Why did you feel compelled to write this blog?
1. Because I desire to persuade Christians that a faith that includes a concern for God’s world and that expresses itself in love and service to that world is a whole faith that conveys God’s love in powerful, beautiful ways.
2. Because when people’s lives are transformed by God’s light they will bear fruit in many ways, and one of the fruits of a whole faith is action that sustains a living, thriving earth in local communities and worldwide. I desire for Christians to be known for their skill in creating beautiful, living communities; for their leadership in preserving natural systems; and for their collective commitment to living as lightly and simply and compassionately as possible in every way.
3. Because for too long and too often otherwise loving and kind Christians have actively participated in or been complicit in unnecessary violence and degradation of the life of God’s earth. This has dishonored God, caused grievous harm to people, and offered a horrible witness to the Christian faith.
4. Because at this critical point in the course of human civilization’s relationship with the earth and its web of life, the way of God that we know through Jesus offers unique strength and hope for a new human culture that could be the foundation for a different civilization.
5. Because a fundamental challenge of human life is how to use God’s world and our immense creativity in ways that replenish the world rather than deplete it. How can that be done? What does the Christian faith have to offer to that challenge? How can addressing that fundamental challenge strengthen our Christian faith? I am intensely interested in the answers to these questions and am hopeful that you are, too.
6. Because I have often felt alone in my convictions and I hope through this blog to find other Christians who also cherish and enjoy God’s world. Perhaps you have felt the same way? I want us to encourage each other, to hold each other accountable for living out a whole faith, and to galvanize other Christians to also help preserve a living earth by living a whole faith as individuals and as Christians. I hope this blog will be a forum where we can do these things together.
7. Because Christian acceptance and even participation in the destruction of the world and unnecessary violence towards the living things we share this world with have caused some people to turn away from the Christian faith. If that has been your experience and your heart is filled with compassion and awe for this world, I am hopeful that what is shared in this blog will help you realize that your heart’s orientation is in synch with a significant thread of what I believe the Christian faith is all about. The living world around us is, in fact, of concern to God and is part of the spiritual and moral fabric of a Christian life.
What will I find in your blog posts?
You’ll regularly find posts about Bible verses, stories, wisdom, and theological threads that relate to God’s relationship to the whole world and how we are called to treat it. Some of what you read and discover may surprise you, both in terms of the degree to which you have not heard or been aware of how bound up nature is with the message and context of the Bible. I will also share my own interpretations, which you can judge for yourself whether they hold water. And I’ll wrestle with some of the texts of the Bible that are challenging for anyone who cares about God’s world.
Other posts will bring your attention to how our modern culture treats God’s world is often in contradiction with what I believe is God’s concern for the world and with the love, compassion, patience, self-control, and mercy that our hearts are to be filled with when we have faith in Jesus. In other words, I’ll highlight where the Christian faith and life has fallen short of honoring God by degrading God’s world. I’ll engage, too, the ideas and words of other Christians who speak on our relationship with the world. Oftentimes, the dominant assumption in Christian thought and leadership circles is that caring about God’s world is at best a minor virtue or subset of the Christian life or, at worst, a very suspicious pattern on the verge of being heretical and completely at odds with Christian orthodoxy. It shouldn’t be that way. I will offer critiques of the assumptions and theologies behind those words and statements.
I’ll balance those posts with stories and insights from Christians and churches that are honoring and keeping God’s world in a variety of ways. I’m confident they will inspire you. I’ll also share ideas for specific ways your life and your church life can honor God’s world. You’ll find that when we live in awareness and sensitivity of the God-given life and spirit of the world around us we live richer, more abundant lives.
I’ll also tackle difficult issues where the commitment to care for the world collides with other ethical imperatives. And I’ll share wonders of God’s world just for the, well, sheer wonder of it.
Finally, I will wrestle with the appropriate responses the Church should have to these issues. Our responses should be at the scale of the problem. It is not enough to start a recycling program. It is not enough to plant a tree. These are all good but we face systematic violence to God’s world and the Church’s loving yet tenacious response must also be systematic.
But didn’t God give humanity the imperative to dominate and subdue the world? And are you saying people are equivalent in worth to sparrows?
Just as there are verses that have been used to justify slavery, there are verses in the Bible that have been used to justify the use of God’s world in ways that are needlessly violent and that deplete the world’s abundance. But a more careful reading of those verses and attention to the Bible’s consistent threads lead me to believe those verses have often been misinterpreted. I will write posts that examines those verses in the Bible more closely, but I will ask you to consider this fundamental question – does a self-oriented, selfish, violent way of life fit at all with the character of God as we know it through Jesus? Asserting our rights and superior value in any context as a rationale for needless acts of violence against others, whether the “Other” is a different group of people or God’s living world, is ultimately antithetical to what it means to be Christian. Of course, we must ultimately use the world to live. That is an ethical and compassionate person’s dilemma. But the loving and patient and selfless spirit that fills a follower of Jesus should cause us to seek out ways to minimize harm to God’s world and, whenever possible, seek out ways to use the world that replenish it at the same time.
Are you saying that respecting and caring for God’s world is the core message of the Christian faith?
No. God’s desire to make the world right, to save us from our sins, and to offer us a whole and abundant life through Jesus that will never end is the core message of the Christian faith. But making the world right necessarily involves how we treat the world’s land and water and air. Our sins that we need forgiven and mended necessarily include how we have destroyed the world and caused needless cruelty to the living things around us. And the abundant life offered to everyone through Jesus inherently is one that is loving, patient, and compassionate to God’s world.
Are you a tree hugger?
Yes. I also hug people, dogs, some cats (at least those who welcome such affection), and native shrubberies.
What if I’m not a Christian?
I’m glad you’re here. I suspect you’re here because you care about the earth and the many living things we share it with. I’m glad you do. I hope you’ll explore this blog and find it intriguing. I hope you’ll come away from it aware that the Christian faith is perhaps bigger and dynamic and more full of love for this world than you realized. What I’ve come to realize is that the love, selflessness, compassion, and an orientation towards sacrificial service that believing in Jesus inspires is what the world needs people to be if we are to give the rest of the non-human world a chance to survive and thrive.
I’ll freely admit that Christianity for too long has had a split personality disorder, showing love to God and other people (too often doing so selectively) but directly or indirectly being complicit in unnecessary violence and degradation of God’s world. This is not what God intends. Instead, we are called to live out love and wisdom in this world in all that we do, in every dimension of our life on this earth. The Christian faith offers personal transformation, loving community, and a bond and responsibility for the entire world. It offers the opportunity to be part of God’s mysterious work in the world to make it all that God wants it to be.
Believe it or not, the Christian faith is inherently a countercultural force. It challenges those with power who use that power to oppress and oppose God’s kingdom. It reminds us that life consists of more than an abundance of possessions. It inspires selfless sacrifice and love. It gives strength. It connects you with the center of all that is – God, who loves you and this world. If this intrigues you, I hope you’ll ask questions and inquire further. I’d be happy to communicate with you. I’ve sometimes struggled with the faith myself, but I’ve found that it provides strength and truth.