No Easter Faith Without Environmentalism

148988401_f6e24347a2.jpgA handful of major religious institutions have made environmental statements recently. The Vatican added pollution to the list of the new seven deadly sins. Southern Baptists compare destroying the planet to tearing pages out of the Bible. Mormons are reminding followers that their original founders were early environmentalists.

In light of these statements, Easter celebrators might want to reflect on how the story of Easter relates to the environment.

Theologian Herman-Emiel Mertens writes,

“Those who do not understand the link between the Easter message and ecological problems, do not understand anything of either. Environmentalism in itself is of course no utterance of Easter faith. Many non-Christians are concerned about this. That is only right and proper. A monopolizing of these earthly cares by Christians is out of the question. There is environmentalism without Easter faith, but no Easter faith without environmentalism.” (Not the Cross, but the Crucified, 207)

Easter is, at its core, a very deep holiday about overcoming violence brought on by institutional structures. That is the power of Christ’s resurrection. The holiday is a display of active hope. It’s the enjoyment of a spring afternoon with family and friends in anticipation of a springlike renewal for the environment. Active hope is celebration that motivates creative action for a peaceful future.

What I like about Green Options Media is that every article written is a display of active hope. What we are seeing in the blogosphere is a celebration of creativity in the face of a challenging situation.

Photo credit: Flickr

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  • Crosius

    “Easter is, at its core, a very deep holiday about overcoming violence brought on by institutional structures. That is the power of Christ’s resurrection.”

    Easter is one holiday that sets my teeth on edge.

    Easter is, at it’s core, a lesson about the vile idea of transferrable sin. It teaches the faithful that the only path to salvation is waiting for a deity-figure to swoop down and fix things by miraculous processes they cannot hope to duplicate. It tells us we are helpless and hopeless without the intervention of magic.

    Deep story? It’s a horrible lesson combining the two obscenities of discouraging human endeavour and implying that causing one being to suffer for the wrongs of another is a legitimate way to “balance the books.”

    For a blog about environmental issues to give this horrible belief system any credibility is disheartening.

    The Human species has to leave this concept of absolution by supernatural fiat behind. We need to forget the idea that we can repent and be forgiven for our actions without actually _fixing_ what we’ve broken, and we definitely have to forget about the idea of some all-powerful father-figure sweeping in and lifting us to safety if we screw things up badly enough.

  • Chad Crawford

    No fan of substitutionary atonement? But scapegoating is so much easier than fixing what we’ve broken!

    A lot of devoted Christians are just as uncomfortable as you are about this prevailing theory. But the Easter story is deep because there are many other understandings of its significance.

    You’ll find that I’ve made no references to scapegoating or the idea that environmental destruction can be fixed by waiting for a deity to swoop down and bail us out.

    On the other hand, I did say Easter hope inspires creative action. I think this is in line with what you mean by actually fixing what we’ve broken. I think that’s a belief system worth giving credibility to.

  • Christy

    I happen to disagree with this statement

    Easter is, at its core, a very deep holiday about overcoming violence brought on by institutional structures. That is the power of Christ’s resurrection. The holiday is a display of active hope.
    ______________________________
    but I do happen to agree with this comment

    It’s a horrible lesson combining the two obscenities of discouraging human endeavour and implying that causing one being to suffer for the wrongs of another is a legitimate way to “balance the books.”
    ___________________________________________
    Christianity is the furthest it can be from being Christ-like when it revels in and holds up the crucifix as the symbol of redemption. The power of change and the message of hope for me comes from the the belief that each person holds within him or herself the ability to make this world a better place. I am the change that can make a difference, as are each of you.

  • Chad Crawford

    @Christy: I share your hope that each person holds within himself or herself the ability to make this world a better place. That’s really what I was trying to highlight with the idea of a hope that is active in the world through all of our creative efforts.

    Since Christian leaders are making an effort to search for elements within the tradition that might inspire followers to be more green, this article was an attempt to explore a couple of possibilities in the Easter story.

