Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Looking good…

Last month, I drove to St. Paul in order to pick up a form for church, which gave me time in the car during the middle of the day to listen to public radio. Lo and behold, they had a scientist on discussing a favorite topic: climate science, global warming and Christian responsibility.

Quick disclaimer: As y’all likely know, I’m one of those greenie worrywarts who consider global warming a civilizational threat. I respect many who feel different, who may treat claims of human-caused climate change with skepticism. To my mind, however, the case has been made, and it’s a serious, urgent issue. Thus, if your perspective differs from mine, you have permission to stop reading!

Still around? Great! I wanted to share a religious comment this scientist made. But before you get all “science v. religion” defensive, he confessed to active membership in his local Methodist church! Anyway, he also described traveling the country to speak about humanity’s potential responses to global warming. During which, he said, several negative reactions took on theological tones.

Now, usually I find Biblical theology a wonderful help in this conversation. After all, the Good Book’s first few chapters describe our initial calling as God’s favored creations to be one of stewardship for and respect of earth’s delicate balance. Often, this Biblical perspective helps bridge gaps between climate change skeptics and proponents. Whatever your belief, the argument goes, we are called to care for Creation. So let’s work together, plant some trees and love God!

But there are other doctrines in Scripture, and a certain famous one seems problematic. Namely, the ancient conviction that the earth’s days will end when Jesus returns again. Riding a white horse. Pulling a gleaming sword from his throat (wild stuff!!). The Parousia, or Second Coming, this notion is known as. And for many devout Christians, it throws a monkey wrench in environmentalism.

That’s what this scientist encountered, at least. You can understand why. Folk would ask, “You’re a person of faith. So why care about this issue? When Jesus returns, the world will end. We’ll go to Heaven. That’s that.” However crude that sounds, it convinces many serious Christians. God is sovereign, they say. God’s will be done, they pray. Why worry so about something as amorphous as the atmosphere, as uncontrollable as the weather? Just go to church, help the poor, let God be God, right? It’s a powerful idea, even I think, me who loves me some tree-hugging. Either you deny the veracity of the Second Coming (which I might be willing to tolerate…just sayin’), or you exercise God-given dominion over the earth and stop worrying.

But this guy had a third option to that puzzle that I’d never heard before; one I found (w)holy convincing, commonsensical and thus wanted to share with you.

In response to the supposition that Jesus’ Second Coming absolves us from global warming (or any environmental) responsibility, he asked listeners to imagine Christ returning before their eyes. Then, he asked, “Would you really want to say to Jesus, when he comes again into your presence, ‘We knew you were coming, Lord. So we trashed the place!’”

Well, no. I wouldn’t want to say that! Sounds lame, when you put it that way. Thus, in my mind, are the Good Book’s beginning and ending now resolved. God created us to co-create with God, to help tend Creation’s balance. Therefore, even in the event Jesus returns to end history and stop global warming by divine fiat, the responsible response wouldn’t be, “While you were gone, I gutted your home.” It’s rather, “Look how lovely we kept the joint. We even worked on improvements!”

However you think about the issue, I’d be curious to know your feedback to this scientist’s statement. And to the fact that, Second Coming or not, there’s another Biblical doctrine that matters here too. Christ declared at his Ascension, “I will be with you always.” To watch over us, forgive us, unite us. Inspire us; perhaps even to do the impossible- to care for Creation as the Creator would too.

Grace and Peace,
Read more!