Lesson 18: Environment

Caring for CreationCertainly a modern Christian narrative must include our relationship to the environment. Right now, the conversation addressing that issue in our society and the Church rages around the argument about humanity’s role in climate change.

Like so much in our current culture, decisions about actions are presumed to be based on scientific findings rather than moral choices. One side believes scientific research indicates we are to blame for tremendous changes and the other rejects this evidence. If nothing else, the very emotional stalemate reveals moral decisions cannot be based on scientific evidence alone.

In fact, the call for Christians to care for the environment is completely independent of current conditions. The situation only adds urgency to what has always been a moral obligation.

Christian actions should be informed by faith and inspired by hope. When we turn to our faith story, we find all sorts of references to the interrelationship between humans, God, animals, the land, and the biosphere. These range from ancient biblical texts to Pope Francis’s recent “Laudato Si” encyclical.

Let me mention just a few. The Genesis creation stories picture God as an artist who steps back and admires every piece of his work. His “It is good” indicates humans, who have been assigned the function of managing his creation, are to treat his work with respect. The Torah law includes commands to give animals and the land Sabbath rest. The Psalms sing of the whole creation rejoicing at God’s order and mercy. Jesus speaks of God’s care for flowers, sparrows, and grass, implying that humans, who are to love as God loves, should imitate that care.

Hope offers visions of the future when humans live in peace with animals and all enjoy harmony with the land. And perhaps the most relevant is Revelation’s picture of the New Jerusalem being a city free of pollution. A river of pure water runs through it with trees bearing fruits of the month and leaves that heal the nation on its sides.

If we see only an indifferent nature through the eyes of science; we see beyond that a benevolent creation being healed by God through the eyes of faith and hope. Science shows what is going on; faith and hope reveal how to respond in creative ways.

In many ways, Pope Francis has laid a foundation for the new Christian narrative in his “Laudato Si” that speaks of the earth as humanity’s common home and care for the earth as our common good. We do well to build on its insights.

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  1. Lupe Andrade says:

    The Catholic Church has a long, long tradition of blessing the crops (just planted or just harvested) and a long tradition of blessing the animals… farm and domestic animals on Holy Saturday. Here in Bolivia, people still bring their pets to Church on Holy Saturday (and sometimes to the Good Friday processions) to have them blessed. There were also (and are still) ritual blessings of the sea, as well as the blessing of the waters in rivers and lakes. I like this aspect of religion, where the whole of Creation is blessed, and thus at least symbolically protected. I think it is an excellent idea to start and nurture a debate on the importance of loving and protecting God’s Creation and striving to live in harmony with nature, as well as in harmony with humanity.

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