Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Why Every Day Should Be Earth Day If You’re A Christian

 

It’s April 22nd, which means it’s “Earth Day.” Much of the hype over this annual day seems to have dissipated in recent years, but I think it’s a crucially important day if you’re a Christian. In fact, every day should be “Earth Day” if you’re a Christian.

Growing up, the culture around me seemed to be highly suspicious of those who were advocates for the environment. Often they’d be labeled as “environmental extremists,” “tree huggers,” or some other term that let one know right from the start that they were completely outside the norm. Beyond a skepticism in the Christian community, environmentalists were often vilified by a certain secular political ideology popular among Christians, resulting in the previous generation often missing the boat on an issue that is absolutely central to the life of a God-follower.

You don’t have to read far into the Bible before one realizes the centrality of environmentalism to the life of one who wants to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives- it’s actually on the first few pages. In the Genesis narrative, as soon as God creates humanity he gives them their purpose for existing and their primary task: caring for the environment. Before anything else happens in God’s story, he tells them to care for the environment, the plants, the animals, the oceans… everything. In theological terms we call this the “Original Mandate” because it’s the first thing God mandates humanity to do.

God’s original, primary purpose for his people was and is to be environmental caretakers- environmentalists.

And yet, somehow this primary role God has assigned to us as the pinnacle of his creation gets not only overlooked, but outright discarded.

Out of all the roles, tasks, or purposes for our lives here on this Earth, scripture shows us that being environmental caretakers is at the absolute top of our list. Environmentalism isn’t the secondary mandate, it’s not a footnote, and it’s not optional– it is the original mandate and central to our entire reason for existence. And this is why every day should be Earth Day to a Christian: it’s the first job God assigned to us before anything else!

This means that any efforts to care for and protect the planet should’t be left to those we’d call tree huggers– any effort to care for, preserve, and protect the environment, should be led by Christians.

 Every time Sea Shepherd loads their boats to head to the Southern Whale Sanctuary to protect the whales against illegal Japanese poaching, the boat should be overflowing with Christians.

Every time there is a challenge to the practice of fracking which is damaging the planet and our water supply, that challenge should be led by a Christian.

Every time you find a person standing in front of a bulldozer protesting destructive deforestation, every time you visit an animal sanctuary and see a person nursing a wounded animal back to health, every time you find a group of people picking up garbage on the beach, advocating a reduction in harmful carbon emissions, or anything else to defend, protect, or preserve the environment and animal kingdom… you should find Christians.

Because that’s our job. It’s the original and primary job that God gave us. To ignore it, or worse– to defy it– is to defy the creator who assigned us the beautiful task of protecting and preserving His creation. In fact, God doesn’t simply articulate this mandate in the first few chapters of the Bible– he reiterates it in the last few chapters of the Bible with a stark warning: those who damage the environment will be destroyed when he returns to judge the living and the dead (Rev 11:18). So, if you want to talk sins that will keep one out of God’s kingdom– let’s not limit that to talk of sexual immorality– let’s talk caring for the environment.

For too long Christians have sided with big businesses (who don’t give a rip about the environment beyond financial profit) instead of God’s mandate for our lives, and this has led us into a chapter of human history where the future of our planet is actually in jeopardy– but it doesn’t have to stay this way.

The solution? Christians can rediscover and reclaim our chief purpose for existence: to be radical environmentalists who view protecting and preserving all of creation to be a central aspect of our identity and purpose.

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Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

BLC

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

Maybe it's not the end of the world...

Days
Hours
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But let's be honest-- this is pretty #$@%! close.

Trump's America
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What you think

Post Comments:

  • Nathan says:

    Mr. Benjamin L. Corey, you are WRONG.

    Because, AMERICA.

  • Neil Rickert says:

    Every day is Earth Day for me.

    However, there are people who carry this too far, and I take “tree hugger” to mainly refer to those.

    I’ll give an example. It was several decades ago. We used cloth diapers for our newborn, and we laundered them ourselves to avoid the worst of high phosphate detergents being used in commercial diaper services.

    I recall the time that I was buying Pampers (disposable diapers) at the store. And I was harrassed by somebody taking it too far. The Pampers were for when traveling, not for ordinary every day use. The “tree hugger” mentality is one of excessive rigidity and lack of balance.

  • Ben,

    You’re correct to a degree. There’s a fine line between making earth an idol/god and subduing it. God’s word even tells us in:
    [Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.]

    Caring for and managing the earth is one thing and yes, we should be taking better care of it, but to make earth a god and worship it is a sin.

    • I don’t see a fine line at all. I see bowing down and literally worshipping the earth vs making environmentalism one of the highest callings and priorities of Christian living. Two totally different things that aren’t even remotely related.

  • Wolf says:

    Well said, Ben! 🙂

  • Trilemma says:

    The number one environmental problem facing the planet is human overpopulation. Unless the population stops growing, all efforts to preserve all of creation will ultimately be futile.

    I think there is a tendency among some Christians that believe we are in the last days to think that there is little need to worry about the environment because God is going to destroy the whole thing and replace it with a new world.

