In the previous post on stewardship, one commenter asked a reasonable question. Why is it that I consistently use green as a term of contempt? And when do I, if ever, speak of the genuine demands of biblical stewardship in the environment? Consider this as a first pass in attempting to answer that question.
First, why is it that I regard a Christian’s baptismal vows, which renounce the devil and all his works, to include a rejection of being green, going green, or thinking green? Is it because I don’t like the color? Is it because my motto is “Earth first! We’ll pave the other planets later”? Not a bit of it. Scripture begins with a garden, and it ends with (green) garden city. Not only am I okay with this, but I regard it as every Christian’s duty to live in a manner consistent with that overarching vision. So why do I gag on “green”?
It is for the same reason that you would not catch me in a Parisian mob, yelling “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” even though all three of those things are good things. I am not pro-choice, even though choice is good. I believe that Christ came to liberate the proletariat, even though I would never speak of it that way. Virtually every instance of greenthink you will encounter today is watermelon green — green on the outside, red on the inside. The thing is a statist sham from top to bottom, a naked, violent and abusive power grab. The issue for me is coercion and violence, and has nothing whatever to do with their promise to change the weather, for Pete’s sake.
Here is their game. “What can we talk people into caring about, so that we may then manufacture a crisis in that area, using that bogus crisis to seize power through the mechanism of the state, with that power being all-encompassing?” If any Christians are hardy enough to object, they just throw the word stewardship at them. What I am throwing back at them revolves around an understanding that the devil is the father of lies, and when he lies he does so fluently, speaking in his native language (Jn. 8:44). Jesus, by way of contrast, told us not to judge on the basis of superficial appearances, but to make a right judgment (Jn. 7:24). It is not enough to say that “the nice man,” who seemed very concerned, told me CO2 is a pollutant, and that nice weather is pollution. I mean, crikey. The fact that people are just galumphing along with this is a marvelous thing.
So what do I urge Christians to do positively? The question is a fair one — it is not possible to fight something with nothing, and it really is necessary for us to set forth a positively vision, one that is distinctively Christian. So when do I do that? Whenever I am writing about the progress of the gospel toward that garden city, these are the terms I use. I speak of these things using the vocabulary of the cultural mandate, exercising dominion, postmillennialism, the kingdom, the lordship of Christ over all things, being fruitful and multiplying, and liberty. These things are my green.
What can we do to get from here to there? How shall we then live? We should love God and love our neighbor. We should do what God says to do in the Bible, which incidentally does not include any attempts to supplant God. We should get a job and work with our hands, for example (Eph. 4:28). We should not attempt to play God, realizing that He said that He would bring these things about gradually, as the yeast works through the loaf. As we learn how to worship Him more faithfully, and give ourselves diligently to the task in front of us (that which is near and clear), that is what He will use to bring about what He has promised. But our current attempts at “stewardship,” to use an example of my wife’s, is like a newborn demanding the family checkbook in order to make sure the phone bill gets paid.
Those secularists who want to play doctor and “heal the environment” are violating one of the basic tenets of the Hippocratic Oath — “first, do no harm.” In the mass of their movement, there is a great deal of gullibility, and at the top there is a great deal of evil. Christians have better things to do than tagging along behind them, trying to figure out a way to attach John 3:16 to one of the floats in their parade. For many Christians, cultural engagement is nothing more than taking whatever the world dishes up, and then trying to find a verse or two to decorate it with. It is like science fair projects in many Christian schools. Do the astronomy project, set up the display board, and then at the last minute try to find a verse with stars in it.
While on this subject, the problem with Chesterton’s vision of “three acres and a cow” is not that he desired such a society. Who wouldn’t want to live in the Shire? The problem is that, if we resist the temptation of keeping things “perfect” through coercion, in about three weeks there will be one industrious fellow with six acres and two cows, and another fellow, less industrious, a former farmer, who will be down at the tavern, drinking too much.
But my insistence that we not intervene in utopian ways now ought not to be taken as an indication that I think that everything is just fine the way it is. No — our world is broken, and the creation groans. As we do justice, love mercy, and walk with humility, God will use that to bring about His good purposes. This world will be restored, fully restored, and our labors in the present will be used by Him to contribute to that restoration (1 Cor. 15:58). This entire world will one day sparkle an emerald green.
But that restoration will not be advanced by blunderers, who call CO2 a pollutant, or tyrants, who pollute the land with the blood of innocents. Neither will it be advanced by those Christians who tag along behind such, thinking that they can become leaders by following.