A Christian Response to Earth Day
I want to begin, however, not with how I believe Christians should respond to Earth Day, but rather how they should not. There are two extremes which clearly should be avoided.
1) We must avoid becoming obsessed with environmental aims. Not long ago I saw an article praising a youth Disciple Now weekend in which the theme was "Go Green." The author (a speaker at the event) noted that "the curriculum allows students to explore why the environment is important and what they can (and should) do about it." Disciple Now events often have a huge impact on a youth group and many result in revivals in the lives of the youth who participate. Yet, this church chose to focus not on the Gospel, but on the environment. This is a tragedy and an inappropriate response to environmental concerns. We have to remember that this world we live in, while it is under our charge, is ultimately passing away. We should expect that it will deteriorate and ultimately be destroyed. Romans 8:19-23 speaks to this reality.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.2) The opposite response, while not as dangerous, is also inappropriate. That response is apathy, or even contempt, for environmental issues. A friend recently told me of his mega-church pastor who declared before his congregation - in response to the idea of global warming - that because such was false, we should gleefully turn on every light in our household and to be as wasteful as we desire. He claimed that Jesus was coming back soon anyway, so why worry about the environment? After all, a new heaven and a new earth is soon to appear! There are many problems with this response. Besides the fact that it is built upon a false eschatological view, the greater problem is that it does not take seriously our God-given responsibility to rule and reign over the Earth. We are called to be good stewards of all that is within our realm of responsibility. And certainly the Earth is one of those things. Another problem is that our excesses often causes others' insufficiency. I believe we are beginning to see the fruit of that in current food shortages.
So what should our response be?
1) We should reject the cult of environmentalism and not be swayed by the so-called "science" that seems to change daily. We should not place our faith in charts, weather patterns, or biofuels. Our faith firmly rests on Jesus Christ. He is not surprised by what has happened in our world. In fact, He is sovereignly in control. He alone controls the weather, the amount of radiation emanating from the sun (which actually was determined thousands of years ago), and technologies which either alleviate or add to our sufferings. Additionally, we must remember that our stewardship of this earth is not our ultimate command, nor even our penultimate one. No, we are called to be like Christ, who said nothing of taking care of the earth. His concern was that we glorify Him by being holy, loving His children, and pointing others to Him. To the extent that caring for the environment does these things, we should be involved. When it distracts us from our central message we should refrain from emphasizing it.
2) We should do what we can to insure we are indeed fulfilling our duty to attend to the creation placed in our care. That involves conservation by using our recycling bins and reducing our use of resources. We must be mindful that overuse causes a burden on others. I can't imagine that mega-church pastor preaching to the people of my congregation in Georgia that they should use as much water as they want and not worry - after all Jesus is coming soon! (For those who do not know, last year Georgia had a drought so severe that some places were forced to ration water so the supply did not completely run out.) In such cases, it is the poor who suffer the worst, since they have less resources from which to draw help. Imagine if this country experienced a famine, or energy crisis, or widespread water shortage. The impact would be massive on the poor. As the people of God we are charged to remember the poor - alleviate their suffering and prevent them from being burden.
Thus, by watching our lifestyles and taking steps to protect our world, we can fulfill God's call without losing our focus and hindering the work of the Gospel. So here are five practical ways we can make an impact on the Earth while being fixated on Christ:
1) Replace your incandescent bulbs with CFL's. This will not only lower your electricity bills, it will also lessen the load on your power grid. If whole churches did this, they could save thousands a year and make a huge impact on our energy needs.
2) Recycle. This is an easy one for most of you. All it takes is placing your recyclable items in a specific bin and placing it outside of your home with the rest of your garbage. For others, it may mean driving a short distance. But, if more did this we could lower the cost of oil-based products, and possibly oil itself, which would lessen strain on families struggling with the current fuel costs.
3) Adjust your water heater or replace it. Lowering your water heater setting to "warm" can save hundreds of dollars a year. Also, consider wrapping your heater with an insulated blanket. For more savings, replace your gas water heater with a tankless one. These cost upwards of $2000, but a federal tax credit is available for it. Finally, for the truly adventurous, you can build your own solar water heater for a few hundred dollars. Not only will you save money, but you may help alleviate the current oil shortage (which may last a long time).
4) Weather-proof your home. This is a practical, inexpensive solution that can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Weather-stripping is relatively cheap and there are plenty of guides on the internet as to how and where to apply it.
5) Purchase and use a programmable thermostat. Costs range from $40-200, but the Energy Star website claims that when properly used you can save up to $150 a year. And again, by using less energy you can lessen the burden on others.
Hopefully, this was helpful and challenged you as a Christian to take care of creation and alleviate suffering without feeling as though you have to accept the theory of global warming (which I, by the way, do not), or worship at the altar of environmentalism.