This semester, I was a TA for a Systematic Theology class, and I had my first taste of grading papers. It was a strange taste. I wouldn’t call it entirely unpleasant, but it’s not a flavor that I would want in my ice cream. Having read 35 of these papers, I was most distressed by a typo that I found in nearly every one of them. This might sound trivial, but almost every student neglected to capitalize “Earth”.
“Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins” is NOT the same thing as “Jesus came to Earth to save us from our sins”. Lowercase earth means dirt. Uppercase Earth means our beloved planet that gave birth to us and to which we will one day return. You know, the only planet that you will ever live on? That one? The big blue thing with all the people on it? Oh yeah. That thing. I guess I should capitalize it.
Now I hear you saying, “Calm down, Zack. It’s a typo. It’s not a big deal. You know what they meant. Just focus on the theology”, and I would agree with you to a degree except that I think I am focusing on the theology. I think that this is symptomatic of a larger problem within the Christian world. We’ve all been taught so often that the world is wicked that we have somehow assumed that the Earth itself is inherently evil. On top of that, Christians generally do not consider this planet their final home. No one treats hotel rooms and rental cars as well as they would treat their own property. The Earth is like a stuffy, overcrowded waiting room with bad music and old magazines. In college, I heard someone actually use the argument that because God was going to burn the Earth at the end anyway, it didn’t matter what we did with it today.
“Oh no. He’s gonna get all Al Gore on us and make us feel bad for driving cars and dumping poison in the rivers. I’ve heard this one before, so if you’ll excuse me, I have some endangered animals to hunt!”
It’s ok, friend. I’m not here to make you feel bad for anything that you are used to feeling bad about. I am fairly distrustful of most people with a “green” agenda because it has become such a political issue. Many times, saving the Earth is merely the vehicle for which to transport anti-corporate ideals. I am not interested in being dragged into anything that has been hijacked by politicos. The fact is that the Earth is getting noticeably warmer and it seems to be due to an increase in CO2 emissions, but that is it. It only seems that way. Science is a slow process with long testing periods, painstaking re-testing, and a long system of peer review. When someone finds a piece of evidence that supports what they want to support and runs away from the scientific method to the press, we find ourselves in this mess. Give scientists some time to work it out, and until then, don’t say anything definitively about what is or is not happening on a global scale.
“You can’t hurry science. No, you just have to wait. Science don’t come easy. It’s a game of give and take”
That being said, we are not at risk of destroying the Earth. Even if we go into nuclear war that kills everyone, there will still be life on Earth. Even if the only life remaining is on the bottom of the sea, there is a good chance that life like us could someday evolve again. However, if that happens, the Sun will likely be at the end of its life when they evolve intelligence, so that would be unfortunate. The Earth is durable. She is wonderful. She is tough. She has survived asteroids, plagues, and boy bands. She will survive until the Sun explodes and destroys our solar system. Humans, on the other hand, are very fragile. We are soft, naked beasts with weak jaws, no claws, poor senses, and weak immune systems. Our brains are what keep us on top, but if we use those big brains to accidentally change the ecosystem such that it stops supporting us, we are done for. We will go the way of the other 99% of species to ever live on the Earth. Your carbon will just go to some animal that can handle the new Earth better and you can hang out for the next billion years with the dinosaurs.
So am I advocating caring for the planet just because it will keep us alive?
Yes and no. I have two main reasons for caring about this lovely rock.
Reason #1: When the environment is abused, the poor are always the ones that suffer. Case in point: West Virginia. Coal mining is undeniably bad for the environment. Water supplies get polluted, local workers get cancer, and sometimes they cause cities to burn forever. If coal were found in an area where wealthy people lived, they would fight it tooth and nail. However, the poor do not have the same kind of power and many of them are happy for the opportunity to feed their families even if they know it will kill them. Take the people of Ghana whose country has been used a dumping ground for all of the “e-waste” from the West. It is not the wealthy that suffer because of the poisonous smoke. It is always the poor. Jesus would not approve of this. The prophet Ezekiel wrote that Sodom’s sin was that “she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy”. Got it? God did not destroy Sodom because of “sodomy”. God destroyed Sodom because they had the means to help the poor and decided to take care of themselves instead. How much more evil is it to exploit the poor by sucking the very life out of the Earth around them? Destroying the Earth that God made AND abusing the people that he loves in one fell swoop? God save us all.
Reason #2: When I was a kid, I thought that I was an artist. All kids think they are artists until someone tells them otherwise. One day, I drew my dad a picture of some guys playing baseball. They looked a lot like potatoes with arms, and I signed my name on the bottom like it would someday hang on the wall of a gallery. My dad had that picture hanging up on the wall of his studio for years. Why did he have it on the wall? Was it because I was an incredible artist? Let me assure you that this is not nor has it ever been true. My dad loved it because I made it. His love for me translated into love for what I had created. To this day, he is my biggest fan, and that is not because everything I make is solid gold. It’s because he loves me. In the same way, I want to care for the Earth because God made it. I will not abuse the Earth because God is going to destroy it anyway. I will love and cherish life wherever I find it because God is its source and I love God. Abusing His creation would be like throwing away a gift that my wife gave to me.
So here is my main point. Don’t invest in green energy because you saw “The Day After Tomorrow” and you got scared/guilty. Don’t clean up your local park or fight fracking because the world is ending. Protect the environment because that is not a luxury that many in developing countries have. Do it for those who can’t do it themselves. Also, do it because God said it was good. If you are arguing about the global effect of CO2 emissions, then you are having the wrong argument. That is the same argument that abusive spouses use, “I didn’t hit her THAT hard”. Don’t hit the Earth at all! She made you and she will take you once you are gone. Treat her with respect and love those who live on her. God said that she was good, and I believe that she still is.