In listening to some debates over the environment, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to drastically rethink our approach to how we protect the environment, yet allow for economic progress. Specifically, I think Christians need to lead the charge in this venue. The debate over whether or not there is Global Warming (more appropriately termed Climate Change) or whether or not human pollution is the cause climate change is a muddled debate and at this point is best avoided. Rather, from a Christian perspective, I think there is a better way of going about this. With that said, there are a few key points that need to be realized:
1) This isn’t a political issue. Very few issues are wholly or mostly political. Almost every issue that we relegate to “political” is, at its base, moral. The issue of abortion is a moral issue. The issue of homosexual rights within marriage is a moral issue. Even certain types of healthcare, or welfare, or taxation are moral issues. Pollution is likewise a moral issue; as Christians we recognize that there is a right and wrong. What is in accord with God’s nature is right and what is against God’s nature is wrong. So we propose a very basic question: Is it right to unnecessarily destroy God’s creation? If God declared it good (He did) and if He gave it over to humans to have dominion over (He did), then it follows that we are to work to maintain the goodness of creation, not destroy it. That, in its essence, is moral and not political. It will have political manifestations, but at its base it’s a moral issue.
2) Climate change should be the least of our worries and shouldn’t be the motivating factor in wanting to protect the environment. If this is a moral issue (see point 1) then we should seek to protect God’s creation regardless of the current crisis. Just as one shouldn’t seek to protect one’s marriage only once adultery has occurred, but instead should protect it every step of the way as to avoid adultery, one shouldn’t seek to protect the environment only once a crisis arises, but instead should protect the environment every step of the way as to avoid the crisis.
3) As humans we have a moral obligation to protect the environment; as Christians that obligation extends even further. To give man dominion over the earth is not the same as giving man absolute autocratic dominance over the earth. Being made in the image of God we are to act like God. God, in His dominion over all things, never abuses anything, not even His own creation. To have dominion over the earth means to use it for our benefit, but not to abuse it for our excesses. We have the obligation to protect the earth because (1) it ultimately belongs to God, (2) it’s our home, and (3) what we do to the earth impacts us. It’s the third point that really impacts Christians, especially since we have an obligation to love all just as Christ loves all. If that is the case, it’s hard to love all when our environmental policies spew toxic waste into people’s drinking water, or releases unnecessary chemicals that ruin crops, or use genetically modified food that ultimately hurts people rather than helps them. If you’re skeptical about helping the environment, do it for no other reason than the fact that pollution ultimately harms other people.
4) What is pollution if not bad stewardship and excess? Christians are called to lives of self-control. We constantly preach how we’re to be good stewards of what we’re given, but why don’t we extend that to the environment? It seems that many Christians have been caught up in a Republican message, but not a Christian one. While we can debate the merits of government intrusion into solving the problem, the fact is if we were responsible and did it ourselves there would be no need for the debate because there would be no need for government action. Thus, we should encourage companies to be environmentally responsible in what they do. We should be against materialism and excesses as this runs contrary to the Gospel; materialism is the cause of pollution, so if we claim to be against materialism, shouldn’t we likewise be against pollution?
5) We have a vested interest in providing a sustainable ecology as future generations depend upon it. The biggest conversationist in the world aren’t PETA members or vegetarians, they’re hunters. Some of the biggest environmentalists you’ll meet tend to hunt, camp, hike mountains, and so on. The reason they’re environmentalists is because they have a vested interest in seeing the environment continue on. What we as Christians need to realize is that we all have an interest in the environment; we rely upon it, so it makes no sense to destroy your own home. Thus, if a Christian has forgone the Gospel and picked up Ayn Rand and believes self-interest should be a motivating factor for change, then here you have it: It’s in your best self-interest to protect the environment.
Now certainly the protection must be reasonable and not put human lives at risk. At the same time, when we continue to pollute and justify it because it helps our economy, we’re putting future lives at risk and that’s just antithetical to what God demands from us.