Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Stewardship as Sacred Task
For too long it has seemed that the preoccupation with end times has obviated any need for a focus on the environment for many of the most vocal Christians. There's been a tendency for the Christian Right to flog the "behold, I give you dominion over every living thing" clause in Genesis to imply God's permission to use (and abuse) the earth in any way one pleases. It's that old SUV sense of entitlement.
With an increasing number of Christians, cleaner air, water, and skies are becoming a greater priority. Suddenly, they want the Polluter in Chief to advocate for a reversal of the present trend. I'm sure he'll make some empty gesture to pacify the base. (It'll be abandoned, of course, when no one is looking.)
Still, the tension between God's pretty blue planet and its ultimate Biblical undoing is interesting. It's too bad that Genesis didn't anticipate the Neanderthal reponse of its readers and put an addendum, in Biblical terms, not to fuck it up. No less than Ronald Reagan's devout Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, declined the challenge of stewardship for the environment, because "there was so little time left." Reagan's similarly apocalyptic view may have conttributed to his "you see one redwood, you've seen 'em all" sense of the natural world.
Theologian Kenneth Cracknell says that the idea of stewardship is built into the idea of humans made in God's image. Since God creates and cares for his creation, so must his human offspring. Stewardship is part of the essential task of being human. Kenneth, who reads scriptures in their original languages, says that replenish is a part of the divine injunction. "That means," says Cracknell, "You cut down a tree, you plant a tree. You use the rain forest, you replace it."May the Christian Right and the rest of us find some common ground in the health of the environment. For 2000 years faithful Christians have been waiting for the return of Jesus and the end of the world. There have been some interesting, even hilarious, false alarms.
In the meantime, we're all in this together.
Talk about knee jerk!