(Cross-posted at Flourish)
I am over 50 years old, but my environmental sensibility is young. It has only been about five years since I realized that as a Christian I needed to take more seriously both my personal impact on the good earth that God created and the good I can do in helping others flourish as a part of that creation.
If you are like me, you may have said over the years, “Of course we should stop polluting our air and water and we should be responsible about our use of energy.” And then you would add a “but:” “But I really like meat. But I’m not one of those tree-huggers. But I don’t think global warming is real. But I don’t live as extravagantly as my neighbor. But creation care isn’t one of my ministries. But I think there are greater concerns in a post-Christian culture. But I don’t believe Al Gore.”
I am on a journey away from the “buts” and toward the “because.”
I am a Christian deeply concerned about the environment because the reasons for action—to honor the Creator God and to protect the earth for my children and grandchildren—transcend all of my small excuses for inaction.
As we move into a New Year, here are my resolutions for this journey:
1. To worship more purposefully the God of creation: Why is it that we often sense the presence of God in the open spaces of nature? Perhaps it’s the quiet. Or the intricate design of nature. Or its beauty and grandeur. I resolve to routinely recognize God’s hand in the flow of natural life and the complex drama of nature.
Recognizing God’s hand in creation frees us from the sin of presumption. It is presumptuous to expect the beauty and functionality and provision of the natural world to continue regardless of how we alter what is in the air or strip the land of its cover or poison the waters and make fish inedible. Certainly the God of all eternity does not appreciate being overlooked or taken for granted, and he objects to seeing his creation perverted.
2. To walk more in the woods. Yesterday I took a walk into the woods with my three-year-old daughter, Payton, making footprints in the new fallen snow and using small pine branches to brush designs in it. I resolve to walk more in the woods, to think more in quiet places, and to experience it all with the little ones in my care.
3. To wonder like a child. Recently, millions of people stared at the moon in the middle of the night to see a rare full lunar eclipse. My wife and I have been looking at the moon a lot this year through the eyes of our wondrous little girl. She thinks the moon is so much more interesting than the sun. She will search for it in the light of day or on an evening ride. For weeks she cried out if—after finding the moon—it “disappeared” behind a tree or cloud. To her the moon is more interesting than the sun because it changes from sliver to wholeness, subtle in the daylight sky, bright in the night.
Following Payton’s example, I resolve to find more beauty, wonder, and mystery in the world around me.
4. To eat more compassionately. The food we eat has an enormous impact on our bodies and the quality and extent of our lives. Here, in the richest nation in the world, we appear to be methodically eating ourselves to death. When we begin to analyze and change our diets for greater health, we usually find that we simultaneously advance the humane treatment of animals and otherwise reduce our pollution. I resolve this year to buy more local vegetables, preferably at farmers’ markets, and to find affordable sources of humanely raised meats (including a free range Thanksgiving turkey in 2011!).
5. To diminish my personal impact on the environment. In the last two years we’ve tried to replace all of our incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, and we’ve replaced our aging gasoline lawnmower with an electric mower. What I’ve learned from these experiences is that if this was not all so important, I’d give up on some of these day-to-day actions.
Some of the CFL’s we bought were duds, with shorter lives than the usual bulbs (even after promising 5-7 years of life). The electric mower conked after a year; it was worn out by struggling up a steep hill in my front yard.
But because all of this is important, I’ll do more research before buying bulbs, electric equipment, or other energy-saving devices.
Our family will be making an effort to continue reducing our consumption of energy. I resolve to work out the bulb dilemma, reduce our phantom load, and purchase at least one vehicle this year with far better gasoline mileage. I resolve to use canvas bags more often when I stop by the store for a few things, and we will be using safe, reusable water bottles.
6. To deepen my commitment to “first things.” It is very easy to spend the bulk of our time and treasure on the parts of life that have transient value and hold empty promise. One example: The vapid diversions of television, and more immediately and constantly, the Internet.
But we can waste our lives even on the good, such as our vocational work, at the expense of the best—the authentic, rich commitments to our church, our families, and the greater good. In my family we have four children, ranging in age from one to eighteen, and nothing can be more important in life than teaching them about the God who loves them, about the fragility and value of life, about health, and about enriching our own lives by building up others. I resolve to find balance in my life, deepening my commitments to these first things.
7. To bear witness to Christ’s redemptive power. The Christian church in America is in crisis, not numerically or as an influential bloc, but at the core of our practice and witness. The truth and applicability of the Bible are not determined by polls. Instead, the inability of Christians to effectively attract new adherents speaks to the weakness of our public witness—what we say and how we live.
This applies to many areas of our lives, but for the purposes of this discussion, it is evident in the Christian response to environmental problems and the discouraging deceptions about these problems—often for transparent political purposes. As Christians, we should know better. I resolve in the New Year to have an authentic Christian witness concerning environmental stewardship and Jesus’ desire to redeem all creation. Will you join me?