Monday, April 19, 2010

Christians and Earth Day

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Earth Day is on April 22.  For many of us, it a chance to educate our children about being good stewards of what God has provided to us through nature.  We might pick up trash on the beach or plant flowers and trees.  But I also know there are other views out there.  While attending Humboldt State University Earth Day was a huge ordeal with all kinds of drum circles and speeches and general "good vibes."  I have never really celebrated Earth Day and so I wanted to see what its origins were and how Christians should respond to it.  Here is what I discovered.

Earth Day was started in 1969 by a peace activist by the name of John McConnell.  As a young adult in 1939, McConnell was working in a plastics factory.  His experiences there helped him realize how much pollution happens from just one factory.  Before initiating Earth Day, McConnell was active in peace and awareness movements around the world.  His focus was often on providing food for hungry and peaceful communication and cooperation among nations in regards to space exploration and education.

In the fall of 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin gave a speech to a conservation group in Seattle.  His vision of Earth Day would be a nationwide teach-in on environmental issues.  Nelson was hoping that a grassroots effort would take hold and prevail on Washington D.C. to bring to light how the average American felt about environmental issues and thus affect change in policy.  Nelson's efforts paid off and Earth day "went global" in a short period of time.

However, lest you think all was rosy and with good intentions, let me share some quotes from the essays written for the sole purpose of distribution in support of Earth Day.  These were created with the encouragement and support of those who initially planned an observance of Earth Day back in 1969/70.  The following information was gathered from several different sites.  Each one is listed with the info I gathered there.

From the April 2009 issue of Forcing Change, the following quote was used to encourage leaders to promote Earth Day.  Does it sound anything like Al Gore and his global-warming fantasy?

Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, contributed a doomsday scenario to ignite impressionable minds: By 1973 air pollution would be choking cities, causing single-event smog disasters with death tolls in the hundreds of thousands – all heralding the advent of a global air quality collapse that would make the “planet uninhabitable” sometime before 1990. By the mid-seventies, the US grain belt would be turning into the great Mid-western desert, wiping out food stocks. During this time period, Ehrlich speculated, America’s resource sector would be collapsing and a national “family planning” program would have to be set up alongside an international agenda to curb the human population. By the summer of 1979, the world’s oceans would be dead and all sea-based animal life extinct.13

When it comes to Earth Day and religion, the teaching materials in Forcing Change were radically non-Christian/Judeo based.

“Christianity, in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asia’s religions…not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.

"At the level of the common people this worked out in an interesting way. In antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men… Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.” [p.20-21, Lynn White Jr.].
“No new set of basic values has been accepted in our society to displace those of Christianity. Hence we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.” [p.25, Lynn White Jr.].

"Wilderness is a bench mark, a touchstone…New perspectives come out of the wilderness. Jesus, Zoroaster, Moses, and Mohammed went to the wilderness and came back with messages…This handbook, and the teach-in it serves, have their beginnings in wilderness.” [p. 148, Kenneth Brower].
There is worship that should be celebrated however(according to Earth Day proponents), the worship of Gaia-Mother Earth.  And, according to these proponents, we should not be angering "our mother."  The Dalai Lama said
“Until now…Mother Earth has somehow tolerated sloppy house habits. But now human use, population, and technology have reached that certain stage where Mother Earth no longer accepts our presence with silence. In many ways she is now telling us, ‘My children are behaving badly.’ She is warning us that there are limits to our actions…”
From the website of the American Policy Center I found the following quote.
One of the prime spokesmen for the Gaia earth religion is Father Thomas Berry, a dissident Catholic priest and a leader of the Temple of Understanding, located in New York City. Father Berry contends that Christianity promotes "deep cultural pathology of human greed and addiction." He advocates that the earth is disintegrating and that Christianity is mostly to blame.

Father Berry believes that we are now entering an era of "earth consciousness" and he heralds a new era he calls the "Ecozoic Age" that will transcend God. Father Berry suggests that we will have to remove the idea that only humans are created in the likeness of God

So am I saying that as Christians we should just go about the business of living and not care a hoot about pollution and the condition of natural resources?  Definitely not!  God expects us to be good stewards of all that He provides for us.  This includes our family, our money, our time, and our earth.  But the earth was created by an all-powerful God for use by His ultimate creation, man.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

Genesis 1:28-30 (KJV)

The Bible also provides very clear and precise instructions when it comes to who and what should be worshiped.

"You shall have no other gods before  me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments."
Exodus 20:3-6 (NIV)

So what should Christians do about Earth Day?  If your child's class or school is having an Earth Day celebration (which most do), make sure your child understands that we don't worship the earth but we do take care of what God has given us.  This is a lesson that can be taught at anytime.  I see no reason we can't take part in keeping our earth healthy by recycling, shopping responsibly, planting flowers and trees when possible, and following the laws of our government in relation to pollution, etc.  But these are things I strive to do all the time anyway.  I don't need a special day to tell me to do these things.  And I certainly won't be saying a prayer for Gaia, or beating a drum, or having a party to celebrate earth's gifts to me.  God has given me all that I have and I give Him the glory for the gifts He has given me. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 (NIV)


  1. Such a good way to look at it! I've heard a lot of Christians downplay Earth Day and say that it's not something we should celebrate...but we absolutely should take care of the world that God gave us!

  2. This was an awesome post. I think I'll be linking to this in a post later this week. Thank you for finding those quotes and pointing out how Christians should and can handle this day in a Christian perspective.

    You're right - this Earth was created by a magnificent God for His family. And I refuse to worship the creation - I choose to worship The Creator!

  3. great post, Cindi. And I agree with Kari as well


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