Pope Francis is headed to the U.S. in a matter of days. When he arrives, he’ll find a church that is deeply divided over environmental action.
But while conservatives and progressives squabble over the science and the politics of climate change, arguments about greenhouse gases and sea levels will likely drown out the most important point in the conversation: the fact that environmental action isn’t a political or ideological issue. It’s a biblical one.
The biblical case for environmental action
With enough effort, you can make the Bible say almost anything. Pluck a verse from here, mash it up with a verse from there and you’ve supported your point with scripture. It’s called proof-texting and at best, it’s lazy theology.
So, instead of rehashing a list of passages, consider some of the themes that appear over and over in scripture:
- God as Creator. There are different opinions about how it happened, but most Christians agree that God created the world and everything in it. The earth, the seas, the atmosphere, creatures of all shapes and sizes — God made it all. Through the act of creating, God sanctified creation and declared it to be good. God blessed creation and that alone should be enough to convince us that environmental action is a worthwhile concept.
- Human beings are part of God’s creation. You can’t opt out of creation. Again and again, the Bible makes it clear that we’re part of this world God has created — an intricately designed world in which every creature and ecosystem depends on others for its own survival. God hardwired interdependence into creation. Like it or not, your life and the lives of your descendants are connected to the health of the planet.
- We’re called to be good stewards of creation. Good stewardship is a major theme in both the Old and New Testaments. From God’s interactions with Adam and Eve to the parables of Jesus, we’re repeatedly told that God holds us responsible for the care and welfare of the gifts that have been entrusted to us — including this planet that we call our home.
None of these themes should be controversial for anyone who has cracked the spine of a Bible. If anything, they represent common ground that all Christians can unite behind when it comes to environmental action — a biblical basis for combatting overconsumption, environmental waste and blatant disregard for natural resources.
What does environmental action look like?
Taking environmental action doesn’t mean that you have to stop using toilet paper or march topless in an environmental protest rally. But it does mean that you have to allow your conscience to be formed by the biblical call for environmental action and somehow respond to the spiritual urgency of caring for God’s creation.
Some common sense ways to take environmental action include:
- Lower your thermostat
- Switch to LEDs
- Walking or taking public transportation to the store
- Eat more vegetables
- Buy local
- Turn off lights and appliances
- Reuse and/or donate
On a larger scale, one of the best things Christians can do to respond to the biblical call for environmental action is to maintain an open mind and an open heart about creation care.
Francis and others have called attention to the fact that environmental concerns disproportionately impact the poor and marginalized in developing nations. By allowing our environmental responses to be formed by the Bible (rather than the politics of division), we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the globe and demonstrate the kingdom of God to the world.