Archive for Saturday, April 26, 2008

Faith Forum: Is Christianity to blame for failure to care for the environment?

April 26, 2008


We should all value what God has made

Doug Heacock, contemporary worship leader, Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave.:

Honestly, my first reaction to this question was, "Are you kidding me?" In trying to imagine where this question comes from, all I can come up with is that it may stem from a general perception that "Christian" equals "Republican," and "Republican" equals "anti-environment." It seems pointless to waste too many words here on the unfairness of those assumptions.

I have noted in a previous installment of this column that the Bible says, "The Earth is the Lord's, and everything in it ..." (Psalm 24:1). Human beings are the stewards of God's creation, and the Scripture teaches that we should value what God has made and care for it accordingly.

Yes, many Christians have neglected environmental causes for too long.

But the blame for human-influenced problems with the environment rests not on any particular faith, but rather on human sin in general. The carelessness and greed that have resulted in air and water pollution can be found in people of all faiths, because they are problems of the human heart.

While God is clearly not finished with the work of completely transforming the life of every Christian (myself included), the Christian faith is based on a gospel of new life in Christ that specifically addresses those matters of the heart.

To argue that Christianity is to be exclusively blamed for environmental problems is patently absurd.

- Send e-mail to Doug Heacock at

Religion often used to justify interests

The Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:

Our planet is at risk. Our addiction to carbon-based energy is resulting in global warming; rising food prices, which in turn have led to unrest and violence. All this threatens the Earth's long-term health. Our consuming ways are unsustainable.

Is the Christian faith responsible? Yes, in part. Here's why. When the Industrial Revolution kicked into high gear, we vastly increased our capacity to destroy and exploit the Earth. The very unleashing of this prodigious energy was aided and encouraged by a mentality grounded in a Christian theology of the time which was largely human-centered. This view held that humans were separate from and above the rest of creation.

These anthropocentric ideas were buttressed by texts like Genesis 1:28: "Be fruitful and multiply : and fill the Earth and subdue it, and have dominion over : every other living thing." A better understanding of the Hebrew suggests that what is meant is not "dominion over" but "caretaking of."

Many Christians are learning these days that there is nothing inherent in the faith that is harmful to the Earth. Rather, religion has been used to justify our short-sighted interests.

Just as we have to change our ways - drive less, recycle more, walk more lightly upon our Earth, so, too, must we change our thinking about God. We are not separate from creation. The God, who lives in us, lives in everything.

- Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at


BrianR 10 years ago

Of course not. There is seldom one cause for anything and environmental problems are WAY too complicated to point to one cause.

canyon_wren 10 years ago

It's pretty hard to justify the idea that Christianity is to blame, when one considers the effects non-Christian countries like China and Russia (which has some Christians, obviously, but the government is essentially atheistic) have on the environment. Christians have no monopoly on greed, which, as Doug Heacock has pointed out, is to blame for much of our environmental abuse.

Logan5 10 years ago

"It's pretty hard to justify the idea that Christianity is to blame, when one considers the effects non-Christian countries like China and Russia"China is just now catching the U.S. in CO2 production with over 4 times our population. Arguably, China has done more for the environment than any other country. They control their population by mandating 1 child families. Can you imagine what theologians in this country would say if the U.S. congress proposed such a measure?

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years ago

All are directed to multiply and subdue the earth, not just Christians.I don't see that many of us have been instructed in regard to, or punished for, evils perpetrated upon the land and our fellows. Quite the contrary. There are rewards for taking what one can.Now that the world has fewer and fewer "free" resources, things may be getting a little tight. Our political and spiritual "leaders" have been relatively worthless in showing us the error of our ways.Could it be that too many believe that there is no fighting the prophecy? Could it be that religion is only here to help us cope with our endless failures and the vagaries of life? Could it be that as long as there is money in our pockets that we'll fail to care about what's outside of our little pocket of existence?Hell. I don't know!~) I suspect that that is the case and it will continue to be the case if we believe that we are apples destined to grow on heavenly trees!~)I really don't care and I don't think that caring will matter. We are destined to fail. We have created way too much societal complexity to control, especially since we insist on centralizing power and treating those in power as demigods, including that one demigod who has the only power that truly matters...(up with the patriotic/spiritual orchestral music)...ourselves!~)Friends, Romans, Countrymen...oh yeah...and you chicks and slaves...can I lend you some money?~)Remember friends, Life is too ridiculous to make sense. Trust me...and pass the plate forward.-sorry. I'm in a bad mood...and just kidding around...Kind of:In a way:Maybe:Sometimes:I guess:-

