Why Aren’t There More Christian Environmentalists?

I’m getting so tired of Christians mocking the idea of climate change on the basis that God is in control and it’s arrogant to think that we can affect His world. Some of the people most vocally against any efforts to care for our planet are the ones who believe it is a gift from a benevolent creator!

I suppose part of the reason for this is political. In the United States, we’ve turned environmental concerns into a partisan issue and since most Christians are Right-leaning they certainly can’t support any idea associated with the Left. Personally, I find this whole thing ridiculous. Not only should our planet’s health concern everyone, but as Christians we’re not supposed to get so involved in worldly affairs that we can only listen to one side of an issue like this. Rather, we’re called to be citizens of a heavenly country with priorities that transcend political parties.

Why Aren't There More Christian Environmentalists? | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: cocoparisienne via Pixabay

Another reason for the argument that we can do whatever we want to the earth has to do with God’s words in Genesis. “God said to them [Adam and Eve], ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28, WEB). The word “subdue” comes from the Hebrew kabash (H3533) and it means to subject, conquer, keep under, and bring into bondage.

But there’s also something else that God told man about how to deal with the earth. “Yahweh God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it” (Gen. 2:15, WEB). The word translated  “cultivate” (abad H5647) refers to working and serving. The word for “keep” is shamar (H8104), and it’s about guarding something you have charge over. It’s what you do when something is precious and requires careful attention. For example, it’s the word used when Israel is told to keep God’s covenant and sabbaths (Ex. 19:5; 31:13-14) and when God is described as keeping/preserving His people (Ps. 37:28; 89:28).

I’m pretty sure that if we were keeping the earth in this sense we wouldn’t be filling it with trash or spewing toxic chemicals all over it.

The Principle of Stewardship

You might argue that we weren’t explicitly told to “keep” the whole earth — that this instruction only applied to Adam and Eve’s responsibilities in the Garden of Eden. So let’s go back to that word “subdue.” I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that once you subdue something what you do with it is your responsibility. And the Bible is pretty clear about how we’re supposed to care for the things we’re responsible for.

He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:10-12, WEB)

The earth will be here for as long as God needs/wants it to be. But the condition that it’s in until He decides to bring this world to a close with the return of Jesus Christ is, at least to a certain extent, our responsibility. We’ve been given this earth to look after, but it does not belong to us. “The earth is Yahweh’s, with its fullness; the world, and those who dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1, WEB). He care about how we take care of it because our attitude toward caring for things on this earth (including the earth itself) tells Him something about our character. It tells us whether or not He can trust us with eternal life.

Getting Started

We can’t do much to improve the health of the planet on our own. Many environmental problems are related to things outside our control. But the fact that other people, companies, or countries aren’t acting as responsible stewards of the planet doesn’t let us off the hook for our individual contributions. Using less plastic, foregoing toxic chemicals, and choosing products that can be reused instead of thrown away are choices we each have the power make.

I’ve been using Pinterest to collect tips, products, and articles related to living in a more environmentally responsible way. You can check that out here if you’re looking for ideas on how to get started on your own quest to be a better steward of God’s world.

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13 thoughts on “Why Aren’t There More Christian Environmentalists?

  • I was raised in a conservative Christian family (in the U.S.) to believe that Republicans and Christians were basically the same thing, and that you would go to hell if you were a Democrat. We were supposed to align ourselves with whatever position the Republicans supported, and if Democrats supported a position, then that meant it was wrong. Since environmentalism was an issue that Democrats cared about, my family assumed that it must be evil in some way and that “real Christians” shouldn’t care about the environment. (Or at least, real Christians should exercise their God-given right to live however they wanted to without worrying about the effects on other people or the environment).

    It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I started to realize that what Republicans spouted as Christianity was actually a convoluted mixture of Christianity, Capitalism, and (what I call) “Americanism”, and that many of the policies that Republicans promoted did more to serve the interests of the wealthy (white) people in power than to promote the teachings of Jesus.

