christian ethics and environmentalism

A weekly Rector’s Notes article, January 28, 2019

A concern for environmental justice needs to be a principle concern of Christians. This concern extends beyond a simple understanding that we are tasked with being the stewards of this creation but also that, as Christians, we are tasked with seeking an ethical approach to understanding not just how we interact with and steward this creation, but also with understanding how our action (or inaction) has real implications for our siblings in creation throughout the world.

This gift of creation is not just for us, personally, individually. Every person on this planet has been gifted this creation. And, it then becomes our responsibility as Christian stewards of that creation, to understand how this reality of every person having an equal right to this creation is impacted by the environmental crises of our time.

Global climate change disproportionately affects the poor, minority, and native communities in our country and around the world. Global climate change has a very real affect on this community of Longview/Kelso and Cowlitz County, where major industries have played a dual role in the myriad of issues faced here and around the country. Uncapped pollution has given way to industries that have closed shop, reduced operations, or even failed to come in anew, in some part due to very real (and often founded) backlash against the environmental cost of these industries. This has had an unintended consequence (at least in terms of environmental justice) of reducing the availability of work in this region, particularly for the blue-collar low to middle-low income levels, having real impacts on a populace that quite literally built this city and now finds themselves out of work and struggling to make ends meet. And, this is just one way in many that our community has been impacted.

As we hold the balance of the realities of our own community with the global impacts that climate change is having on our world, from harsher winters that allegedly (though not really) seem to contradict the narrative of warming, glaciers and ice fields melting and cracking away into the sea forever changing sea levels and global sea temperatures and thus weather patterns, we are called to stand as Christians and fight for all of those who are negatively impacted by climate change.

This means ending those practices that continue to contribute to climate change. This means taking necessary steps to lessen our own carbon and ecological footprint on this beautiful gift we enjoy (one of the reasons why plastic is no longer a curbside recyclable in Kelso is because we consume TOO much plastic to begin with). This means educating ourselves. This means understanding that sometimes the ethics of it all call us to make a bold stand against what is accepted by our society. If we are truly to be stewards of this creation, we have to look at the ethical implications of what we do (or don’t do). We have to understand that as Christians, our own sense of ethics is driven by our faith and tasks us to a call that goes beyond a question of what is right and wrong to the question of: is this the way of love?

We have to publicly state our faith and our concern for the environment (including the acceptance of science on climate change) together. When we make this stand, we open the possibility for others to join us in our call. We invite others to connect science and religion in a healthy, non-judgmental way. We open the door for non-believers and believers to find common ground and fight for common goals. This is our call as Christians. This is our call when we ask what are the ethical implications of environmental justice when we view it through our lens of faith. We have been tasked to be stewards of this creation, all of creation, including all of our siblings in this creation.

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