Last week I posted an entry challenging the notion that we can save the planet. This generated some interesting comments. One person pointed out that it was his understanding that Christians should care about the environment. On this there is no dispute. Since I rarely speak on this issue I thought something more definitive is in order. Briefly.
There is no question that Christians should care about the environment. However, the infantile notion that the planet needs saving or could be saved is not what that means. This notion rests on the idea that the planet has some sort of intrinsic value, that it has the capacity to care which configuration it ends up in, and that there are things we can do for the sake of the planet just for the sake of the planet.
What is really meant by ‘saving the planet’ is ‘establishing or maintaining the biosphere in certain particular ways.’ And by this it is basically meant, ‘preserving the biosphere to reflect human interests.’ Here it might be objected that no, other interests are at stake, say for example the polar bears. But even there it is our human interests, because it is a special characteristic of humans to care about such things. This care is proper, but if we are not honest about it we are liable to be played as suckers.
The interesting thing about Christian care for the environment, especially if we take the Scriptures as our guide, is that this ‘human interest’ is front and center. Genesis 1:26 has God putting mankind in charge of ‘the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ This we can properly call stewardship and as we see from the text, the value of humans and the earth is set by God, and in this equation, the earth is placed in subject to Humanity.
Presumably, this means it is to humans to carefully manage what has been put under their care.
By ‘carefully manage’ we must understand that ‘human interests’ must be the guiding light, and as this command comes when man was yet unfallen the concern that mere selfishness would be the guiding light is probably not warranted.
Of course, some of the most strident Christian environmentalists are ones who have thrown out Genesis 1. So, I don’t know what their Scriptural basis is.
Now, all this said, it doesn’t follow that the earth somehow because more important than humans. If Jesus said that a man is worth more than a sparrow one has to imagine that man is worth more than a pile of dirt.
I say this because if anyone out there wants Christians to express more concern about the environment, they should do what they can to end abortion on demand. It is pretty difficult to rally behind saving baby seals by the hundreds when baby humans are being slaughtered by the millions. The gap widens further when we remember that the ‘party line’ in environmentalism is that the chief environmental problem is humanity itself, ie, over-population. And how better to curtail over-population… for the sake of the planet of course… then to pursue ‘family planning’ measures.
I would say the fundamental difference between prevalent environmentalistic concern and a Christian concern for the environment is that environmentalists tend to be ready to sacrifice humans in their quest to ‘save the planet’ while a sane Christian point of view refuses to trade the lives and well being of humans while stewarding creation.
One might say that in the quest to destroy the Nazis and end the holocaust it was necessary to set aside care for historic buildings and the habitat of protected species off the coast of Normandy.
Here the earnest green reader will protest that surely if the planet is destroyed (translate: rendered in such a way that the environmentalists insist would be the end of the world) then humans can’t live on it at all. But this is not true on any level and even if it were it wouldn’t follow that aborting humans would be the solution, nor- and this perhaps is more important- still wouldn’t justify caring about the planet before one cared about the humans that were on it.
In other words, a sustainable environmentalist outlook from a Christian perspective would value the environment but not more than humans, and humans and their welfare would not be traded for the sake of the environment.
This seems especially prudent since environmentalist claims continue to change from decade to decade. It was only forty years ago that they were claiming that overpopulation was going to be the end of us and that a new ice age was imminent ‘unless we did something.’ Today overpopulation is still on the table but now it is ‘global warming’ that will be the end of us. It is dizzying, but it is so easy in today’s climate to be blinded by science.
I say this because I certainly would not deny that there are things that can reasonably be done now even while striving to protect the unborn. However, it is difficult to trust the advice of people who are so quick to centralize power under their own persons and equally quick to change how the world is going to come to an end. The sorriest thing is how easy it is for them to get the rest of us to go along with them.
Anyway, I will gladly say that when abortion on demand is eliminated on a global scale I will attend more willingly to the globe.