ESSAY- Harming Eden: Become an environmentalist, for the love of God
Conservative religious talk-show hosts and many of their followers often assert that environmentalists worship the creation instead of the creator. The implication is that people concerned about maintaining the integrity— and thus functionality— of the environment are misguided. Yet there is no logical reason for anyone to believe that God created paradise solely for man to destroy it.
In fact, He created it to provide man with everything necessary for his survival. That is why God did not create man first; He created the environment that man would be dependent upon.
In Genesis 1:4-31, as God adds to his creation, he declares seven times that everything He had created was either "good" or "very good." To argue that man has the right to pollute the land and water, totally transform landscapes, and exterminate many of God's creatures is to insinuate that God was wrong in His assessment of how good His creation really was. Inherent in such a contention is that man knows better than God what he needs to survive; in other words, religious conservatives are worshipping Man instead of God.
But "woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes..." [Isaiah 5:21] "Seeist thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him." [Proverbs 26:12] "For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." [Galatians 6:3]
A major reason for man's delusions lies in his misinterpretation of the word "dominion." Arguing that God gave man dominion over all animals on the Earth, some people insist that He implied man could do whatever he wished to God's other creatures.
Although dominion implies ruling power, with that power comes responsibility for the welfare of the ruled. Man was actually being given permission only to make use of animals to help him survive, such as when oxen are employed to plow a field in order that man could grow food. But the oxen were to be taken care of properly, which is why God instructed man to give animals a day of rest. "Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your ass may have rest..." [Exodus 23:12]
Nowadays, we have factory farming which— to provide food for humans— confines animals with barely enough room to move. And worse, because it is perpetrated solely in the name of vanity, oysters are subjected to surgical trauma of their gonads (testes or ovaries) so they can provide inexpensive cultured pearls. Yet the Bible tells us that "A righteous man has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel." [Proverbs 12:10]
Holy Scripture does not support extreme modification of our environment or God's organisms. "You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seeds..." [Leviticus 19:19]
Indeed, we are experiencing the drawbacks to such practices, as illustrated by the current state of the agricultural and horticultural industries. Over the years, hybridization has given us strawberries that are delectable to the eye but tasteless to the palate and roses that lack the sweet scent that made them so divine. We can now buy beautiful flowers that are so perfect that they look artificial— which they may as well be, as they often possess little, if any, nectar and pollen to nourish insects and other species– even though one of the main reasons plants exist is feeding animals.
Some people scoff at the idea that each creature fulfills a necessary function in the environment, as if God would frivolously create organisms for no particular purpose. Somehow these folks seem to have overlooked God's instruction to Noah: "You shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female." [Genesis 6:19]
God was making sure that each animal's lineage would continue to exist following the flood. This point was crucial because all kinds of creatures are required for the environment to function properly, especially those critters that constitute the natural system of checks and balances which prevent the overpopulation of any one kind of plant or animal, including man.
An overabundance of any organism creates an imbalance that, if not corrected, dominoes throughout the environment. This domino effect can bring about a collapse of the natural order that was created to provide for mankind, resulting in an unstable environment that is unsustainable for people.
Because man has overpopulated the Earth in spite of having the intelligence to keep his own numbers in check, he has been forced to alter the environment in numerous ways, and such alterations end up creating yet more problems that must be addressed— troubles that, over the long run, become ever more difficult to tackle. "A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not; but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth." [Proverbs 14:6]
We need to understand that we should embrace the natural, i.e., Godly, environment that we were given instead of constantly trying to "improve" it. We also need to recognize that man must adhere to the same biological laws that govern all life forms.
God gave man everything he needed in Eden so he could focus on worshipping Him. However, when man partook of the Tree of Knowledge against God's instructions, he decided man knew better than God how to run the natural world. Man became his own god, exhibiting contempt for the Lord God's supreme gifts by exploiting the environment to satisfy personal desires and ambitions.
The irony of Christians bashing environmentalists for worshipping only the creation is that they are bashing the very people attempting to ensure the habitability of this planet for all humans— in contrast to those Christians who obviously do not have faith in the wisdom of their own Creator.
"And God saw every thing he had made; and, behold, it was very good." [Genesis 1:31]
Naturalist and writer Marlene A. Condon has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines and is the author/photographer of The Nature-friendly Garden (Stackpole Books). Her last essay for the Hook appeared August 12 on a similar topic.