An Argument for Christian Environmentalism

A couple of year ago I had a mommy blog called DIYKidLife that was mostly activities for babies and preschoolers with a few mom thoughts throw in for fun. While generally light-hearted, there was one time that I really flew my eco-hippie flag, and while my DIYKidLife days are over, this post is just as true as ever. I wanted to repost a very slightly edited version here because, in my humble opinion, it’s one of my best. Enjoy!

 

There is a disconnect that’s been happening within Christianity for a very long time that suggests that science and faith are, at the very least, mutually exclusive, if not diametrically opposed, and therefore cannot be joined together. Surely you’ve noticed this, and possibly you are a participant in this belief system. I want to challenge that notion, if you’ll hear me out.

christianenviromentalism

I’m going to be real with you right now – it is bothersome to me that so many Christians are so against science, particularly in the realm of biology, that they are unwilling to entertain the idea that environmentalism, sustainable living, or conservationism, are possibilities for them, much less something that ought to be encouraged within our faith. It bothers me because I believe that not only does our belief in God as creator support these lifestyle choices, but embracing Christian Environmentalism can actually uplift your faith in a new, and simultaneously biblically ancient, way.

Before some of you get too squirmy, I want you to know that I’m not going to throw a bunch of science at you (though maybe look into it), or give you guilt trips about how you’re ruining the world for your children and grandchildren. Despite what I’ve already alluded to, you can choose to believe what you want about the science of the matter. Honestly, that’s neither here nor there. Instead, I wanted to share why I am a Christian Environmentalist and why I consider living a green lifestyle to be a natural extension of my faith.

Stewardship

As Christians, we throw around the word “stewardship” a lot, almost exclusively in reference to money. Good stewardship seems to be generally defined as managing your money well. In actuality though, it doesn’t just refer to money, but rather to handling your affairs responsibly, even sometimes implying an act of surrogacy – that you’re handling these responsibilities as a surrogate, or temporary manager, for the one who gave them to you. To give it a more Christian twist, you could say that it’s simply handling your blessings, that which God has given to you, responsibly. Having money is definitely a blessing, but there are a lot of other things God has blessed us with too. If you ask a kid what they are thankful for they’ll probably list some family members or friends, maybe a toy or two, and then something in nature – the pretty flowers, the big tall trees, the birds that sing. Have you ever noticed that? Children see God’s creation as a blessing, as something to be thankful for, to be explored, and to be in awe of. When God created the Earth, He said it was good. Children see this goodness, but it seems that by the time we reach adulthood, we sort of forget. We are so distracted by the “other stuff” we’ve got going on, that we don’t really notice how stunning all of creation is.

So if you think about stewardship as responsibly taking care of your blessings, then don’t you think that God would like us to take care of what he created for us? He may provide us with money and material possessions, but he also created the world for us to live in and enjoy. The Earth itself is a living testament of God’s glory, provision, beauty, and mystery. He loves his creation, and so therefore should we. Psalm 24:1 says, “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (NIV). Seriously think about that for a minute. The Earth is the Lord’s. He created it and it belongs to him. If you made something for someone, wouldn’t you want them to take care of it, if not cherish it? What if you made something and then let someone borrow it? Wouldn’t you hope to get it back in good condition?

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus points out that God provides food for the birds and beautiful clothes for the flowers, arguing that if God provides these necessities in nature, how much more will he provide for us, his people: “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (v. 26b, NIV) While the point of this passage is about how we shouldn’t worry, there is also something else implied here. Jesus says we’re more valuable than nature, implying that nature is also valuable to God. So much so that he clothes plants in beauty and designed the food chain to provide sustenance for the animal kingdom. So, if God values this Earth that he created, and if the Earth belongs to him, maybe we should try to be better stewards of it.

And bonus, most of the time, living a green lifestyle actually saves money. Full disclosure: one of the reasons I got started on my journey toward being an environmentalist was that I realized how much money we could save by making changes to be more green.

Understanding

As I mentioned above, taking care of and spending time in nature is a great way to boost your faith and excitement in God. You can see this throughout the Bible as it is packed with images of the natural world. The passage I mentioned above, about God clothing the flowers and feeding the birds is one example, but there are so many more. For example, all the passages that mention sheep and shepherds teach us about how God protects us and guides us. The picture of a deer thirsting for water helps us understand how we ought to long for God’s nearness (Psalm 42:1). Psalm 84 talks about how even birds find solace in God’s house.

There are so many references to plants and animals throughout the Bible, teaching us how to adore, trust, and praise God. Because it seems that though we may forget how to do these things, nature doesn’t. Psalm 98:7-9 (ESV) says,

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!

Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, 
and the peoples with equity.

