The Christian Call to Earth Stewardship

His eyes are on the sparrow and I know he watches me.

His eyes are on the sparrow and I know he watches me.

In the Biblical story of the Earth’s creation, we are told that God created it and all of its inhabitants, proclaiming each and every aspect of this creation to be “Good.” To my mind this would make God the ultimate biological systems engineer. Each and everything on the planet has a role, a niche to fill to keep the planet’s systems functioning well. LIFE! A profusion of life was God’s goal in creating this place we call Earth and humanity’s role on Earth was and IS to maintain that life and those systems masterminded by God to perpetuate it. It is my belief that Earth stewardship is an integral part of walking the Christian path because to take care of the Earth is to ensure we take care of our neighbors. In this modern, globalized age, every person on the planet is our neighbor and what we do to the least of these amongst us, we do to Him.

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The planet is literally in peril. Ancient forests are clear cut to make way for cattle ranches to supply burgers to fast food chains, entire mountaintops are removed to extract coal while irrevocably altering the ecology and watershed of the mountains, noxious chemicals are created in laboratories and then sprayed on much of the food grown in the world or on lawns, deforested areas, or even directly into water despite being toxic. The chemicals also destroy the soil and transform it from an ecosystem of billions of microscopic life forms that are part of a healthy soil ecosystem that can support thriving plant life into an inert, dead brown dirt. Hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) takes usable surface water and then pollutes it with numerous chemicals so it can be injected into the ground to remove deposits of natural gas. Water is the basis for ALL life. Without it we die and so does God’s good Earth. All of this rapacious industrialism is driven by global capitalism.

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By its actions, if not by its very definition, capitalism is a system based upon “the love of money”. 1 Timothy 6:10 is a familiar verse decrying the love of money as the “root of all evil”. The passage before it sheds further light. The writer, assumed to be Paul, says that with food and clothing we should be content (these things come of course from the Earth, or should) yet men strive to become rich and are tempted by foolish desires which plunge men to ruin. The foolish desires of multinational corporations to squeeze every penny they can through destroying the Earth by foul means and with toxic left overs is ruinous not only to themselves but to their global neighbors as well.

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What would Jesus’ response be to a system that destroyed the biosphere that God had created just to earn more money? I believe he would go turn over some more tables and chase more money lenders away. Water is from God. To destroy it as a means of making money is a sin that affects all the people of Earth, yet there is no cry out that I can hear. Instead many Christians worry about other people making personal choices that affect themselves and perhaps a few others. Politicians proclaiming to be Christians hem and haw about the sanctity of marriage or about being “pro-life” while enacting legislation that favors profit making, war mongering, and allows for the poisoning of people. “Woe to those who make unjust laws…” (Isaiah 1:10)

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The most basic, fundamental teaching of Jesus is the two fold commandment to, Love God with all one’s heart and to love our neighbor as one love’s one’s self (see Matthew 22:36-40). So simple, so direct, so often neglected, wittingly or unwittingly. It is neglected when we fail to stand up for the Earth because that is where our neighbors live. It matters not one jot whether that neighbor is black, brown, white, yellow, red, or pink with purple polka dots. It matters not at all whether that person is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sihk, Jain, atheist, pagan, or a motley hodge podge of all of the above. It matters not whether they are gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, asexual, or a sex worker. It most certainly doesn’t matter what country the person comes from. Jesus makes this abundantly clear through his teachings and associations. The parable of the Good Samaritan is illustrative of this point. To Jesus’ audience a Samaritan saving a Jew would have been like Bull Connor stopping to help a stricken Martin Luther King in 1950s Alabama and then paying his hospital bills. What matters to Jesus is that we love them rather than perpetuate things such as environmental degradation, modern slavery and sweatshops, harsh immigration, drug, or laws that unfairly target LGBTQ people and harm them.

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Everyone of us lives in a watershed. The water that falls as rain where ever one lives, flows into various rivers or streams and ultimately away from us. If Jesus were in our watershed would he stand idly by and allow the water to be poisoned by fracking, manufacturing, or chemical agriculture and then flow polluted somewhere else, for someone else to have to drink, harvest fish from or water crops with? Or would he point out that it was wrong and refuse to take part in perpetuating that evil act? Would he condemn farmers for having little faith in the provision of God when they used toxic chemicals like RoundUp and remind them of the ravens who “neither sow nor reap” (Luke 12:24)? Would he purchase products from companies (like Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer et al) that have knowingly poisoned human beings or polluted the Earth through the manufacture and use of its products? What would Jesus do in response to political leadership that continued to allow companies that pollute the Earth and poison our neighbors to flourish financially? Would he raid the halls of Congress (or parliament, the EU, etc) proclaiming them to be a den of vipers? What can we do in His name to steward the Earth?

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To live within the limits of the Earth is a huge part of the solution to halting the harm that has been done and continues to be done. This means fundamentally changing the way our economy works and whom it serves. Another is to use our knowledge of natural systems to regenerate and repair the Earth. One means of doings so is to use the art and science of Permaculture Design. Permaculturist design systems that mimic the Earth’s natural patterns to provide food, shelter, clothing, community interaction, and small scale economies that serve the needs of people and the biology that supports and sustains us. The design process can be used to design farms, gardens, household systems, communities, businesses, and entire towns or cities. It is informed by the ethics: Earth Care (Creation Care), People Care (Neighbor Care) and Future Care as well as design principles that enable designers to create systems that embody those ethics.
Much like following Jesus’ teachings, following those ethics creates a narrow path that can be difficult at the best of times to follow and sometimes seemingly impossible. Loving our neighbors is the ethic of People Care which cannot be done without Earth Care. When we see past ourselves and attempt to love our neighbors the choices made will look different than the choices of mainstream society. As we apply the permaculture principle of using “small, slow solutions” we choose to shop differently and eliminate products that pollute our bodies, the Earth, or whose use harms our neighbors. By eating organic, locally produced foods that are healthful to the body temple we also support practices that are at a minimum far less harmful to the Earth at worst and regenerative at best while also enabling right livelihood for farmers and farm workers. Additionally, it is important to teach others so that we can care for the Future, those of our children and our neighbor’s children whom will have to deal with these sins for seven generations.

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To steward the Earth and Love our neighbors we must live and lead by example as best we can. We must also take a stand against politicians and corporations that seek to profiteer from creating misery for others, from those who rob our neighbors and ourselves of clean air, clean water, and foist upon them poisoned foods. Permaculture teaches us to “observe and interact with nature” just as the Bible does in the book of Job where it says, “”But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you…” (Job 12:7-8). We can learn much of the nature of God from the nature of his Creation as it says in Romans 1:20, “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 people are without excuse.” Jesus knew this, as he spent his time fasting and praying in the desert prior to starting his ministry. We are called to do likewise. We are called to Earth Care, Neighbor Care, and Future Care.

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2 thoughts on “The Christian Call to Earth Stewardship

  1. Pingback: Episode 1548: The Greatest Commandment with Dillon Cruz (Faith and Earth Care) | The Permaculture Podcast

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