Earth Day and Christians: 7 Ways to Observe It

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Biblical Christians know every day is Earth Day. We know this because the Word tells us the whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord (Isa. 6:3). And we’re 100% certain that “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).

But these facts are little known and little acknowledged in our world today. So we have works of faith, hope, and love to do.

The created order needs our faithful stewardship. But it’s equally true that we need what God supplies through his good creation. That’s the nature of ecology: reciprocity, symbiosis, multiple feedback loops. It’s a worldview issue.

The created order provides more than food, air, and water. Think also beauty, music, and poetry.

In 2005 Richard Louv published a remarkable book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (rev. 2008). “Nature-deficit disorder” is not a formal medical diagnosis, Louv says, but it’s a graphic way of spotlighting a big issue.

Louv’s writes, “A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest—but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in the field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.” Kids today he says “are aware of the global threats to the environment—but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading.” School kids used to study natural history, Louv notes. Now they study microbiology.

But children—and adults as well—need nature in the raw and the rough. “In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.”

Adults, too. “Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”

Louv doesn’t write specifically as a Christian, but he dwells a lot on human wellbeing. He points to growing evidence that “direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health” and may actually help children fight depression and “reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” Evidence shows that “joggers who exercise in a natural green setting with trees, foliage, and landscape views feel more restored, and less anxious, angry, and depressed than people who burn the same amount of calories in gyms or other built settings.”

Read God’s Books

John Wesley and other church leaders of the past spoke of “The Book of Nature.” God has revealed himself through two books: The Bible and the complex world he created. We learn from both books. They reinforce and don’t contradict each other.

Paying attention to God’s books, we learn to be good stewards. And it’s a cycle: If we care for the trees, we care for the birds. Caring for the birds controls the insects. Controlling insects protects the plants. Thriving plants enrich the soil. Enriched soil yields healthy crops, reducing the need for chemicals. Then we and the trees and everything else flourish.

The Book of Nature is full of such nourishing and renourishing cycles—what Wesley called “the wisdom of God in creation.”

Make It Practical

The other day I walked by a major U.S. car dealership, past a row of huge five-passenger pickup trucks. I looked at a price tag: $45,000; fuel economy 17.5 mpg. These are trucks fit for Earth Destruction Day, and that’s what such gas-guzzling, death-dealing machines are (often unknowingly) being used for.

So the challenge of needed cultural change is humongous. Is there a way? It begins with personal example (multiplied by millions, creating a redemptive ecology). But personal example is not enough: Advocates are needed in churches, governments, business, and civic organizations.

Here are some practical steps:

1. Meditate on Genesis 9 and Romans 8. Compare the two passages, for each illuminates the other. Spending a week with these chapters can change your world.

2. Plant something. A tree, a garden, an idea, a song. Something that will grow strong, or maybe be a health-dealing cultural virus. Growing plants and flowers counteract physical pollution, and healthy art and music counteract cultural pollution. But growing things take time.

3. Share your earth concerns with friends. Many people quietly care about the earth, but a shy silence keeps us from sharing. We can build friend networks of people who care for the earth. For Christians, there are biblical reasons; for non-Christians and those of other faiths, there are benevolence and survival reasons.

4. Go for a walk where you’ve not been before with all your senses attuned (no iTunes; no Kindling books). If this becomes a habit, a positive addiction, it counteracts Nature-Deficit Disorder.

5. Read a book or essay or poems that offer biblical views on the earth and its place in God’s plan and our stewardship. Many resources are now available, including my own book with Joel Scandrett, Salvation Means Creation Healed.

6. Connect with good resources on creation care. The Lausanne Movement and many other Christian organizations are now spearheading creation care initiatives. Check out these websites: Lausanne on Creation Care; Creationcare.org. These lead to other resources and networks.

7. Be an advocate. As with great culture-shaping movements of the past, today’s creation-care challenges require building a constituency—people who care enough to act, and people who will support action by governments, churches, and other organizations.

God’s Word calls all of us to be stewards. God’s gifts call some to be special advocates. Jesus calls us all to be disciples who show the meaning of his incarnation and resurrection for the way we care for the earth.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God.” This is part of the Apostle Paul’s “all things” theme throughout his writings. Today “all things” certainly includes good environmental stewardship.

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International Representative, Manchester Wesley Research Centre in Manchester, England. Formerly professor of the history and theology of mission, Asbury Theological Seminary (1996-2006); Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, 2007-2012. Has taught and pastored in São Paulo, Brazil; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Snyder’s main interest is in the power and relevance of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom for the world today and tomorrow. Works include The Problem of Wineskins, Community of the King, and most recently, Jesus and Pocahontas: Gospel, Mission, and National Myth.

6 COMMENTS

  1. “It begins with personal example (multiplied by millions, creating a redemptive ecology).”
    LOVE this post. It has really stirred my heart-
    Gives me a great directive as a grandmother motivated to instill a deep love and reverence for things of God, both seen and unseen into these 9 amazing little human beings I adore.
    Thank-you for the practical steps and introduction to great resources.

  2. When breaking free from the Gnostic elements that sullied my Christian faith, I began to see the crucial necessity not only for a “theology of the body” but for a “theology of ecology.” Thinking on that latter need resulted in the following poem:

    DIVINE ECOLOGY

    The creation longs for freedom
    From a bondage not her own,
    For the creatures in God’s image
    Brought the curse that makes her groan.
    We, the race meant to attend her
    And to govern her with care,
    Have abused and plundered nature,
    Adding grief to her despair.

    But the LORD so loved the cosmos,
    With His handiwork arrayed,
    That He entered her Himself
    To bear the image He had made,
    Both to lead His image-bearers
    Back to safety, by rebirth,
    And to purchase restoration
    For the heavens and the earth.

    We were meant to serve in Eden,
    Paradise beyond compare.
    We were fashioned from her soil,
    Our unfinished job is there.
    The description of our duties
    Was not changed the day we fell.
    While awaiting her renewal,
    We must work with her as well.

    — David L. Hatton, 7/6/2007

    (from Poems Between Birth and Resurrection)

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