    This work from Mertons challenges and broadens the lesson of Easter, saying that we cannot celebrate the holiday without keeping in mind the suffering of the Earth from human hands and endeavoring to heal the injuries we’ve created.

  • “we cannot celebrate the holiday {Easter} without keeping in mind the suffering of the Earth from human hands and endeavoring to heal the injuries we’ve created.”

    So, the Earth is now a sentient being in and of itself? It feels pain and seeks healing. Chad, it sounds like you’ve jumped right out of Christianity into full-blown pantheism; better known today as Giaism.

    Regarding all the other comments equating repentance to repairing Mother Earth, does not God refer to the world as His footstool in The Bible? Hardly a title of distinction. Does God also not say that heaven and earth will pass away, but His word is eternal? Sorry guys, but this so-called alliance between Christianity and the green movement is counter-intuitive. However, it will likely be a successful distraction to keep the christians-in-name-only from fulfilling the commission. The greens want the Christians to deny the significance of the cross, and the Christians want the greens to deny one of its major sacraments. Here’s a quote from the Southern Baptist’s Creation Care website that might be hard for some to swallow:

    “For instance, we realize that what some call population control leads to evils like abortion. We now call on these environmentalists to reject these evils and accept the sanctity of every human person, both born and unborn.”

    Are you really ready to call abortion “evil”? Are you really ready to place human life at the top of the pyramid? Are you really ready to distance yourselves from the likes of Ingrid Newkirk of PETA who declared “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy”?

    I have my doubts.

  • Chad, on Easter I was randomly chatting with a friend who had also read your post and really liked it. I appreciate how you get at the meaning of the regeneration event in ways that make it real for 21st century Christians, and others, who hope for transformation.

    It’s troubling to see folks like Bobby B. harp on an extreme conspiracy theory so out of the mainstream that even Southern Baptist leaders disavowed it. It is telling that Land, who played a role in that aforementioned pop. control fear mongering, recently signed on to a petition funded by oil companies.

    http://blog.faithinpubliclife.org/2008/03/perkins_land_global_warming_is.html

    In the passion narrative, better to side with the regeneration believers, than those who trade their religious connections for a sack of silver.

  • Where is regeneration supported in the abortion mills?

  • Chad Crawford

    @Bobby: Is St. Paul also guilty of what you call Gaiaism?

    “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”

    Population control
    . I know invoking Al Gore’s name won’t win you over, but I want to bring him into this because he’s a Baptist (he even spent some time in seminary). And he has some sensible approaches to the population problem.

    Gore says that population is one of the causes of climate change, but not one of the policy solutions.

    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/11/2/02730/4991

  • Bobby B. I appreciate your moral sensitivity, but something tells me that short sentences on a blog won’t bridge the 30-some years of American abortion misunderstanding.

    On this site, the only mills I’ll be discussing are for trees.

  • “Gore says that population is one of the causes of climate change”

    Disease, famine, pestilence, and death generally follow when a species’ population truly goes out of control. Will not the same happen to mankind when overpopulation becomes reality, as opposed to an environmentalist talking point? You talk about the planet suffering from our sins, but sometimes it seems as though you are more concerned about the fate of man as opposed to the fate of the planet. If Mother Earth is god, will she not take out her wrath on the human invaders in her own time?

    “30-some years of American abortion misunderstanding”

    There really is not much to misunderstand. The legality came to be via some slick marketing and the endless repeating of inflated back-alley death counts. Do a little digging about the origins of NARAL, Margaret Sanger, and a few of the other abortion apologists. Read some of Mychal Massie’s work regarding who is specifically targeted by Planned Parenthood. There’s some crazy stuff going on behind the facade of helping the helpless out of a bad situation. However, the whole point of mentioning the abortion issue is that even the green evangelicals recognize the relationship that exists between the predominately left-leaning green movement and those that support legalized abortion. It is and should be an obstacle to forming a green alliance.

    BTW, I would recommend touring a major saw mill (or a paper mill) and gaining some understanding of forestry before discussing them. The technology and business practices of modern wood products production are fascinating.

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  • Flu-Bird

    The worship of false idols and deities are forbbiden by the ten comadments