We describe ourselves in many different ways—for example, as citizens or voters. Many of us describe ourselves as believers. Yet there is one word that I think people of future generations will be amazed that we use of ourselves with such lack of self-awareness: “consumers.”
For to consume is to eat, to devour, to destroy. And that is how we describe and define ourselves in the 21st century! Eating, drinking, shopping, selling, buying, banking—“consumers.” We fail to see the cruel irony of our self-designation: devourers of our children’s inheritance and consumers of their future. We are not just borrowing the earth from our children, as the proverb goes; we are consuming it, devouring it, and destroying it!
Just as we look back on previous times with incredulity and wonder how people, especially believers, could have condoned and succored slavery, so I think later generations, who will live consciously with the reality that the earth is not a limitless larder, will find it difficult to understand this failure of our cultural imagination. And just as it was a theological and, in truth, a biblical vision that informed and shaped the abolitionists’ response to the enslavement of racism, so it is a theological and biblical vision of the earth that is beginning to inform our understanding of today’s ecological crisis.
A biblical vision of humanity in, from, and of the earth brings to bear upon our imagination our moral responsibility—to God, to other creatures, and to future generations—for how we serve and preserve the earth.