A hypothetical question to start us off: Why don’t Christians value nature as much as God seems to? An interesting point to ponder. With all the intricate work God did, should there be at least a little concerted concern and care for creation among Christians to reflect our awe, our thanks, our humility?
I work at a zoo. That’s my primary personal ministry. I teach on the side, mentor, help others, support missionaries, etc – but my career is zoos and that’s where I teach and love and serve the best. If you haven’t seen it, zoos and aquariums are having a fun competition to show their best and cutest animals – they’re calling it the Cute Animal Tweetoff and some of the pictures are stunning! Check them out here!
I love seeing these sorts of things because they remind me how beautiful the world is, how creative God is – and they remind me how much we are obligated to save and preserve the natural wonder of the world. We all love parks – national parks, state parks, local parks, parks in general – so we can all relate. Parks are an intentional way to protect areas as preserves for nature to take its course and be enjoyed by future generations. We concentrate the human impact to a few roads, trails and designated campsites so that nature can continue to thrive, provide, inspire and teach.
“It’s impossible to be people of the Spirit while disconnected from nature – the creation – where the Spirit’s wildness can be learned.” – Jonathan Martin
Nature provides us with everything from the food we eat to the cures of countless diseases. It inspires our art, from Michelangelo’s David to the innumerable paintings of beautiful landscapes. It inspires our imagination, our music, our literature, even our inventions – “How do we make a machine that can do something nature does incredibly well already” was the starting point of some of our greatest achievements. Nature also teaches us – about our world, about ourselves, about our God.
Everyone can agree with these statements:
- We rely on nature – for food, medicine, inspiration, beauty, learning.
- Nature is uniquely beautiful, a beauty we can all recognize but no one can re-create.
- Nature is a gift, we had no role in making it and can’t replace it when it’s lost.
- Nature can’t save itself when faced with targeted destruction; it needs help.
- Humans as a species have be uniquely destructive in our history.
What I find most intriguing, is that as soon as you formulate an obvious conclusion that all five of those points lead to – “Human have an obligation to preserve and protect nature” – Christians start to balk. I can give you a million example in the news just this past year – from an indifference to recycling, composting, gardening, local conservation efforts to larger concerns like protecting endangered species, preserving rain forests, and managing 7 billion humans’ waste from landfills to gas emissions. That’s not even to mention the ridiculously adverse and uneducated reaction so many Christians have to the largest crises of our time, from the plight of whales to oil spills, climate change to the devastation of species critical to our food supply such as honey bees.
If you don’t believe our world is in crisis environmentally, I propose you are turning your eyes from the evidence, research and news all around you. Christians not only have their head in the sand about the issues – they doggedly refuse to advance research on issues they deem questionable. You never find a Christian saying, “I’m not sure about global warming, we need to finance more research before we commit to wide-sweeping precautions and corrective measures.” You do often find Christians saying, “Global warming? You are so dumb, that’s not happening. It snowed this year.” Christians are not only one of the largest groups in history to oppose caring for creation (whether by legislation, funding or personal involvement), they’re also often completely close-minded about supporting ongoing research of creation.
Barbara Rossing proposes one reason in her book, “The Rapture Exposed.” Christians often have the mindset that “The world’s going to burn in the end, God’s going to magically take us away and leave the bad people to fry and then God’ll make us a new world.” They then naturally arrive at the conclusion “I don’t need to worry about saving anything in this world.” The problem? This whole concept (called “evacuation theology” for you Bible study nerds) is a flawed interpretation of Scripture. (That’s the nice way of saying it isn’t true.) Scripture time and time again extols the virtues of nature, invites us to preserve and protect, and informs us that God is coming back to redeem this Earth. Our job is to make sure it’s fit for his arrival, not to screw it up through blatant disregard, neglect and abuse.
I definitely didn’t mean for this post to go so long – so I’ll leave off here with three suggestions. 1) Don’t be closed minded – be willing to look at the evidence of how humans negatively affect our world. Humanity has been deemed the next great extinction For more, read here. 2) Consider what you can do in your own life to help the nature around you. Garden. Recycle. Volunteer. Learn. Educate others. 3) Consider picking up a copy of “The Rapture Exposed” by Barbara Rossing. She is a professor of New Testament, the book is a great Bible study on the book of Revelation, but also addresses pressing issues of today, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and environmentalism. It is worth your time and will open your eyes!
(All pictures taken by author at Zoo Knoxville. Pictured below: Author with Bucky the Barn Owl.)