davisnin 10 years ago

Yes China is just now catching the US in emissions... at less than a quarter of our GDP. Our carbon is about on par with our contribution to the world economy. Not that I'm saying that is good. Only that China is no shining star, nor are any of the Kyoto sign and do nothing successfully about it countries in the EU.As for the original question, it's ridiculous. Obviously it tries to associate Christianity in general with the Christian right and therefor the 'evil' republican party. Which are of course to blame for everything that is bad in the world. Like when Ted Kennedy tried to block that wind farm miles offshore in Nantucket because it was barely visible from his vacation house... wait, he is republican, right?p.s. Aren't Muslim nations pumping the oil?

jonas 10 years ago

Marion: Actually, what logan posted (well, the first line, anyway) is quite true. China has just now caught up to the USA in terms of aggregate CO2 emissions. Per capita, however, the USA is still head, shoulders, chest and half of the lower torso ahead of everybody else in the globe. But that's only one standard of measurement where there are many to choose from. The idea that China has done more for the environment than anyone else in the world, though, is pure hogwash. If they've done anything, (and they have done some, quite a lot for where they are in their economic development) it has been for their own personal purposes. Certainly the one child policy had little to do with protecting the environment, per se.The only justification I could see in this question is in discussion within Genesis of man as having dominion over the earth and the rest of the life on it. There might be some subconscious hold-over from that, I guess, but the idea that it could hold that amount of power over the issue is pretty ridiculous.

JohnBrown 10 years ago

The Big Question is: what are Christians going to do in the future about caretaking God's creation?

cato_the_elder 9 years, 12 months ago

It's not "caretaking." It's "dominion." The PC Police are ever-present among left-wing religious revisionists too.

Ken Lassman 9 years, 12 months ago

OK, I'll venture some comments, not with the intent to flame or troll, but instead to challenge the Christian community to actually fess up about its complicity in the demise of the planet's health, and also to congratulate on most of contemporary Christianity to turn these attitudes around. But to say it's no longer a problem is WAY to early. These points are offered freely as someone who has been in Christian circles since 50s, so I speak with just a little bit of experience:1) Christians that I know very often completely separate the spiritual world and the afterlife from the material world and elevate the former to such an extent that messing up the material world (read: environment) doesn't matter. Doesn't anyone remember James Watt, the right wing Christian put in charge of the EPA who didn't care if we trashed this earth since we were all going to a better place anyway?2) There is still a very real fear that anything to do with the earth, ecosystems and respect for them leads down a slippery slope to "new age" and pagan beliefs that goes straight to hell. The Christian community needs to better clarify its newfound outspoken respect for the earth and this irrational fear about becoming pagans in the process (and no, I'm not a card-carrying pagan, but DO respect the way they respect the earth).3) The whole anti-evolutionary ideology springs from some sects of Christianity, and ecological restoration, conservation and the like can eventually run into head-to-head conflict with a denial of the driving forces of evolution. Who cares if the biological diversity of the planet is undercut if you don't believe in evolution anyway?So there you have it. I'm surprised the ministers weren't courageous enough to bring up these elephants in the room.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 9 years, 12 months ago

Funny."Atheists sue God!"...absoLUTEly no boundaries to the stupidity...

RedwoodCoast 9 years, 12 months ago

Anyone seen the film "Jesus Camp"? It's a blatant mix of Republican policy with Christianity.

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