A Christian Perspective on Environmentalism

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I have a book on my shelf titled “Global Environmental Ethics” by Louis P. Pojman. I bought a it number of years ago, for a class, when I was still a Wildlife Biology major at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The other day I picked it up and read the chapter on religion and environmental ethics, and since today is earth day, I thought I would share my thoughts on environmentalism.

I am a Christian and a conservative… and I am stubborn, especially when it comes to the environment. For whatever reason, usually childish and unsubstantial, there are certain phrases I find annoying, phrases such as “clean energy,” “going green,” “eco-friendly,” and “environmentally conscious.” I will be the first to admit I am far from perfect, but I am trying to change.

Now this subject is certainly far beyond the scope of this blog post, so, instead of trying to change the world and revolutionize the way Americans, and everyone else, practices environmentalism, I just going to share a couple reasons why Christianity provides the best way of looking at the natural world and of practicing environmental ethics.

The first is that there is a fundamental difference between the Christian and the world in regards to how we as humans see the environment. The world feels the need and responsibility to protect it where as the Christian has been given the responsibility to manage and care for it. This Christian responsibility is called stewardship.

There is an important aspect in looking at our stewardship of the environment versus our protection of the environment. When we see the environment as something to protect, there are several things we risk. One, we risk thinking ourselves more powerful and important than we ought to. Two, we risk thinking the environment as more important than human life. And three, we risk losing an eternal perspective on life.

On the other hand, when we see our role as stewards instead of protectors, we inherently acknowledge that (1) we are responsible to someone or something greater than ourselves, (2) we are not perfect, and (3) no matter what happens, there is still hope beyond this world.

Proper care of the environment includes managing it, not just protecting it. In some cases, though, protection is necessary. We must be careful, however, of going to extremes. On one end, we can make environmentalism so important that we disregard or dismiss the human life. On the other side of it, we can care not at all for the environment so long as we are making money, which can also come at a cost to human life. The important thing to remember is that human life is more important than the environment. Period.

I am not saying the environment is not important. If you read in Genesis, God saw all that he had made and called it good. The environment is good. Furthermore, he punished Israel for their blatant disregard for the environment in Amos, however, it should be noted that they received their worst punishment for their treatment of people, particularly the marginalized.

The second reason why Christianity provides the best way of looking at and practicing environmentalism is that for a Christian, their purpose is greater. The world sees themselves as responsible and accountable to the following generations. But for the Christian, their responsibility is to God. They realize and understand that their accountability is to their God. And their purpose is to bring glory to God.

Sadly, as Christians, I think we have dropped the ball on environmentalism. I feel that Christians have, by and large, kept separated, their Christian faith and their environmental desires and/or work. That should not be the case. The two should go hand in hand. It is us Christians who should be setting the example for environmental ethics, not the world.

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