As we sink into this season of focusing on creation care, we are honored to share this very thoughtful post from Dr. Lindsay Linsky. Do you find yourself frustrated with the conversation about the environment? I think Lindsay has covered it all.
You’re a college student headed to class. You’ve got your Toms on, backpack over one shoulder, and your ear buds in listening to the Living Green Podcast. When surveys ask for your religious affiliation, you select “none.” You’re planning to attend the GreenAction protest later today.
You round the corner and start walking across the quad. You approach the “Designated Public Forum” zone. There he is again. He’s got his well-worn Bible held high. He’s got posters of bloody Jesus, and he’s shouting, “You will all burn in hell! The end is near! Repent!”
So what do you do? You pull that backpack up, ram those ear buds in deeper, walk by as quick as you can while you stare at the grass trying not to catch his judgmental eye. As you walk by him you hear, “You cannot hide from this behind your technology!”
It’s been a long day of witnessing. Your voice is hoarse. Your feet hurt. But you feel good. A few of those college kids stopped to listen for a moment or two. You believe you planted seeds. You pack up your pamphlets and resources in your old leather bag and head out of the quad toward your car.
As you round the corner toward the parking lot, you chuckle and roll your eyes. There they are again. They’ve got their protest signs held high. They’ve got posters of drowning polar bears, and they’re shouting, “Climate change is causing global suffering! We’re approaching the threshold of no return! You must act now!”
So what do you do? You pull that leather strap up higher on your shoulder, and march straight to your SUV while you stare at the pavement trying not to catch their judgmental eye. As you walk by you hear, “It’s gas guzzlers like this guy who are to blame!”
Now on to the letters.
Dear eco-hesitant Christians,
I love you. I am an evangelical Christian myself, so I know your heart. You have done so much good in the world. You love so deeply. You care so much. Anyone who tries to say otherwise is just bitter and angry, denying the truth of all the good you do. But there is an important piece missing, if you are among those Christians I call “eco-hesitant.”
Perhaps you hesitate because you don’t want anything to do with topics that remotely resemble the liberal agenda. Or perhaps you hesitate because you subscribe to misinterpretations of certain scriptures* whose misguided teachers claim that God gives us freedom to indulge as much as we want in creation, even if that contradicts God’s character of careful stewardship of resources and self-control.
Please hear me, this is important…Our love walk is incomplete and sometimes downright hollow if we do not include creation care as a part of it. Yes, we feed the poor and clothe the hungry on mission work, donate to worthy causes, and serve at soup kitchens. That’s all important. But what about the way we live our lives? Behind closed doors?
The world is watching our actions on this. They see us driving into cities for work in our big SUVs and then escaping to the suburbs without a second thought to those left behind to breathe our mess. We discard our trash “away” without a second thought to those who live by the landfills. Our businesses pollute the rivers that the poorest depend on for food. The poor fish in dirty rivers and say, “I can’t worry about eating a fish that’ll give me cancer 20 years from now when I need to eat today.” We clear cut land and pave over ground without a second thought to those living in flood plains who need those trees to soak up flood waters. I could go on and on…
Is that loving our neighbor?? Is that walking in love?? Is that caring for the least?? When we live environmentally careless lives, we are essentially “passing by on the other side” when the most vulnerable are suffering in the ditch.
So even if you cringe at the thought of letting “the other team” win a political point, try to remember what is MOST important. What Jesus emphasized more than anything. Try to remember the sheep and the goats Jesus described in Matthew 25 or the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ time. Most of all, try to remember our most important job here on Earth: To represent Jesus well to the masses. If we are hurting others by the way we live our lives, then how much good are we really doing? After all, team Jesus should trump any political team.
This Earth Day,
Do it for the poor.
Dear frustrated environmental advocate,
I get it. “Frustrated” is a tremendous understatement. It’s been so long. You’ve worked so hard and done so much. You have made progress, but not nearly enough to curb the massive tide of problems facing our environment. And I know…It seems like every wave of your efforts comes crashing into the wall of ill-informed bureaucracy. All that you hold dear seems to be slipping away, and once it’s gone, it’ll be gone forever. So you’re angry, and understandably so. A natural reaction to that anger is to look for someone to blame. I understand why it would be Christians, and specifically evangelicals. They (or I should say ‘we’ because I am one) are massive and powerful. The evangelical influence is tremendous. And the whole lot of them seem to be held like a puppet to the talking heads on the radio and TV. They say that scripture comes first, but it doesn’t always look like that. Please know that I empathize with your feelings of anger and bitterness.
However, I, too, love creation. I, too, am frustrated by the lack of progress. I, too, am upset at how many in the church speak love for the poor on the one hand and then dump their trash and pollution on the poor with the other. But this one thing I know for certain: anger doesn’t work. Just look at the pages of history…throughout history and across cultures major change in big groups of people always starts from a place of love and peace. Look at Gandhi. Look at Martin Luther King Jr. Look at Jesus! I know it sounds completely “kumbaya,” but it’s true! Change has to start with love.
And honestly…even though I empathize with your anger, I believe that anger is a big reason why we’re stuck. Just look at the two pictures described earlier. Whenever we feel judged or criticized, we pull back. We resist. We want nothing to do with whatever the person is selling. And let’s face it…much of the environmental message feels very judgmental, accusatory, and…just angry.
It’s not working. So why not try something new? Why not take a lesson from Gandhi, MLK and all the other great leaders and try love? What would that look like?
This Earth Day, I challenge you to do something outrageously loving for evangelicals. Perhaps this Earth Day you could wear all green and go visit an eco-hesitant mega-church. Perhaps you could make a donation and place it in a green envelope with a loving note about why you’re here this Sunday and what you hope this donation will be used for. You must be polite and respectful or it won’t work. Rudeness and anger will have the opposite effect…But wouldn’t it be something if all the eco-hesitant mega-churches were flooded with loving green on Earth Day??
This Earth Day,
Go love outrageously.
*A list of nine “critical scriptures” demonstrating the necessity of creation care for all Christians can be found in the introduction to Keep It Good.
Lindsay is the author of Keep It Good: Understanding Creation Care through Parables.
Find Lindsay on Twitter @LindsayLinsky