In the late 1960s, many Americans were emerging from a purple haze to think about going green. With the help of books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, people began realizing that God’s green earth was falling into an amalgam of polluted lakes, smoggy skylines, and acid rain. Then in September 1969, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed that America set aside April 22 to focus on environmental concerns. In the four decades and four years since then, many problems have been alleviated while new ones have arisen, but on this 44th Earth Day, I wonder why more Christians aren’t thinking deeply about God, green, and the gospel.
I often worry that one day 100 or more years from now, a student in a college religion class will do a project on American Christianity during my lifetime and think, “What blinded these people to God’s plan? How could they have been so wrong?” I fear that faithful men and women generations from now will look back on us with the confusion which we now project on mid-19th-century Americans who turned a blind eye to slavery and racism.
The Christian community cannot afford to offer quick, easy, cheap answers. We need to do our homework and we need to root ourselves in what the Bible actually says about these issues. We should stand on the shoulders of great Christian thinkers—such as Francis Schaeffer, John Stott, Alister McGrath, and N.T. Wright—who have blazed a trail for us. And we should intelligently and carefully address these issues because we take seriously Jesus’ command to love “the least of these” and care about his gospel.
But how does the gospel of Christ relate to environmental issues exactly?