In the past 50 years, the country has made great strides toward equity. But racism is still embedded in every aspect of American culture, from the churches we occupy to the environmental issues shaping our planet. People of faith can tackle these problems by working outside the lines that keep churches racially segregated. One way forward is through collaborating with other church communities on joint environmental projects.
While we look out over creation, we must earnestly ask ourselves how we can participate in communion with the lands surrounding us if there is no clean water to drink, food to eat, or creation in which to delight.
Soon, Earth Day events became part of the fabric of our nation’s community life, churches began taking the Sunday service before or after Earth Day to pray, learn, and take action for God’s creation. As one 2006 Fox News article about Earth Day Sunday put it, “The environment has historically taken a back seat to common faith initiatives like the fight against poverty or hunger ... But now, congregations increasingly see a connection between care for God's creation and social issues.”
I am Neets’aii Gwich’in from Alaska, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is our ancestral land. Our communities still rely heavily on the Porcupine caribou herd for sustenance, as well as our culture and spiritual wellbeing. Our elders have taught us that our connection is sacred. Long ago, they predicted these changes in weather, and that one day we would need to return to simpler ways of living and being. They told us we would not be able to survive if we do not protect the birthing grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd from oil development. They told us that we need to do this not just for Gwich’in, but for all of humanity. Protection of the refuge is a human rights issue.
In February, President Obama designated 1.8 million acres of wild California desert as national monuments: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains. The California desert is a holy place, filled with spiritual values and important lessons. As Christians, this is a significant event. We know Jesus’ spiritual path included spending time in the desert wilderness to contemplate his purpose. Now, we, like Jesus and so many others, can have the beauty, solitude, dark night skies, and wild nature of the desert from which to draw inspiration, practice our faith, and grow better.
The California desert is a place where these elusive values remain, and they are vital for humankind. We have a spiritual heritage to protect, and with these three monument designations, Christian communities will forever have these living sanctuaries where we can practice our faith.
The failure to provide clean water to Flint, Mich., residents has sacrificed their safety and hindered their access to one of the most basic human needs — water. It also drastically diminished the capacity of citizens to exercise leadership and stewardship because lead poisoning stunts victims’ brain development. Plus, the town of Flint, itself, is the “least of these” in the state of Michigan. It is the state’s poorest city.
Today, many of you will remember to celebrate me, learning or teaching your children about the importance of reducing waste and recycling, conserving energy, or keeping my land, air, and water clean. I truly appreciate the efforts you make for a struggling old lady for whom such acts of consideration bring rays of hope. As you know, my health has been deteriorating rapidly of late, and I struggle to care for all 7 billion of you as I would like. I long to give you sweet, fresh air to breathe, clean water for drinking and bathing, fertile soil for growing food, majestic mountains to revitalize your souls, and much, much more. But I am not the girl I used to be, and much of what I had to give in my youth has been spent faster than I ever could have imagined. So please accept this letter as an expression of my affection; I wish I had more to give.
I am reaching out to you, my children, because I know you love me and I know you need me. Some of you try hard to care for me and nurse me back to health. I value all of your efforts. But there is something I need from all of you that is far too often overlooked when it comes to the care I need to survive. For the truth is, I am dying. Your Father cares for me but has also entrusted me to your care, and thus my hope for a future lies in you. So I am pleading with you, my children, to remember me and remember our need for each other. And I have an urgent request of all of you that could perhaps do more to revitalize my health than anything else you could do, though I rarely hear it mentioned:
Stop killing each other!
Editor's Note: Sojourners is celebrating Earth Week with a special message series every day next week. Click here to join us!
“Behold, I am making all things new!” says Jesus in the book of Revelation. It’s this spirit of hope and second chances that we celebrate at Easter time. Life triumphs over death and decay. We get a second chance.
But what about our planet? A cursory glance shows us that God’s creation could use some renewal.
Creation is definitely groaning. We’re losing species, spilling oil, and changing our climate at an alarming rate. We’re building sea walls and responding to pumped-up natural disasters. Energy companies are pushing for even more access to the fossil fuels that are harming God’s creation. Action from Congress seems far away, and moneyed special interests are working hard to block other kinds of action.
Have you ever heard someone described as, “So heavenly minded, he was no earthly good?” This phrase suggests one danger of interpreting the book of Revelation. Sadly, when it comes to considering the natural world and Revelation, heavenly mindedness often undermines care for our environment. Some Christians have a tendency to think, “Well, if I’m off to heaven, I shouldn’t care much about this silly earth of ours. It’s just a temporary home, after all.”
In fact, Revelation suggests the opposite: the earth isn’t truly “left behind,” but renewed, becoming the very dwelling place of God. Revelation 21 calls people to be, well, “earthly good,” caring for creation as we prepare for God to come home.
Today is Earth day! More than 1 billion people in 192 countries are participating in Earth Day festivities, which means there must be some good videos out there on the Internet commemorating this occasion, right? Right. So here are the five of our favorites videos — in no particular order — celebrating the Earth and the day designated for it.
1. Where did Earth Day come from? Get some info about Earth Day.
Unfortunately, Earth Day is rarely celebrated within mainstream Christianity beyond a Sunday sermon, and environmentalism is often frowned upon by evangelical leaders instead of championed. Here are the main reasons Christians have rejected caring for our environment.
In honor of Earth Day, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships today hosted an Environmental Briefing for a number of environmental activists from all over the country.
Students, young professionals, members of the clergy and many other long-time activists were able to hear from members of the Obama administration and other key personnel from various departments and agencies, learning more about the progress that has been made to tackle climate change and environmental degradation, and also hear about the challenges ahead in ensuring that we are good stewards of the environment that has been entrusted to us.
In City Journal, Pascal Bruckner has written an interesting essay critiquing "secular elites" and their (our?) predilection for an apocalyptic vision without redemption. He calls it the apocalyptic daze, a love for the cataclysmic and states that it's shaping our politics. Interesting stuff to read as Earth Day approaches. He writes:
My point is not to minimize the dangers that we face. Rather, it is to understand why apocalyptic fear has gripped so many of our leaders, scientists, and intellectuals, who insist on reasoning and arguing as though they were following the scripts of mediocre Hollywood disaster movies.
His is not a critique of the science of environmentalism but one of the rhetoric of the politics surrounding it.
Today is Earth Day, an occasion for marking our responsibility to care for our world and the environment. It seems trite to have just one day to remind ourselves of the importance of this -- though the same could be (and often is) said about Father's Day, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas, etc.