Sunday, May 29, 2005

Caring for the planet

Rarely, if ever do you find a so-called evangelical Xians straying from the ideology of the party of God, the Republicans. Despite obvious problems marrying the application of scripture to the Neo-Conservative juggernaut of the Bush administration, being a “good” Xian and being a loyal Republican are usually seen as one and the same for those on the right side of the religious spectrum—just ask James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Chuck Colson.

Interestingly, I saw a story on New England Cable News last weekend while at my hotel on the Cape, about students and faculty at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who were protesting the appearance of George Bush at their commencement. The fact that a group that self-identifies as evangelical, daring to voice an opinion contrary to the Fuhrer made me sit up and take notice, if only because it so goes against the grain of much of American evangelicalism.

This morning, in my local Sunday paper, there is an article about the events at Calvin College, written by Paul Nussbaum. Nussbaum’s article, carried by Knight Ridder, is titled, Preaching the gospel of green (No, it isn't about a naked embrace of capitalism). The general premise of the piece is about a growing evangelical movement in places like Calvin College and other places, concerned about protecting the environment and using scripture as its motivation.

During my waning days of involvement with any formal affiliation with Xianity, I found it particularly difficult to find any writing or other commentary coming from the evangelical community that gave any credence to being good stewards of the earth. Other than a tiny book written by a Reformed theologian named Francis Schaeffer, known more for his pro-life advocacy of his latter years than anything else, there was little or nothing coming from any leaders of the evangelical community that varied from the “pave it over” mindset driving much of our national debate on the environment. Schaeffer’s book, Pollution and the Death of Man: A Christian View of Ecology, must have caused considerable ripples in conservative theological circles when it was released originally in 1972. From the book comes the following passage, showing Schaeffer’s divergence from much of what passes for stewardship then and most certainly today; “...the hippies of the 1960s did understand something. They were right in fighting the plastic culture, and the church should have been fighting it too... More than this, they were right in the fact that the plastic culture - modern man, the mechanistic worldview in university textbooks and in practice, the total threat of the machine, the establishment technology, the bourgeois upper middle class - is poor in its sensitivity to nature... As a utopian group, the counterculture understands something very real, both as to the culture as a culture, but also as to the poverty of modern man's concept of nature and the way the machine is eating up nature on every side.”

According to Nussbaum’s article, some evangelicals are seeking to find common ground with members of other faiths in the formation of a “Noah’s Alliance”. This grouping would seek to protect endangered species. According to their draft statement being circulated among Xian and Jewish scientists, “Ours is a time for a concert of religious voices to proclaim our privilege and responsibility for not allowing the great lineages of God’s living creatures to be broken.”

While my thinking and worldview tends more towards a postmodern approach, relying less on the spiritual realm and more on my own wits and intellect, I applaud any group that seeks to embrace a philosophy of concern and care for the earth and its diversity of species. This religious concern for the earth isn’t a new one, as Native spirituality, as well as many pagan groups such as Wiccans have long embraced an approach the values the planet and doesn’t place profit above stewardship.

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