“We need to learn about deep green faith,” says the Rev. Kevin McGrane, an Episcopal priest, “then teach it, preach it, live it.”
A deep green faith is based on the belief that God loves the world so much that he sent Jesus into the middle of it, to be our Lord and Savior. Jesus himself is the Creator in creation, fully divine and fully earthly. Caring for creation is a way of honoring what God has made, and doing whatever we can to preserve the world that God created and called good.
McGrane says that “we need to reconcile ourselves with the earth, just as we would any human being who was harmed by our actions. … We should treat the planet like one of the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Matt. 25:40). … We are in the midst of a climate crisis, as seen by the extreme weather events and loss of plant and wildlife, yet the climate crisis is a symptom of a deeper issue – our dysfunctional relationship to creation itself.”
Improving the relationship
Unfortunately, not all people of faith see that we have a problem with our relationship with creation. In my novel Windows of the Heavens, a Methodist pastor named Harley Camden is not convinced that Christians should focus on creation. At the beginning of the book, he has a conversation with a Jewish friend named Leah Silverman.
“I don’t know if I told you,” said Leah, “but I’ve been attending meetings of the Creation Care Council.”
“What’s that?” asked Harley.
“It’s an interfaith environmental group: Jews, Christians, Muslims . . . a few Hindus and Buddhists, as well. They are working on issues such as recycling, energy efficiency, solar panels, community gardens. I went to a meeting to recruit for the river clean-up and got hooked.”
“Doesn’t sound very spiritual,” said Harley.
“Well, that depends,” Leah said. “You read the same Book of Genesis that I do. It says to ‘have dominion’ over the earth.” She had been a religion major at Duke, so she knew her Bible. “What does that mean to you?”
“Control, I guess. Mastery.”
“Yes, but also responsibility,” she said. “Good stewardship. For years, ‘have dominion’ was understood as endorsement of environmental exploitation. But now, most people of faith support efforts to be good stewards of natural resources.”
To Harley, Leah had always been a sexy nerd, and he loved to watch her get worked up about a topic. But tonight, he wasn’t being charmed by her passion. “Well, you studied a lot of Bible in college,” he admitted. “I guess you’re right.”
Conservatives should be conservers
“Darn right I’m right,” she said, emphatically. “A survey just revealed widespread support for stricter environmental laws among religious people. We Jews were at the top—yay!— followed by Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and mainline Protestants like you.”
“Well, good for you,” said Harley, raising his beer mug in a toast.
“Know who was at the bottom?” Leah asked.
“Satanists?” said Harley, sarcastically.
“No, evangelical Christians,” said Leah. “But even some of them are getting on board. After all, conservatives should be conservers, right?”
“At our last meeting, I heard about the pastor of a 27,000-member Baptist church in Texas. How big is your church, Harley?”
“A little bit smaller,” he admitted, doing a quick calculation in his head. “One hundred times smaller.”
“Anyway, this pastor has come to believe that Christians should not abuse the earth. He recently led them through an energy audit that resulted in savings of one million dollars in one year.”
“Not bad,” said Harley, taking another drink. “But how many souls were saved?”
“I’m not talking about saving souls, Harley. This is about saving the earth.”