  • Cercatore says:

    Love your site Ben! Awesome post – keep ripp’in it!
    Blessings

  • Alonzo says:

    Hmm. As I read the article, I asked myself, “Why must I accept a straw man false dichotomy with environmentalism on one side and “big business” on the other? The reason I call it a straw man is that neither one’s philosophical tenets and terms are well defined. The reason I call it a false dichotomy is because the article does not seem to offer other alternatives than these two when in fact there are alternatives.

    There are so many more alternatives to chasing boats or protesting fracking and deforestation as though these are the evil problems of the day. Actually, they are the effects of the human condition. Going after effects will never solve any of the issues we face with our world. After I arrived at the conclusion of the article, I understood why I could not accept the presented false dichotomy and straw man and side with the protesting he suggests. It was Corey’s chief purpose and mandate statements. I cannot accept either one within their respective contexts.

    I do not read the Bible as he does to walk away with either one. As I start at the beginning of the Bible, I do not see God’s first mandate as making humanity as caretakers of the earth. It is certainly important but not the chief purpose. That would place the earth above God and reverse everything. It is also divorcing the first couple of chapters of the Bible from the rest of it. If we move forward through the Bible, we find that woman and man sinned and strayed from God. That should give us pause as to the top priority God placed on relationships. Their sin broke the relationship and caused their spiritual death. Cory seems to ignore this in his assessment.

    As we walk through Genesis, we see that relational aspect played out with little discussed about care taking. In Exodus, we find the greatest commandment of the law: love God. Jesus said it was the greatest commandment. That is our mandate if it is indeed the greatest commandment. As we walk through the rest of the Bible, we see wayward people (the human condition) at the core of what Paul refers as the groaning of creation, not over the environment but over rejecting God and His greatest commandment to love Him. This core issue was the rejection of God and His authority and humanity following its own way. As we come to the end of Jesus’ life, He gives His disciples the greatest commandment and great commission, which really coincide: love God, love people, and call them to redemption in Christ. Nothing about the environment. Redemption faces the human condition head on. Redemption confronts humanity’s challenges of God’s and His authority as God intended it. Consequently, chasing ships and protesting are not solutions. Changing policy and gaining sympathy for a cause are not remedies. They simply address the symptoms and effects of the real problem – the human condition.

    The central aspect of our existence is our relationship with God and His grand purpose for us to glorify Him in all we do. The greatest commandment informs us of that, because it clearly states that He and not the environment comes first and foremost. Nothing stands up to the matchless visionary command of loving God and His love for us. Nothing is greater than calling people through the gospel to place their faith in Christ as their Savior from the sin that disrupts us in every way. Nothing, no nothing matches the priority of God as the highest and greatest goal and purpose of our lives and very existence. Yes, we are stewards of the environment, but to place it as our chief purpose of existence and to wrap our identity around it is to take a turn away from God’s purpose for our lives and to place something else above Him, the temporal instead of the eternally existent God who desires us more than anything. For these reasons I cannot accept Corey’s premise and must reject it on the basis that it leads to the two logical fallacies I pointed out.

  • Paul Schlitz says:

    AFBooks convinced me to be irresponsible. Now I feel better

  • Paul Schlitz says:

    I think creation care is simply not as fulfilling as bigotry towards gays, Muslims and immigrants

  • Paul Schlitz Jr. says:

    good thought otrotierra. We all know which one is harder to do

  • Robert Mark Wade says:

    The LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden in order to have him work it and guard it. Genesis 2:15. The NET Bible seems to be telling us we have a stewardship responsibility for the Earth. Too many “Christians” think this original command doesn’t apply, when it still is a responsibility for us today as well.

  • Realist1234 says:

    My view, for what its worth – it seems to me God is supposed to be first in our lives, but love for Him means obedience as Jesus said. Obedience is not just limited to the New Testament teaching by Jesus and the apostles, or the ‘law’ in the Old. It is the Bible as a whole, and goes right back to Genesis. In the same way that Jesus used the Genesis account of marriage to describe God’s original purpose for that relationship, we also need to take seriously his original purpose for man to take care of the created earth. I dont believe it was his primary purpose, but one of his roles. As such I think we are supposed to limit environmental damage, the current one being climate change, which the vast majority of scientists believe is primarily man-made due to the industrial revolution. It is clear this is already affecting communities around the world, particularly in poorer countries. Though it should be noted if mankind had not developed technology 7 billion people would still be burning wood for heat with all the carbon dioxide that would be producing, not to mention the number of trees cut down. In my view the main question we need to ask ourselves is, what am I personally doing to reduce our carbon footprint? Do I have solar panels to generate electricity, rather than using fossil fuels? Do I drive an electric car, or at least a hybrid? Have I cut down on my heating and electricity usage in my own home? Do I cut down on my air travel – Ben you just travelled to Jordan from the US! lol Until we make it personal to our own individual lives, it means very little.

  • Jim Bush says:

    If what you say were true, everyone who does these environmental
    activities is a Christian (Christ-like), because being Christ-like is something
    you do not something you are. Then again if a government declaration makes you
    a Christian, that is to Catholic for a fellow Baptist?

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