Caring for creation has suddenly become a hot button issue since the release of the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si. But should it be that controversial for Christians?
Pope Francis has been lauded by people from a range of denominations and faiths for his direct approach to real-world issues, his compassion and his humor.
In fact, a March 2015 Pew Research Survey showed that Francis is viewed favorably by 90% of U.S. Catholics, 70% of all Americans and 68% of those who are unaffiliated with any faith.
With approval ratings like these, why is the Pope’s latest Encyclical Laudato Si suddenly causing people to change their tune? Apparently, some politicians and pundits think it’s fine for the Pope to talk about any number of moral issues, but discredit him when he talks about caring for creation.
One of my politically minded friends summed up the attitude this way:
“The Pope should stick to moral issues, talk about salvation and work to save as many people as possible.”
But isn’t caring for the environment a moral issue? And don’t people need to be saved from their circumstances here and now?
The Moral Imperative of Caring for Creation
Issues of moral concern are more complex than simply defining “right” and “wrong.” They are defined by their potential to help or harm people. When it comes to the environment, what gets lost in the shuffle is that pollution and waste don’t just harm the environment — they harm people as well.
The Pope’s encyclical is much more comprehensive than the controversial issue of climate change. It addresses access to clean drinking water, the loss of biodiversity due to the overuse of the earth’s resources, the quality of human life and global inequality.
Can we deny that wealthy countries like the U.S. are using more than our fair share of the world’s resources? Or that our modern conveniences are creating harmful e-waste that impacts the lives of the poor in developing nations?
Laudato Si reminds us that caring for creation is a moral imperative. Let’s not be too quick to let political or economic interests prevent us from examining environmental issues more closely. Or from allowing our faith to inform our environmental choices.
When politicians say things like, “I don’t get my economic or environmental advice from the Pope,” we should remember that taking moral advice from politicians is a much riskier proposition.