Environmentalism and Christianity

One of the major issues of our modern world is our relationship with the natural world around us, and especially what our response to its degradation should be.

I was responding to an email of someone who asked for a bit of my reflections on his somewhat disagreeable discussion he had with a Lutheran pastor who was somewhat dismissive of his environmentalist leanings.

Here is just my reply to provoke your thoughts and reflections:

Dear …..

I tried to google something Lutheran on environmentalism…  didn’t have much luck…

Here is one in depth, more evangelical, biblical study that you might read:  http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/01-Genesis/Text/Articles-Books/Bullmore-Environment-Trin.pdf

I think the more conservative LCMS view is that, although they won’t be able to dispute you on the scripture, they just don’t see the PRIORITY of it over and against the Gospel.  As well, there is the stigma of the tree hugging new ager who is more concerned about a beached whale or a skinny cat than they are about defenseless human beings being killed in their mothers’ wombs by the millions, etc.  Some folks just can’t stomach these kinds of characters, and they will run the other way as fast as they can.  

Frankly, I am somewhat uneasy about the whole environmentalism thing because it truly IS becoming the new monster religion of the masses – at the expense of TRUE religion.  Our whole lives and society are being shaped by the insistence of the media and all the celebrity types in the quest to “save the planet”.   And of course it all COULD be a good thing IF it was grounded in scripture and the Biblical worldview.  But it isn’t!

And as for priority…  Life is always a compromise and we ALL struggle to find the proper balance in the expenditure of our energies and attentions.  God demands perfect obedience.  He would demand that we be perfect environmentalists AND preachers of the Gospel.  We can’t do it.  And so, personally, I am happy to support environmental efforts as “best I can”, but it certainly is not the same “best” as I do the cause of the Gospel.  Jesus has called me to give my life to His Gospel – not the cause of Global Warming.  Global warming might be important and inclusive in my Christian life of service to the Lord (and yes, we pastors SHOULD be preaching more on it), but it is clearly adjunct to the spread of His Gospel.  Solving global warming isn’t going to keep anyone from hell!

And there really are pretty thorny issues involved with environmentalism in its more extreme forms.  If you follow logically, is the aim to send us all to live naked in the forests and live off of berries?  What EXACTLY IS a justified “use” of the nature around us?  Everything is SO subjective.  I think something is beautiful and valuable.  Someone else might honestly not.  (You DO pull weeds and slap those mosquitoes, right?)

The bottom line in all of this is WE ARE POOR MISERABLE SINNERS – and we need Jesus.  I believe Christians really CAN, honestly, debate environmentalism and our proper response to the degradation of the natural world.  The fact is that there might be several responses to a problem that might be effective and Godly.  Is nuclear power better than wind?  Or really should we just turn off the air conditioner?  (I imagine you use yours!)  But Jesus Christ and his salvation is the one thing that we CAN be sure about, and it can help us keep from going CRAZY trying to save ourselves and our world.  And it is the Gospel which can help us live peaceable, gentle, and Godly lives with true respect for the world around us.  

Just remember when you are talking with folks who aren’t like minded with you that they, along with everyone else, are VERY “funny” and just a little off kilter – and perhaps differently GIFTED.  Then just remember you are one of them – “funny,” off kilter, and gifted!  Be GENEROUS!

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