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Christian Environmentalism

Fausto has a nice post up about the possibilities of justifying reverence for nature within the Christian tradition. The basic problem, as he states it, is that:

... although Christians may accept that creation is the product of a divine Creator, core Christian values are far more about how we relate to each other and to God than how we relate to the rest of creation.

I more or less agree with fausto's conclusions about the possibility of Christian nature reverence. But I think seeking grounds for nature reverence takes too narrow an approach to the underlying question. The interpersonal ethics emphasized by Christianity seem to me to be ample resources for Christian environmentalism. Fausto himself offers an anthropocentric justification for the need to find environmental values in Christianity:

Today, though, when the human population strains the earth’s capacity to sustain it, any religion that does not place sufficient value on the health of natural systems is in truth a very real danger to the future of our species.

The environment can be seen as just another system among others through which people can help or harm each other. Our interactions with the environment can be judged by their impacts on our fellow people. The Bible doesn't give us much indication of what type of decisions will have positive environmental impacts -- but it never purported to be a science book. Figuring out what our environmental choices will "do unto the least of these" is our job.

It's interesting to note here that the greatest strides thet Christianity has made in motivating environmentalism have come not in nature-as-an-end-in-itself middle class environmentalism, but in the environmental justice movement, where environmental choices are viewed through the lens of social justice. Churches in lower-class and minority neighborhoods have provided important spiritual and organizational capacity for groups fighting against locally unwanted land uses (toxic dumps, hog farms, etc.).


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