How can Christianity and Environmentalism be reconciled? From one perspective, it seems as though the two groups lie on opposite ends of a spectrum. Christianity places the highest priority on human life and exaltation. Environmentalism places the highest value on keeping the Earth in balance. Humans have a long and ugly tradition of mistreating their environment. I will attempt to argue that neither group is mutually exclusive, that to truly belong to one necessitates belonging to the other.
What does it mean to be a Christian? In the most fundamental of terms, Christians are followers of Christ’s teachings and example. Since there is wide debate on what religions fall into this category, let us focus on the teachings of Christ. Man was created from the earth. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)” It seems that man must be composed, at least partly, of the earth to be considered a living soul. There is a link throughout the scriptures between the immortal spirit and the earth. The Lord said, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19) He continued his teaching of the interdependence of man and his surroundings with the Parable of the Sower, “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. “(Matthew 13:5-6) It seems that the earth is not only important, but necessary, for eternal salvation. In Christ’s final hour he said, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4) Christ’s ministry could not have been complete without the Earth. What then of the eternal destiny of the earth? Christ spoke on this matter as well, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) For the earth to be mentioned by name as part of one’s eternal inheritance, there must be some significance to it’s place now and in the eternities. (This fact is further expounded upon through the revelations of Joseph Smith who revealed that the earth would one day become celestial.)
What of the Environmentalists? How does devotion to the planet and balance necessitate grounding in Christianity? As previously stated, devotion to the planet is inextricably linked to Christianity. If indeed the Earth has a soul, or some other aspect of being that can become immortal, explanation through religion is necessary. Balance is the key reason for any Environmentalist to become a Christian, or at the very least religious. Throughout environmental literature, there is a consistent theme of the interrelated, the connection between who and what a person is and their surroundings. Many authors find a lack of words to describe the connection that a person feels with the Earth, to one’s environment. I would like to name the indescribable: spirit. There is a link from spirit to spirit of things all around us. Just as the physical elements interact, there is a spiritual interaction that can be sensed, influenced. It is the neglect of this spiritual element that disrupts balance and can only be rebalanced through religion, an understanding of the spiritual elements.
Just as there is sin and repentance of the spiritual, there is misuse/neglect and reconciliation with the environment. No one is perfect, but it is the stewardship and steady progression within our lives that determines who we are. I believe that as we come to accept and understand this truth as Christians, we will come to appreciate and revere the Earth while we continually improve our surroundings and ourselves.