Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Pendulum: Christians and the Environment

With climate change and the carbon tax still featuring prominently in Australian politics, it seems that many people I've spoken to seem to fit into one of two camps when it comes to election time:

The Environment Religion
We need to be spending our time saving the planet by reducing waste, taxing companies which pollute, having environmentally-friendly homes, recycling...and even having less children.

The Environment Doesn't Matter
If I want to get in my car and drive 10 seconds down the road instead of walking, I'll do it.  If I want to litter, I'll do it.  Recycling is too hard and I don't want to be bothered.  Bring on disposable plates, utensils, nappies...  God is going to create a new earth anyway.  Who are you to tell me how to live?

When it comes to following Jesus, I think there is a third way.  It's the way that recognises that making God's name known should be our number one priority, and that our main focus should be people...not animals, not the earth.  Yet, this way also recognises that God appointed people to rule over creation on His behalf, and that rule involves not abusing what He has made, but caring for it as we have been commanded to do.  Just because our world is marred by the effects of sin does not excuse God's people from this command.  The creation is still 'very good'.  Yes, God will make a new heavens and a new earth, but that does not free us from our obligation to care for this one.

I also believe that we are to enjoy this creation.  We are to delight in what God has made and thank Him for it.  We are to feast on the abundance of good things He has provided us with.  We are to worship the Creator and delight in beautiful beaches, forests and gorges.  The trouble is that the world gets this confused.  Many people make 'saving the planet' their religion and forget about the God who created it.

The other extreme is frugality.  Years ago there was a segment on Today Tonight called 'Perth's Biggest Scrooge'.  This featured people who reused their teabags and Glad Wrap, but the winner was a guy who refused to let his wife have a hot bath!  I'm not sure if these people were being frugal to save money or to save the environment, but I don't think this is the right way to live.  You can be wise in the way you use the resources at your disposal without being a stinge.

Personally I think many Christians could learn a lot from their non-Christian friends who try to live more sustainably.  I remember not long after I became a Christian, I got a lift with some Christian friends.  I was eating in their car and asked them if they had a rubbish bag.  Suddenly the window next to me came down and the driver turned around and smiled at me, indicating I should toss my rubbish onto the road.!  I've met Christians who don't recycle because they think it's too hard or they don't read the instructions for what goes in the recycling bin and end up chucking in a pizza box with old pizza still inside it.  Yuck!  Come on guys.  It's not that difficult.  Each city/shire will indicate which items are recyclable and which aren't.  I don't know why some people ooh and aah like I'm some kind of saint when they find out we recycle.  It's such a basic thing that everyone can do.

Caring for the environment is not a religion.  Christians should be focused on telling the gospel to all who will hear so God's name will be praised throughout the earth.  But caring for what He has made is something we should do to bring glory to Him.

Amanda wrote an excellent post three years ago called Environmentalism or Frugal Living (or a Bit of Both).  Check it out.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Good post Sarah. I agree with you.
And I have worked very hard at convincing my husband that it is not okay to put the pizza box with food stuck to it into the recycling bin!!