    Among other things, it’s easy for me to see now how Republicans oppose environmental protection in large part because they think it gets in the way of making tons of money from development, industry, etc., and they are able to dupe lots of Christians into supporting their greed by talking about how God gave man dominion over the earth and all of that jazz. Lots of Christians believe that God will always protect us from our behavior no matter how bad it gets, and even if God doesn’t protect us, it doesn’t matter that the earth gets ruined because Jesus is coming back soon, anyway…

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    • It’s also worth noting that many Christians are fearful of science and tend to believe that scientists are either incompetent or are knowingly promoting a false agenda aimed at getting people to no longer believe in God. So, when science says that human behavior is causing a bunch of environmental problems, those Christians who don’t trust science are unlikely to believe what the scientists are saying. If anything, the more consistent the scientific message becomes, the more convinced Christians become that the science is wrong, especially when the science doesn’t appear to align with the Christian worldview…

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      • One more thing: I blame Introverted Sensing for much of this problem. My family of ISXJs is very closed off to learning any kind of new information about the world, and they’re the kind of “make America great again” people who think that the old ways were best and that we can rely on “common sense” to make all of our decisions.

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  • Thank you for your post. It seems that Christianity in America has been hijacked by right wing politics and has been brainwashed to be indifferent to climate change etc. Just because God’s in control doesn’t mean to say that climate change isn’t happening!

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    • I’ve also heard people use that argument. I guess I think of taking care of the earth much the same way I think of taking care of our physical bodies. Sure they’re not going to last forever, but isn’t it a good idea to do what you can to keep healthy?

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      • II totally agree with you. I can’t even toss a piece of wrapper on the ground without feeling guilty. I always recycle everything. I’ve heard some Christians say it’s ok to hunt for the sport of it because animals don’t have souls.

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  • Thank you. I’m usually shocked whenever I hear people deny climate change. If something this big, that effects so much, is even partially true, doesn’t it deserve our fullest attention? The ramifications are huge. We don’t have time for people’s ignorant denial.

    I’m glad you discussed stewardship. I like to view it through this lens, too. Same for money and other things as well.

    Animals are our responsibility to take care of; so is our shared environment. I think a lot of humans get a kick out of being “masters” vs. “stewards.” I took it’s a power trip, or must be.

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  • for mere humans to believe that the God who created this earth and we mere minion here can destroy an entire planet gives too much credit to man. frankly the destruction of the earth should be the least of our problems. how about the destruction of our souls here on earth? this earth will pass away. it isn’t meant to last forever. it is already considered dead by God himself. a new heaven and a new earth will be created. and so what now? how do we fix this? we are an ever changing world, everything is easy and cheap. what is this quest to save the planet? how many of us are willing to give up our lifestyle to save the planet? we all contribute in one way or another. sometimes I think people like hearing themselves sound benevolent and compassionate but never willing to walk the walk or talk the talk. what does politics have to do with it but simply a platform for politicians to run on. this big vast earth has so much unused space and forest and it will live on but unless you are willing to live off the grid and use no convenience at all e.g. plastic, disposables, paper, gasoline etc, then leave the earth alone. it will be just fine because yes God is bigger than your mere concern for what he created. no matter what we do and no matter all the sounding alarms of a destroyed planet, you and your generation will die before it comes to nothing, and only God himself will destroy it. please do not give man more power than he truly has in face of a supreme being. that is belittling of God himself. just my perspective,

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  • I’m not sure I’m anyone’s image of a Christian, but I do prefer Judeo-Christian beliefs, and I am right-leaning when it comes to my political views. Further, I am prone to environmentalism, vegetarianism, and minimalism. This may all be because I was raised in an accidental atheistic environment where I saw my parents contradict their Catholic beliefs while living frugally. I searched for my own ideals and found them. It’s not the mix I thought I would ever have, but it works for me. There are many independents with right and left leanings that have interesting views like mine.

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  • Have you read the book The Miraculous Pigness of Pigs by Joel Salatin? Odd title, I know, but his vision of land healing and stewardship is very inspiring to me. For me, it spoke to that place where you can be a Christian, care for the Earth, steward animals properly, etc without having to claim some other designation like environmentalist/vegan/liberal/etc.

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