By paying more attention to the world around us, we can see the beauty that God created and we can start to understand, on a deeper level, how much God loves us. As part of my Christian Environmentalist lifestyle, I spend a good amount of time outside, working in our gardens, hanging up clothes to dry, and watching my boys explore. For me, this increase of time in nature has led to a deeper understanding of peace, a deeper sense of awe as I see God’s intentions at work, and a deeper appreciation for God’s provision and blessing. I encourage you, if you do nothing else after reading this, to simply spend more time outside, listening, smelling, and seeing that what God created is good. Because in all honesty, shouldn’t we be the ones celebrating the earth more than anyone? After all, we love the one true God who created everything in it.

What Now?

I realize that making changes in your lifestyle can be daunting and, to some, undesirable, but I promise that’s it completely worth it. It feels good to do your part to protect God’s creation! So, I’m going to start posting tips and ideas for small changes you can make to eliminate waste and develop the beauty of the natural world, because it’s high time we Christians started getting in on this action.

It’s time to stop putting our focus on fighting against science, but instead, seeing science as a revelation of the mysteries and glories of God’s creation. Find those beautiful and interesting things around you that glorify God and start trying to find ways to protect them. Because ultimately that’s how I see my environmentalist lifestyle – a way to treasure and protect the creation that God gave us to show His beauty and love.

 

Embrace Your Child’s Eccentricities

Have you ever gotten an “aha!” moment from reading a children’s book? (Please tell me I’m not the only person that this has happened to.) The other day I was reading some of the books from the Ordinary People Change the World series to my boys (which you should totally check out if you haven’t already), and I started to notice a pattern. Several of the people featured in those books – Albert Einstein, Jim Henson, Jane Goodall – were a little odd as children. Albert Einstein is definitely the stand-out in the crowd, but a large number of the people featured in these mini-biographies did things that parents today are told to “fix” in their kids. Like spending inordinate amounts of time playing alone, fixating on one interest to the neglect of others, or being socially awkward (usually due to said interest). The cool thing is that the parents of these great people seemed to allow (and in some cases encourage) their children to be different. Instead of looking at their child and thinking that they may need to take them to a child psychologist, they either shrugged their shoulders and let them be, or they got right in there with them and helped them dive deeper into their interests.

Does this sound like what parents do today? Not at all. I know I’m not alone in feeling concerned about my children’s behavior and wondering whether or not it’s normal. For me, this centers mostly around my children being strong-willed and introverted. This means that my kids can be somewhat belligerent, but can also clam up and refuse to play when they are with other kids. A lot of the parenting advice you see today would suggest ways to encourage your child to be more social or compliant, but why? Introverts may seem somewhat aloof, but all that time spent in their head makes them great leadership material. And strong-willed children grow up to be the world changers of the future.

So what’s the difference between parents today and parents of old? Could it be the pressures of social media making us want our kids to be “perfect” so we can proudly show their confident, smart, well-behaved faces to our friends on the internet? Or could it be the result of the self-esteem movement of the late 80s and 90s that many of us were raised in and that has oddly made many of us rather self-conscious? Who knows?

What I do know is that the parents of these great people in history didn’t try to prevent their children from being weird, and it worked out great for everyone. Maybe we should take this advice from them and let our kids be a little different. So what if your child doesn’t like spending much time hanging out with friends? And who cares if your kid has an abnormal admiration for the ocean? Let them be who they are and who knows, maybe something great will happen.

Get Action

Have you ever felt like you were just sort of floating through life? That you had a lot of ideas or beliefs, but that when it came down to it, you weren’t really living them out? I know I can’t be alone in this. It’s so easy to talk about what we believe and how great things will be when we are ready to make a change or move forward with an idea, but oftentimes we end up just sitting on it.

Like so many of you, I am sure, I constantly find myself guilty of this. I want to have a closer relationship with God, but I’m not willing to pull myself out of bed early enough to work on it. I want to live a more minimalist lifestyle, but I have a hard time not buying more (unneeded) stuff for my children. I could go on.

Are you noticing a pattern? It seems to me that I have beliefs that I would like to call my “guiding principles,” but that at the end of the day, I’m not willing to sacrifice to actually live them out.

Well, that ends now.

This blog is the chronicle of what my life looks like and how it will change as I work (and sacrifice) to live out the beliefs that I talk about so much. Sometimes there will be posts like this one – a stroll through my mind as I work out a new resolution, decision, or idea. Other times there will be ideas to inspire you to do the same, and to help you along if you decide to go down some of the same paths as my family and me.

My hope is that you find this blog to be real, vulnerable, helpful, inspirational, and enlightening. But mostly that you find it to be simple and genuine. Join me, and we can start living our lives with purpose and meaning, rather than empty talk and hesitation. As Ghandi put it, let’s be the change we want to see in the world.