Every year my birthday has fallen on Earth Day. I keep thinking maybe one year, it will not, but it never fails ! I think that is pretty cool personally! I try to celebrate a little “earthiness” every year as I wolf down the cake and ice cream. And, it never fails that each year either friends, family, or a delightful mix of both razz me for this…generating the expected cat calls of “treehugger”, “hippy” and “liberal”. I have gotten used to it. I even like it a little.
But you know what……I am CONVINCED that Earth Day is a Godly thing. I am convinced that part of my “duty” (for lack of better term) as a follower of Jesus is to care for the creation of God with every means I can.
1970 was the first time we celebrated the holiday as a nation. Up until then, gas stations were selling leaded gas, air purity was almost totally unregulated and agricultural pesticides were sprayed without a thought about it. At the time, a factory could dump toxic ninja turtle ooze into a river and there was almost nothing anyone could do to stop them…..so hey, you at least gotta be thankful for that .
Earth Day changed everything. The next decades saw sweeping change in public policies to help care for the environment such as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. We also saw the creation of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
At the time, it hadn’t yet become as politicized as it is today. Environmentalism was not always the divisive issue it is today, so these laws gained bipartisan support. Liberals and conservatives alike were on board. It made since…who wouldn’t want to save the earth? But, bipartisanship would not last. It was bound to change, when business and ultimately greed took over.
As soon as corporations got involved, so did political extremists, and environmentalism seemed to lose its stylishness in the public consciousness. Popular support waned, and political parties began using the environment as a weapon to beat each other up. All the while, clean air and water became greater global problems, and land was clear-cut to make way to make more money.
Still, Earth Day never went away! Its’ popularity grew despite the challenges. In 1990, Earth Day hit the world stage as 141 countries joined in and promoted recycling. In 2000, 1.8 million gathered in Central Park’s Great Lawn to commemorate and 184 countries took part.
Forty years later, April 22 continues to unite those who believe in caring for our world and the people who depend on it. Approximately 200 countries and around 1 billion students, activists, soccer moms and working folks will celebrate this year. But here is the saddest part to me:
With some exceptions, the American Christian community will be mostly absent from celebrations. Can someone PLEASE explain this to me?
“Environmentalist” is still a dirty word among some Christians. I have a bunch of friends who would agree. That makes me sad. Maybe some find the label synonymous with secularism, Goddess worship, New Ageism and politically liberal special interest groups? And yes…there are extremists that help perpetuate this feeling. But they are not the minority! Yet still others are uncomfortable with “environmentalists” and even less comfortable with their “agenda.”
But, the problem is that Christians can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines. Millions die annually from preventable, water-related diseases. Most are children. Extinction rates continue to exceed natural rates by more than 100 times. Our energy consumption funds mountaintop removal coal mining while our oil addiction fouls the air and laces the pockets of oppressive dictatorships.
And here is the great irony: we serve the One who created everything, called it “good” and asked humans to care for and protect it!!! So why are we not listening?
What’s the solution?
We have GOT to “depoliticize” environmentalism! Caring for creation should not be framed in a liberal vs. conservative narrative! Stewardship of creation is a moral issue the people of God have been called to address. If we desire to remain true to God’s Word, Christians must redeem the cause and make it our own! We need to rediscover the scriptural basis for taking care of this world, engage the glaring problems around us and propose solutions! It IS THE CHURCH’S JOB TO DO THIS! To abandon these issues to secular environmentalists shirks our God-given responsibility to care for His planet. It makes us lazy and apathetic. And it makes me sad.
Let’s do our duty here guys! Take care of the earth! It is not hard. It is worth it. And God made it. I hope you will look inward and examine your own reasons if you find yourself objecting to anything considered, “green” or “environmental”. I hope that like me, you will find it impossible to continue to ignore the environmental impact of our lifestyles and are beginning to feel some force moving within you.
(much of this blog's language and facts were taken from the recent article by Jonathan Merrit in RELAVANT magazine)