Care for the earth is a central concern for me. I believe that climate change may prove to be one of the greatest challenges that humanity has ever faced. I feel deeply convicted about humanity’s role in exploiting and abusing God’s creatures. The magnitude of the ecological crisis causes me to reflect on what my Christian faith really means in the face of such terrible challenge.
Jesus is at the center of how I think about our relationship with the earth. His faithful life, death, and resurrection open up a way for me to have reconciliation with the whole of creation – the rocks, the trees, the rivers, the soil. Despite millennia of hostility between human beings and the rest of the natural order, Jesus makes peace through the blood of his cross. In him, there is power to overcome even the threat of climate change as we are reconciled to one another and our planet.
Though Jesus is central to my own understanding of environmental justice, I’ve noticed that oftentimes my fellow Christians shy away from putting Jesus at the heart of our ecological witness. We refer back a lot to the creation stories in Genesis; we sing about finding God in the created order. The ecologically-minded church leans heavily on the primordial Creator God who said let there be light. But we hear less about the Redeemer God, whom we know in Jesus, brings about the Creator’s intention for a renewed humanity in a restored heavens and earth.
The absence of Jesus in much of our ecological reflection plays into the existing theological and cultural divides that already exist within the church. The Evangelical wing embraces a theology centered in Jesus and his atonement, almost to the exclusion of the mysterious Spirit of God who hovers over the waters. This tendency within the church shies away from talking about ecological concerns for fear of veering off into paganism and earth-worship. Such mystery is dangerous.
Meanwhile, mainline Christians are becoming increasingly comfortable with talking about the ecological grounding of our faith, yet we often eschew direct talk of Jesus Christ and his cross. The absence of Jesus from our ecotheology only serves to reinforce the Evangelical suspicion that environmental concern leads to idolatry and new age ideas.
But we don’t have to be so divided. Jesus is fully human. He’s rooted in our struggle for wholeness and the redemption of the whole created order. In his body, the curse of ecological degradation is finally reversed. He invites us back into the Garden.
I long to see a robust theology that draws on the wholeness of who God is – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – as we consider the enormous ecological challenges that we face in the coming decades. If the we are to be faithful in this time of great darkness and despair, we must understand how the person of Jesus Christ – along with God Creator and the Holy Spirit – is alive and at work in mending the broken mess that we’ve made of God’s creation.
How are you and your community wrestling with these questions? Is the ecological crisis on your radar screen? How are we as Christians called to enact our faith in the God who created the world that we are desecrating?
And what about Jesus? How are his life, death, and resurrection relevant to you in this struggle? How does his gospel direct our response the rising tide that threatens all life as we know it?