took for granted as gospel-truth is not found in the gospels! Those ideas were more the result of my having a second “conversion” after my conversion to Christ—it was a “conversion” to a community mindset about so many things so that I would fit in with that community (if you are a good Christian at THIS church, you vote a certain way, you think certain issues are God’s issues, and you scoff at people who don’t see things this way).

But I’ve better make sure that this same haughtiness does not rear its ugly head only in the opposite direction! One thing I need to do in my movement toward a more mature Christian faith is be MATURE in how I articulate it!

So, thanks, Byron!

Paul Oyler - aka SteelerDirtFreak said...

Well, after reading your comments over on Byron's blog, I thought I'd stop over.

Something I have noticed is that for the most part, evangelicals are passionate about prolife/pro-family issues, and most other issues get a nod and either a token interest or else are totally dismissed as 'whacko' causes.

As far as environmental issues go, that just doesn't make sense, if you are passionately pro life, you need to be passionately pro environment. The destruction of the environment is killing people. The Kayapo, the Yekuana, the Iban, the Mehinacu and the Xikru are just some of the tribal cultures that are either already extinct or very nearly extinct as a result of the destruction of their home in rain forests. Are we not supposed to be protective of their right to life? Or does the fact that they are not USAmericans somehow excuse the evangelical church from caring.

How many times have evangelicals sung one of the most famous pro-environmental songs and paid absolutely no heed to it:
How Great Thou Art!
(Hymn written by Carl Boberg (1859–1940), translated by Stuart K. Hine.)

Oh Lord, my God! When I in awesome wonder / Consider all the works Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, / Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. / How Great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. / How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander / And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur / And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze,
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. / How Great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. / How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, / Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;—
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing / He bled and died to take away my sin.—
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. / How Great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. / How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation / And take me home, what joys shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration / And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. / How Great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee. / How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

I dunno, I read an article recently where the writer stated "I am an environmentalist because I am a Christian." Guess I'd have to probably go along with that.

Anonymous said...

If one wishes to be considered pro-life, one must be an "environmental wacko." When toxic sites cause cancer and other diseases, when mining destroys forests and pollutes rivers, when manufacturers dump chemicals into the oceans and lakes, when fuel omissions cause global warming which in turn causes droughts and devastating storms ........ life is killed. So far in human history, the greedy exploiters have managed to escape the consequences of their actions. NIMBY -- not in my back yard -- has prevailed for centuries with the rich living upwind of the pollution and away from the contamination. America now tries to practice NIMC -- not in my continent -- but if our current course continues, no one will be safe. One cannot claim to be pro-life and not be an active environmentalist.