Happy Sunday, everyone! If you’re like a lot of good people I know, you’re off to church this morning! But I’m about to PREACH on some good old fashioned Christian teachings of how we should treat this beautiful planet of ours.
I will preface this by saying I only will begin this blog post with the Christian faith tradition because I grew up in a Christian home and was raised with a Christian paradigm of God and faith, and we speak best to our personal experiences. However, because I believe that we should try to be as inclusive as humanly possible, I am completely open to discussing another faith’s views on nature- just drop me a message or a comment.
Okay, moving on. I was raised in the Christian tradition, but sometime in my high school days I realized that I find more “god” in a field of dewy grass or on a beach under the great blue sky than I do in a church. Part of it is due to my own problems with the dogma of the church and its history, but it’s mostly because nowhere do I feel that a higher power is more present than in this beautiful creation we humans are blessed to live in every day. So you could say I’m more agnostic/deist (I believe a higher power set the wheels of the universe in motion but I’m not sure who/what that deity/power looks like), and I don’t think that, except in maybe some rare cases, that power intervenes in our petty little problems. Maybe for the big stuff. I believe in nature, in karma, in good vibes, hard work, and a pinch of fate.
So what does the Christian faith that I was raised in say about how people should treat the planet? There are several scriptures that popped up in my research that stuck out to me. The bible actually waste almost no time getting down to man’s prescribed relationship with nature, in Genesis 1:26-28,
“26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (New International Version”
Okay, okay, that seems like a lot of ruling going on. I think that may have been a little misinterpreted by some fossil fuel companies who think that the world “rule” and “subdue” give them carte-blanche to do whatever they want to. The issue here is that this verse, though at first glance may seem to say that we are the dominant ruling species, I don’t think that’s really how it was meant to be taken. I think this is one of the most problematic verses in the bible for a lot of environmentalists because of the impression it gives and the negative taste that it leaves in the mouth.
However, dominion doesn’t necessarily mean tyranny. I think of this as more of a request that we be the hands and feet of god on this earth, and that we steward the earth, and take care of it, which is not what we’re doing when we are literally destroying it day after day. I also think there’s enough context elsewhere in the bible (literally in the next chapter of Genesis) to support a stewardship reading over the usage of the words “dominate” and “subdue.”
To support this, we have Genesis 2:15, which states, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Seems way better, right? Work and take care of the garden, like any good gardener or farmer should. A good steward of the land knows its value to sustain and give life to both himself and other creatures, and would never destroy it. However, when we fail to care for the planet, we certainly fail to take care of it.
The bible even gives us very specific instructions as to how we can take good care of the planet. In Exodus 23:10-11, it tells us
10 “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”
Great! That sounds like an excellent practice. That’s actually what a lot of people recommend in order for land to rest and regain its nutrients, so as to avoid stripping the soil of its integrity and use. If we keep farming the land to death, (or have a monoculture and don’t rotate the crops we grow), it will lie fallow, unusable, and DEAD. So, in this case, the bible definitely is pointing more toward a stewardship model. Way to go, bible!
The final set of verses I’m going to touch on comes from Colossians 1:16-17. This verse powerfully states that, “16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
This essentially ties everything together. Creation is a sacred thing, because it was created by God and his hand is in everything. To destroy that, is to do something very, very bad. Although Genesis uses the words “subdue” and “dominion”, I don’t think that, based on the rest of the evidence that we get to just do whatever the heck we want. Stewardship tells us to take great care of our home and help it to thrive. It is something beautiful that was lovingly made for us to enjoy and live on while we are on earth. If we don’t take care of it, it can’t take care of us, and that was not God’s intention. Also, God is a master creator. Think about it this way: if the greatest painter on earth gave you his most beautiful painting, would you slash the canvas? Of course not. How would that make the painter feel? (Not to mention how stupid of you to waste such an incredible work of art.)
So, go outside today. Breathe in deeply. Take a little bit of extra care with how you step, and how you treat the earth. We are so lucky to live on this beautiful planet. Let’s act like we understand that.