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A Brief Essay of the Bible: Are We Inherently Green?

Thinking about ecology makes me wonder why people are so fixated on being "green". There are many reasons to be environmentally aware. Some people want to save the animals and refuse to litter because of its dangerous effects on their physical safety. Some people want to save money; they use solar panels and build windmills for their homes. Some people want to preserve the Earth's natural resources so they use rain barrels to collect rain fall so they don't waste water. They also, use compost bins for their gardens instead of chemical fertilizers so they don't contaminate their food and soil. This raises a question; are there right and wrong reasons for being green? Are there any motivators that are better than others? These are all valid questions to which I would answer "no". It would be nice to think that everyone is preserving and protecting the planet because that is what God commanded us to do. However, I think the important issue is that people want to do it. Whether it's for their own reasons or whether it's for a school project about recycling; the important thing is that someone is trying to help out.

Let's begin with an interesting statement made by Patrick Dobel, a professor from the University of Michigan. He stated that while browsing the Ecology section of a bookstore, he found that nine out of thirteen books mentioned Christianity in their tables of Contents and seven out of those nine actually blamed Christianity and Bible-based values for our current ecological crisis (Christian Century, 1977). Apparently, over half of these books cited an article written by a fellow by the name of Lynn White Jr. in 1967. It must have been a pretty influencing and convincing article since it was written before a lot of the current debates over the environment have become popular. He claimed that Christians are to blame entirely because they view the Earth as a means to serve man, not the other way around. I was shocked when I read this because I have always equated Christianity with awareness of the Earth and its creatures, great and small. After doing some investigating and talking to some people who know a little more about Religious topics than I, I've realized that Mr.Dobel's discovery is not that farfetched. Many people find it easy and likely to blame Christians for the state of the world, including many Christians themselves!

Out of all of the books of the Bible, Genesis makes the most profound and straight-forward claims of Christian stewardship for the Earth than any others. There are several instances of God's word which directs humankind to take care of His creations. One widely recognized Biblical quote is from Genesis 1:26 which states, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." Another great quote is Genesis 1:29 which states, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." To me, as a faithful Christian, I recognize these quotes as a calling from God to all men upon the Earth. He is clearly commanding humankind to be stewards of the Earth. Being made in the image or likeness of God to have dominion over the living creatures of the Earth is like God saying "I am making you like me, to watch over the Earth just as I have". This is not a command to be irrational and haphazard towards the Earth, it is a command to care for it as God would. In addition to having dominion over the Earth, the second quote adds to "be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the Earth" which simply means to reproduce and use the Earth as our bounty. Grow crops, keep animals, and prosper with what God provided to us. The entire Earth doesn't have to be a wild forest. To subdue something is to calm it or train it. Just as a farmer would tend the land to make it fertile and irrigated, God wanted us to subdue the land and use it for our livelihood.

My explanations of these Biblical verses make perfect sense for those who hold the same beliefs to be true; however, a critic can just as easily and just as convincingly make an argument against mine to rebuttal my claims of a good steward Christianship and turn the Christian relationship with the Earth into something completely different. To a critic, these previous verses portray the Christians as taking an order from God to consume the Earth with our domineering and thoughtless ways. These critics would view the domination over the creatures of the Earth by humans as an act of relentless and exploitative power rather than a hierarchical order as deemed fit by God. Another excerpt from the Bible which is called upon to make a case against Christianity is Genesis 3:17 which states, "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life . . . In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread". The critics use this to show that the intentions of Christians must be ill-willed. If God has just cursed the ground beneath our feet, we must hold some contempt for it and are destined to treat it with disrespect and hostility, right? Wrong. Taken in context, God is scolding Adam and Eve for their blatant disobedience towards Him. They now have changed Gods plans for them and will endeavor many more hardships than they would've encountered before. They are humbled and they know that they will live a difficult life from then on; however, there is no indication that they harbored any ill-will towards God or the Earth. Any speculation of this nature is simply from the critics own opinion and cannot be backed up with Biblical fact.

There are many other references throughout the Bible that are not found in Genesis that critics choose to use against Christian stewardship. One of these is Colossians 3: 2-5 which states, "kill everything in you that belongs only to the earthly life" and to "let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth". I can understand that a critic of the Bible would use this to suggest that Christians want to kill and exploit the Earth. However, being a Christian and actually understanding the meaning of the Bible, I can see how foolish they are to suggest this. When God refers to killing earthly things and thinking of only heavenly things, he is referring to how we choose to spend our time here on Earth and to what is really important to live a Godly life. He mentions several times that one cannot worship both Him and money. He doesn't want Christians to practice idolatry or waste our valuable time and gifts on material goods. He doesn't want us to covet those things which we do not need in order to be good, caring, loving people. The only thing He requires is that we look to Him for all of our needs and trust that He will provide us with what we need. Western Christians get such a negative reputation because of the way our society has placed tremendous importance on material goods. Many people in America are greedy, wasteful, and condescending which fuels the flames of controversy for these critics and non-believers. Although there are a plethora of these types of Americans and Christians, there are many who don't share these views and believe the literal words of the Bible. There are so many Christian organizations which strive to support the environmental movement and support those who want to learn about ecology from a Biblical perspective. There are also many ways in which to support Christian views on conservation and environmentalism. Recycling, voting to support movements such as the Endangered Species Act, and planting trees to renew the ever decreasing population are all things that will help the environment and support the words of God in the Bible (Christians for Environmental Stewardship, 1998).

We must remember that all cultures and religions have taken a part in the destruction of the environment on some level, not just Christians. Whether it is for expansion or convenience, everybody has done something at some point that would not be considered "green" or environmentally friendly. We must also remember that God commanded man, any man who believed in Him, not just Christians, to be good stewards of the Earth. He commanded this before the fall of Adam and Eve. It was not done as a punishment or out of man's desire to rule over the Earth and all of its inhabitants. It was done out of God's love for humans, his most divine and ultimate creation. The Earth was made right along with humans and all the creatures of the Earth. It was made for our dwelling and for our sustainment. We were meant to care for it so that it could care for us.



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