Walking our Faith: Is God an Environmentalist?
Walking our Faith
Outside my window, mountain chickadees and western tanagers vie for a place at the feeders while chipmunks run beneath cleaning up after very messy steller’s jays, which seem happy to knock 50% of the birdseed to the ground.
On another day, a mama moose and her baby graze in my yard on groundcover and the leaves of young aspen trees. There have been sightings of black bear and Whitetail deer in the forest and wetlands surrounding my home.
The mountainsides are covered with fir, fragrant blue spruce, lodgepole pine. A golden blanket of quaking aspen cover an entire hillside on Colorado Highway 9, and yellow willow leaves as vibrant as a lemon meringue pie cover the wetlands next to the Goose Pasture tarn.
I have always enjoyed the change of seasons, but my pleasure has grown exponentially since I moved to a rental home in the woods outside Breckenridge four years ago. Perhaps it is my overwhelming gratitude to be surrounded by this wild beauty that motivated me to join last week’s Climate March in Breckenridge, with some of my friends from St. John’s.
What is our responsibility as people of faith in caretaking the home we have been given by God? “For every house is built by someone but God is the builder of everything.” (Hebrews 3:4)
During God’s creation of heaven and earth, he looked at his handiwork at the end of each day and saw that it was good. Not perfect, as in something which can run on its own without any influence from outside, but good, as in it carried within it a purpose and reliance for its survival on things around it.
The other day, I watched an inspiring documentary called “The Biggest Little Farm,” which chronicled what it took to create an environmentally friendly, sustainable and profitable farm. What they discovered over the cycle of eight years was the insects and birds and even coyotes, traditionally considered pests or predators, all had an integral function in maintaining the delicate ecosystem required to produce a bountiful crop for the farmers and sustenance for all of participants (animals, plants, people) within the ecosystem.
In the Bible, we are told that God gave his creation to us and said we would have dominion over the Earth and all of its inhabitants. Some of us used this instruction as divine right to subdue the Earth and use its resources solely for our benefit.
But I think a more appropriate interpretation of that verse would be that God has given us stewardship over the Earth and its resources. While we mold the world to our benefit, we understand there is a delicate balance between doing so and destroying the ecosystem that was created by God to sustain all of its inhabitants, including the land itself.
When God gave us dominion, God gave us the power to either save our Earth or destroy it. And because we have free will, that choice is entirely ours. The creatures and land we claim dominion over have no say in the matter, but what happens to them, speaks for them. So when I read about people displaced by glaciers melting, seas rising and chemical fertilizers linked to cancer, I believe we’ve not made wise choices.
The genius of God’s interdependent creation is that it requires cooperation in order to succeed. Dominion based solely on domination for the benefit of one species is bound to fail. Whereas progress that is environmentally sustainable can be profitable as well as healing.
I don’t like pointing out problems without offering solutions because that is not productive. Instead, as a person of faith, I look to God’s example in the creation of the world, then consider my impact on the environment and take action where I am.
I’ve been using the same bags for four years instead of plastic bags from the grocery store, replaced paper towels with washable cotton towels for the ubiquitous drool from Buddy my Newfoundland dog, bought locally grown food whenever possible, replaced cleaning one-use laundry and cleaning supply plastic with refillable options, and replaced plastic wrap with reusable containers.
These small changes might seem insignificant. But what if I’m not the only one? Imagine the impact if 100 or 1,000 of our neighbors made the same choices?
And what if each of our individual voices spoke up at town council or called on our state and national government representatives to enact laws good for the environment? And if they didn’t listen, we voted for someone who would.
Let your voice be heard. Not because you are supporting one political group over another but because you are a person of faith. Because you take seriously your role as a steward of God’s good creation, and you want to do your part to protect the world we share with all God’s creatures.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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