"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it." So goes the first line of Psalm 24. In Genesis 1:20-31, and 2:8-17, we see the role God intended for people to play in the stewardship of creation. God made people so they could rule over the earth and animals as well as take care of them. According to the writer of Genesis, the earth was made first, then plants, then fish, then birds, then wild animals, livestock, and creatures that move on the ground, and finally...humans. There seems to be a hierarchy to the way things were designed. And the top of the list is us. And to quote Uncle Ben (not the rice guy, but Peter Parker's uncle), "With great power comes great responsibility."
But what has happened in our culture, as we take great strides to take care of the environment, we have, at times, created some new problems. If you are driving your car and realize you are across the yellow line and are headed in the wrong lane towards oncoming traffic, you can gently ease your way back into your lane, or you can abruptly jerk the wheel causing your vehicle to roll over, or go careening across the road into the ditches, mailboxes, telephone poles, and trees which were not meant for driving. Unfortunately, we have done a lot of the latter when it comes to the environment. Here are some examples of what I mean.
Most of us agree that increased dependence in fossil fuels is bad. Offshore drilling platforms are unsightly and do a lot do disrupt the delicate balance of life in the world's oceans. But once they are built, not only does life survive around them, but it thrives. By attempting to remove offshore oil rigs, there is a danger of disturbing new ecosystems that have developed around these drilling platforms.
Another attempt to reduce our dependence on petroleum has been the move towards corn-based ethanol as an alternative fuel for vehicles. When government subsidies encouraged farmers of all kinds to start producing corn for ethanol it sent the food market into a tail spin. Corn that had previously been produced for feed purposes and human consumption was now being raised for ethanol production. Farmers who had been raising other crops were attempting to "cash in" on the ethanol corn market. The cost of corn-based feeds for livestock went up, causing prices to rise across the food industry. Another problem was that as more and more land in the Midwest was developed for ethanol corn production, it was being done in areas that had once been natural wildlife habitats. So attempting to help the environment, created a new problem.
Hybrid cars have been a very popular (pricy, but popular) attempt to reduce the impact that gasoline-powered cars have on the environment. However, the production of these vehicles requires the use of some very rare earth metals, many of which are only found in China. So as hybrid vehicle production increases, so does the mining and removal of these rare metals, creating another problem.
The good thing about all this is that we have become an environmentally aware society. While we don't have all the answers to reduce our impact on the environment, at least we are doing something. But I'm afraid in an effort to become good stewards of the earth, many of us (Christians included) have become earth worshippers. Rather than utilizing the earth and caring for it the way God intended, we have made a diety out of "Mother Earth". Some of us have vilified people for driving SUVs or building large houses (even acting out violently with criminal activity). At what point is acting out in violence good for any cause?
I consider myself to be an environmentalist. I absolutely love the outdoors. I love living in the country with my dirt driveway. I love seeing the birds and the squirrels and the occasional deer come through my yard. I don't mind so much when the feral hogs dig up the front yard, because I'd rather have that than live in a small city lot. I love being in the woods watching the sun come up and listening to the world come alive. I enjoy collecting the chicken droppings and putting it in my compost pile and eventually putting it on the watermelons and cantaloupes I planted a couple of weeks ago. I can't stand it when I go fishing and I see all of the trash people have left by the banks of rivers and lakes. I also hate paying nearly $3 a gallon for gas. The finiteness of earth's resources is a problem we should strive to fix. To think that many of our strides to help our situation have only created more problems is a sobering thought. And if humanity's efforts thus far have been somewhat futile, what are we supposed to do?
Earth Day is a good place to start. But how should we celebrate/observe this Earth Day? Why don't we start by giving thanks to the one who has created everything, both seen and unseen. Going back to Psalm 24, after stating that God made the world and everything in it and that he established it upon the waters, David writes, "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord or be found in his holy place?" His answer to his rhetorical question is that the one who may ascend the hill of the Lord is the one who has clean hands, a pure heart, and does not lift his soul to an idol.
Let us celebrate Earth Day, not by worshiping the Earth, but by worshiping the one who made the earth and giving praise to him. Let's not get caught up in knee-jerk environmentalism where we do things just because they seem like a good ideas. Let us truly seek God and ask him how he would have us take care of the world he has given us. Maybe we should start recycling more. Maybe we should start walking more and driving less. Maybe we should purchase more biodegradable materials. But as we do this, let it be a spiritual discipline as part of the responsibility God has placed on us to be good stewards of the earth, not as an act of worship to our sacred "Mother". Let us give praise to the Creator of all things.
"Oh, God let us be a generation that seeks...that seeks your face, Oh God of Jacob."