What exactly is “creation care?”
Simply put, creation care highlights our responsibility to serve and care for all that God has created – people and place. Immediately after creating Adam, God placed humankind in charge of the earth as stewards (Gen. 1:28-30). Everything still belongs to God (Psalm 24:1-2), but we now have a responsibility. As Christians, it is our desire to honor God by employing good stewardship of the natural resources he has given us to use, by respecting the beauty and uniqueness of the world he has created, and by making wise decisions about how our environmental impact affects our neighbors, both locally and globally. At its core, creation care is a spiritual issue that directly relates to our views on consumption, materialism, stewardship, thankfulness, simplicity, and love for our neighbor. Taking care of creation is our response to the awesome God who created it.
How is creation care different from “environmentalism?”
There is a significant difference in the reasons why we as Christians should take responsibility for our impact on the world compared to others who also are concerned about the environment. While environmentalists often are motivated by valid and commendable goals (such as eliminating pollution, reducing wastefulness, decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels, and changing our practices so that they do not harm developing countries and peoples), they overlook the fundamental relationship between the environment and it’s Creator. Creation care emphasizes this essential relationship by viewing environmental responsibility as part of our worshipful response to God and the complete stewardship of everything entrusted to us by God. Creation care is not only concerned with environmental sustainability, but also with how our lifestyle and environmental impact affect both our relationship with God and with those around us. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love your neighbor. Creation care means loving God by responsibly living in the world he has created, and loving our neighbor by refusing to negatively impact his or her natural environment, health, and quality of life.
Both creation care and environmentalism take seriously the dynamic relationship between humankind and the environment, believing that our choices and actions have an important impact upon the natural world. Opportunities for cooperation and witness exist as we both focus on adopting more sustainable lifestyles, cleaning up the environment, reducing consumption, and utilizing business practices that will have favorable impacts on the less privileged around the world. The differences between us may be less in the goals we work toward and the means by which we pursue them, but more in the fundamental values and ultimate reason that motivates us – God’s love for us and all Creation and our response to this truth.
Does creation care mean worshipping nature?
Absolutely not. Creation care entails worshipping our Creator by respecting and being good stewards of that which he has created. Those who worship nature are wrong in their devotion. Nature points to God (Romans 1:20), but it is not God. Only our Creator is worthy of worship.
Don’t we have plenty of other important issues to deal with, such as poverty, hunger, terrorism, and sanctity of life issues? Why should we focus so much effort on the environment?
All these issues are important. In fact, each one represents a different aspect of what it means to value life from conception to death for those who live in affluent societies in a globalized world. It is a misconception that giving attention to environmental concerns distracts us from other important issues, such as those listed above. It’s absolutely true that concern for nature should not trump concern for people. However, the reality is that issues of environmental sustainability and Christian care for others are inextricably linked together. Our addiction to oil results in large amounts of money being sent to unstable governments in the Middle East that are known to sponsor terrorism. Our enormous demand for energy results in coal plants that ruin the drinking water (not to mention the health) of rural West Virginians. Deforestation in the Amazon, due to increased demand for cheap meat, contributes to more desertification in poverty stricken West Africa. Purchasing cheap goods at large mega-stores sends money to sweatshops in East Asia where working conditions are intolerable. The list goes on and on.
It’s not an issue of prioritizing the environment over individuals. Rather, it is an issue of recognizing that our interaction with the natural world results not only in environmental consequences, but in humanitarian costs as well.
Where does the Bible talk about caring for creation?
There are countless verses pointing toward our responsibility to care for the natural world, God’s concern for what he has created, and the worship that creation naturally ascribes to God by its very existence. For a larger listing of verses, visit Blessed Earth's list at http://www.blessedearth.org/resources/creation-care-scripture/. Here’s a partial listing of a few key verses:
- Genesis 1:28 – 30
- Genesis 9:8 – 17
- Deuteronomy 10:14
- Psalm 19:1 – 4
- Psalm 65: 9 – 13
- Psalm 104
- Nehemiah 9:6
- Micah 6:1 – 4, 7 – 8
- Romans 1:20
- Romans 8:19 – 23
- Philippians 2:4 – 8
- Colossians 1:16
A lot of people talk about “sustainability.” What does sustainability mean in relation to the environment?
Simply put, sustainability means living within our means. Environmental sustainability refers to living in such a way as to have a minimal long term impact upon the environment. For example, consuming fossil fuels at a faster rate than the world produces them (which is extraordinarily slow) is not a sustainable practice because it simply cannot be maintained over a long period of time. A consumer cannot endlessly borrow more money than he makes in order to finance his high spending lifestyle. Likewise, humankind cannot endlessly consume more natural resources than we have without getting into serious trouble.
What does “Fair Trade” mean? And why should it matter to me?
What many people do not realize is that the cheap coffee, tea, and chocolate we buy in the store (in addition to many other products) often comes at the expense of a decent livelihood for poor farmers around the world. Farmers are frequently forced by large multinational corporations to sell their products at exorbitantly low prices. Needing a middleman to get their products to market in the United States and other developed countries, the farmers have no choice but to comply. The result is that the vast majority of profit from the sales of these products goes to the wealthy middlemen, while the farmers receive barely enough to feed their families, provide education for their children, or meet their families healthcare needs.
Fair Trade products seek to correct this inequity by guaranteeing a decent minimum wage to farmers. By purchasing Fair Trade certified products, consumers can help to ensure that poor farmers receive a reasonable amount of money to live on. In addition, Fair Trade products are generally grown using more sustainable farming techniques, minimizing their environmental impact. What may cost you a few cents more in the store will result in a great difference in the life of farmers all over the developing world. You could say that this is a way to tithe with your financial resources through your everyday purchases by intentionally ensuring that your money is spent in a manner that more directly reaches those who have far less than ourselves.
What about global warming?
There are various scientific perspectives on the nature of the complex relationship between humans and the earth’s atmosphere and climate. Whether human activity contributes toward global climate change or not, our responsibility as Christians to care for God’s creation remains the same. Regardless of what is occurring or will occur, we are still stewards of God’s creation. It is still our responsibility to care for the earth, to honor God in how we utilize the resources he has blessed us with, and to show compassion, justice, and wisdom in how we impact the environment of those around us. Our role as caretakers is based not on global climate change, but on our identity in Christ and as followers of Jesus.