A divine (Earth) day to pause and reflect, WWJD?

April 22, 2011

Earth Day has been around 41 years. Good Friday has been around for about 2,000. But today is the first time they’ve ever converged, and it won’t happen again until 2095, when we’re all worm food. Most of us anyway.

So today seems like as good a time as any to ask, WWJD about the environment?

We don’t have to look far for evidence. The Bible – go ahead, I’ll wait while you dust yours off or find another book to prop up that broken leg on your night stand – says quite a lot about the environment, starting with Genesis where it says God made man a steward of the Earth.

In fact, The Good Book contains some of the earliest – and finest — examples of environmental writing in the Western tradition.

 Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.0rg and the author the first and perhaps best book about climate change, points out that the 38th and 39th chapters of the book of Job contain some of the most gorgeous environmental descriptions ever written. It start’s with God’s question to Job about who created the glories of the earth, and culminates in Chapter 39 as God continues the interrogation:

 Do you give the horse his strength, and endow his neck with splendor?  Do you make the steed to quiver while his thunderous snorting spreads terror? He jubilantly paws the plain and rushes in his might against the weapons. ..Is it by your discernment that the hawk soars, that he spreads his wings toward the south? Does the eagle fly up at your command to build his nest aloft? On the cliff he dwells and spends the night, on the spur of the cliff or the fortress. From thence he watches for his prey; his eyes behold it afar off…

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, odes to the glories of creation abound. Genesis, Isaiah, The Song of Solomon and the Psalms.

In fact, Psalm 104 echoes the language of the book of Job, only as praise instead of rebuke:

The trees of the LORD are well watered,
   the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
 There the birds make their nests;
   the stork has its home in the junipers.
 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
   the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
   and the sun knows when to go down.
 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
   and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
 The lions roar for their prey
  and seek their food from God.
  The sun rises, and they steal away;
   they return and lie down in their dens.

The New Testament as well gives us guidance:

Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Romans 1:19-20 – …since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

And Revelation 11:18 – The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great — and for destroying those who destroy the earth.

It’s pretty clear that God would not be happy with the way things are now. In fact, there’s  an old bumper sticker that said “Jesus is coming, and boy is he pissed,” which later became the lyrics to a country song, so you know it’s got to be true.

Witness:

  • An effort to extract oil from the tar sands in the stunningly beautiful boreal forest in Alberta, Canada, has resulted in a denuded toxic quagmire the size of England. And they want to do the same thing in Utah.
  • A year since BP’s ill-fated Macondo off-shore  well dumped nearly 5 million  gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, followed by  2 million gallons of chemical disbursing agents, we still can’t calculate the damage to fragile marine life, coral and delicate coastal marshlands, where tar balls are still washing up.
  • And in Japan, well, only God knows how that mess will wind up.

A few years ago, a controversial Anglican priest in the U.K. named Rev. Jonathan Hagger delivered a sermon on climate change and creation.

Unfortunately, it no longer appears on his highly entertaining and considerably irreverent blog, which is titled “Of Course I Could Be Wrong…,” but I did manage to save a portion of it:

“When God became human in Jesus Christ, God did not just take on the appearance of a human being, he took on the substance of a human being. The molecules that formed the body of Christ, were exactly the same, with nothing subtracted, as the molecules that form all our bodies. And these molecules can be found, in some form or another, in all animal life and plant life. In fact, they come from the very ground we stand on. They come from the very stars we would see in the night sky if we didn’t have such appalling light pollution in our city. They come from the beginnings of the universe. Therefore, just as we are part of everything, so was Jesus.

That is why we are told, that, at the moment God died on the cross, the whole of creation responded. The very fabric of our planet screamed out in pain and anguish because, it felt the crucifixion. Most human beings, alive at the time did not feel the crucifixion because in their arrogance they had cut themselves from creation. We still do not feel the crucifixion because we are still too arrogant. We do not feel the crucifixion of Christ and we do not feel the crucifixion of our planet. In our arrogance we believe Jesus died just for us. But Jesus is God incarnate in creation so he redeems all creation not just the miniscule little bit of creation that comprises of human beings.

God looked at everything he had made and he saw that everything was good. Everything pleased him.

It would be pleasing to God if we took more care of those things that please God. If we begin now to take proper care of the earth, to live in creation, not against creation, we just might, with the help of God, end up with a habitable planet to hand on to our children. But to achieve this we are first, like Saint Francis, going to have to learn to live in union with creation not at the expense of creation.”

I hope you’ll give that some thought this Earth Day. This Good Friday.

— John D’Anna

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2 Responses to “A divine (Earth) day to pause and reflect, WWJD?”


  1. Thank you for this timely and thoughtful perspective.


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