for the love of the world

I wrote a letter to a friend recently about a book he recommended on the theology behind "earth care." I'm caring for it, I'm caring for it, I protested. Pretty much agreed with the author's concerns, though, that we have misused the natural world around us, and that sometimes Christian theology has been used to justify our misuse of the earth.

The one part I disagreed with was the author's attack on the traditional Christian "anthropocentrism," the belief that human beings are the center of (and purpose for) the created universe. I think that belief is basically true. It's hard not to see it in the creation story. And, perhaps more importantly, when God comes to earth as a human being he focuses all his time and energy on human beings. Jesus' life makes it pretty clear that man is God's central concern here. I understand that people have used an "it's all for our use" ideology to pillage nature. But I think the real problem is not the belief but the selfish and short-sighted misuse of it.

If God did create the earth (and the universe) for us, then we should respect it as God's gift, as important for our lives. Both as a means of survival and as a way God reveals himself to us. And we should also respect that it's given for all of us (including the many who come after us) and so we shouldn't hoard or destroy it as if it was our personal property to use as we wish. To care for the earth because we care for other people is to care for it rightly, in my opinion. It is motivated by love for our brothers and sisters, the love Jesus taught us.

That's perhaps the most important thing that seems to be missing from the environmental activism I've seen. An emphasis on love. There's lots of emphasis on the destruction being done, and the dire consequences, and usually a healthy appreciation of the beauty and rich complexity of the natural world. But to see all of nature as a gift from God to us, to see its vastness and complexity and generosity and understand that this was dreamed up for us, that's to get a glimpse of the wonder of God's love. Which should inspire us to respect the natural world. And share and preserve it as an act of love for one another.