I discovered today that a post a couple of weeks ago about Christians and the environment popped up on a Christian environmentalist blog. My post was ‘Shouldn’t Christians Care about the Environment?” and the brief response (if it was a response at all) was called ‘Self-interest makes Christians better ecologists.’
I actually couldn’t tell from the entry whether or not the blogger agreed or disagreed with my post. There is only one sentence: “Anthony suggests that the reason Christians make better ecologists is that they put people first.”
This isn’t much to go on but there was still something about it that compelled me to reply.
While I’m glad that the blogger recognized that I was not in the slightest maintaining that Christians should be indifferent to the environment, what I was communicating (I thought) was not that this is because Christians ought to put people first.
To sum up some basic points and offer some clarification that wasn’t in the original post…
1. God clearly placed the earth under the care and stewardship of humans in Genesis.
2. Care for the earth can NEVER come at the expense of humans. (if Jesus said that we are worth more than a sparrow, surely we are worth more than dirt)
3. How we decide to care for the earth must tie into our created nature one way or the other. Ie, the our concern is derived in some measure by our own likes and dislikes and never in the ‘interests’ of the planet for nothing more than the sake of the planet.
That requires some explanation. Look, if I go over to Larry and have a talk, Larry can tell me what his interests are. He can tell me what he likes and dislikes. He can tell me if he’s hurt, or sick, or happy. He can tell me if I’m making problems for him. Larry is sentient and can communicate. Thus, with reasonable confidence we can ascertain what Larry’s real interests are.
The planet cannot speak.
I repeat: The planet is not sentient. It doesn’t have a brain. It doesn’t have a nervous system. It cannot tell us how it feels, what it prefers, and what role we may have in its comfort or discomfort.
If the planet cannot speak, that means that someone else must speak for it. Ie, us humans. In short, you can’t take humans out of the equation. Christians have the advantage of not only knowing this but also the advantage of knowing how to balance various values in proper relation.
4. The ‘environment’ is important, but not as important as humans. So, you’ll forgive me if I can’t get excited about saving the baby seals while millions of unborn humans are being slaughtered around the globe every year.
From this comes my suggestion that if environmentalists really want to get Christians to come on board, they would do well to take abortion off the table. Just as it would be hard to get excited about preserving historic buildings in Europe in 1944 while millions of Jews are being systematically exterminated, it is hard for the Christians I am speaking for to be enthusiastic about the ozone layer while millions of humans are unnaturally dying before their first breath.
Of course, this highlights a very important consideration: what if the environmentalists themselves think that global abortion on demand is actually a sound environmental measure necessary to ‘save the planet’? This yahoo is not the only person who thinks exactly that.
It may not seem evident to the reader why people might believe that more abortions are necessary to stop global warming but if you understand that most environmentalists really pin the planet’s problems on overpopulation more than anything else, it will start to make sense.
And if this is the kind of thinking driving the environmentalist movement, I submit that there will be huge swaths of the Christian community that will simply never come around. I know I won’t. Never. Not even if the earth is so choked up with pollution that none of the already living are able to survive. Find a solution that doesn’t involve mass abortion and eventual tyranny or stop wasting my time.
5. If we humans must use our own preferences as our guide as to what the planet ‘wants’ then obviously we must remember that we are not the only humans on the planet. Ie, human ‘A’ may think that the planet is better off in one way and human ‘B’ may think that the planet is better off in another way. The only problem is that a certain class of humans, the environmentalists, have decided that only their way really is in the interest of the planet. Moreover, they try to frame the matter in such a way as to obscure their own role in the calculation. They don’t say, “These are my ideas about a healthy planet.” They say, “X is bad for the planet.” As if we could know what the planet wanted or needed. In this way, environmentalists are able to relegate into oblivion all the people who don’t have the same preferences.
It isn’t about putting ‘people first.’ It is first of all recognizing that a proper balance of things is necessary, and people are purposely placed in that balance and second of all recognizing that ALL people are purposely balanced in that place. It isn’t ‘people first.’ It’s recognizing that you can’t take humans out of the environmental equation. We belong there. We are not trespassers. It may be that we cannot ‘mess it all up,’ but nor is it htat the Planet is Our Master. It just ain’t so.