With the controversial decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, once again the climate debate has taken center stage within our nation. Opinions of President Donald Trump’s decision aside, as a pastor ministering to those navigating this culture of environmental politicization, I continue to be struck by the great irony of the debate.
As both sides argue, neither side seems able to recognize the inconsistency of their own argument.
The majority of those who are passionate for the Earth’s protection also believe the Earth, along with the life it supports, is a meaningless accident on a collision course for a meaningless extinction. The universe is not a sacred creation infused with dignity and nobility by a creator; it is an impersonal disorder of chance that we have projected dignity and nobility upon. This only begs the question: Why should we care?
Bill Nye led a demonstration in Washington the day after Trump’s decision was announced, but he himself, as a self-identified atheist, believes life is nothing more than the infinitely improbable aftermath of a primordial chaos, an insignificant blip within the vastness of space and time.
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So why should he or anyone be concerned with Earth’s preservation? It doesn’t take Friedrich Nietzsche to see the empty vanity of conserving a tiny spark of meaninglessness matter within the immeasurable darkness of a meaningless universe.
Following this atheistic line of reasoning, if anything, we should be exploiting this planet for every last ounce of personal enjoyment before we ourselves have to join its nothingness in death.
I understand the concern for future generations, but this altruism is likewise pointless. After all, why concern ourselves with the future well-being of what is admittedly purposeless existence? Alas, Nye, let us eat, drink, and emit our carbon, for tomorrow the species will die.
But the other side has no room to criticize this logical inconsistency, for it only highlights their own. I fear all the political debate has formed a reactionary tribe that at best is indifferent to the abuse of creation and at worst is downright proud of it.
Sadly, this tribe includes many evangelical Christians who are the very ones who believe creation is the sacred handiwork of a Creator, but fear to prioritize the care of creation because it feels too liberal.
In reality, nobody should be more passionate for the Earth’s protection than Christians. Our worldview teaches that in Genesis 1, God set humanity apart and entrusted to us the holy and noble calling of having dominion over creation. We are accustomed to sinful dominion, which inevitably leads to exploitation, but the dominion of God’s original design was a humble authority that led to creation’s flourishing.
We were made to be stewards of the universe, caringly bringing forth order, beauty, culture, innovation and all the other potentials of this glorious and unbridled creation — not for our own selfish purposes, but for the purposes of God and the good of creation. However in our rebellion against our Creator, every culture of humanity has related to creation as a cruel and harmful exploiter to feed our unquenchable appetite for more.
In protest to this sinful destruction, the call of every Christian is to redeem all of creation by reclaiming God’s original mandate for creation. That is, Christians should see themselves as the leading protectors of creation. But sadly, many are the leading exploiters of creation. Nobody should be more passionate for the well being of creation than worshipers of the Creator.
I will leave the Paris Agreement debate to those who better understand it. My only request is worldview consistency on both sides. May all these lovers of the creation start caring about the Creator. And may all these lovers of the Creator start caring for the creation.
The Rev. Robert Cunningham is senior pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.