I would say that I’m pretty environmentally friendly. I buy Fairtrade chocolate, turn the heating down in my room, and when I go home in the holidays, my family always complain I make them be a lot stricter about the recycling – which I sort of take as a compliment. But the event on Friday, The Environment: The Church’s Concern? made me realise that while I tell people I’m veggie because damaging creation goes against what God wants, I don’t really understand what God’s plan for creation actually is.
In terms of tackling big problems, I’m the sort of person that likes clear stats and action points. I took a lot of notes at the event, quite a lot of them about awful facts like: climate change could drive 122 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. What I find harder is taking the time to think in detail about what the Bible says about it, I guess partly because I think I already know the answer: God is against social injustice, so we should work towards justice.
That’s not untrue – but even people who like to be busy will get drained and tired in their campaign for justice at some point. Shocking stats might prod you into action, but they can’t give you sustained motivation to tackle a problem – whereas an understanding of God’s heart for the issue can.
During the Bible study, we talked about God’s love for his creation – he crafted the world and called it ‘very good’, and he loves to provide for it:
He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate.
Creation is not separate from us – we are a part of it, as mentioned in verse 14. As Jack Wakefield pointed out in his talk, the people and the land are mentioned together throughout the Old Testament. When the people are obedient to God and flourish, the land flourishes. So looking after the environment is not separate to the rest of our faith and worship of God – it’s a key part of it.
One passage that particularly stood out to my discussion group was from Job:
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; or let the fish in the sea inform you.
It’s important that our attitude to creation and to justice isn’t just one-way, consisting of us imposing what we think is a good solution. Instead, we need a detailed knowledge (which goes beyond simple stats) of the thing that is suffering – we need to listen. And in looking to creation, we also catch a glimpse of God, because as the Bible so often tells us, His works show us what He is like.
Just as the new creation will restore the relationships between God, his people and his creation (2 Corinthians 5), our attitude to climate justice should be informed by a holistic approach. The climate is never an issue in its own separate box – it affects people, relationships and other injustice issues such hunger and poverty. Because of that, we’re not going to get far under our own steam, without making sure our efforts to be greener are not just a tick-box self-congratulation exercise, but part of our love for and worship of God.
Witten by Harriette Drew
If Harriet’s blog has you inspired then below are some of the stats, facts and resources shared at The Environment: The Church’s Concern?
- Last year, Tear Fund commissioned some research on the things that are preventing further development in Uganda.A shocking discovery was that in every village the vast majority of people asked said that the environment in recent years was the biggest thing preventing further progress. In one village, literally everyone said it.Here’s a quote from one of the people interviewed:
“One main thing which was important was floods that destroyed crops in 2012 to 2013. Then in the years following, we have experienced drought and it is hard to tell when rains will come back. This has resulted in famine in households. ….You grow crops but at the end they dry up and you get no yields.”
And it’s not just Uganda: in the last few months, hunger around the world has begun to increase – the first time in over a decade.
The earth’s life support systems are now being stretched to breaking point.
Worldwide, more than a billion people live in water basins where human water use exceeds sustainable limits, and millions more are subject to increasingly erratic rainfall as climate change gathers pace.
- Did you know the land is mentioned over 2000 times in the Bible? It’s the central theme to everything that comes between the fall and Jesus’ birth. The promised land, the land of milk and honey, the land of Israel, the vineyards, the tree by streams of living water . . .
- Want to do something? Try shopping seasonally, reducing waste and cutting down on plastic use!
- Seasonal eating:
- Reducing waste:
- Lush do naked soaps and have a return scheme for their pots
- For women, consider making your period zero waste!
- At the East Oxford’s Farmer’s Market, the bulk store Sesi lets you fill up your own Tupperware with rice, sugar, flour, pasta and so so much more . . .
- You can get reusable bags for when you buy veg at the supermarket