Theology of Ecology

Ecology points with undismissable stubbornness to the context of all things; it insists that NO thing exists apart from ALL things.
— Joseph Sittler (Essay on Nature and Grace)

Is God "Green"?

I was recently asked this question in one of my classes, and thought to myself that the question doesn’t really make sense. What does it mean to be “green”? Does God have an appreciation, an awareness, a spirituality, a religion of nature? However one defines “green”, its application to God seems irrelevant. Of course God cares for creation...God is the Creator, but to link God to some social or political or man-created movement limits God. God is no more “green” than God is “liberal”, “pro-life”, or “Christian”. 

So let’s ask a different question. Does God want humankind to be “green”? Well, that’s not really a great question either. Of course God wants us to be “green”! What’s the be the careless, selfish, ignorant, resource-depleting, earth-raping people that we’ve become? (Hmmm...that came across harsher than I intended, but in considering changing it, I was at a loss. While harsh, it’s true.) So what does it mean for us to be “green”? When thinking about God’s creation, what are we called to do? To be?

The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God.
— Pope Francis (Laudato si')

God created the heavens and the earth, the land, the waters, and the sky, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. Most important to remember is that God created us, humankind. This is important, not because we are the most important, but rather to remember that we are part of God’s creation. Now I believe that it is clear in the bible that we are set apart from the rest of creation. In interpreting the creation story, I believe that it is important to examine what the text reveals about the nature of God. God thinks before creating Adam, God creates him in God’s image, and God gives him dominion over the rest of creation. Before creating woman, God searches the rest of creation to find a suitable partner. Finding none, God creates Eve to join Adam. Together they are set apart, not above, the rest of God’s creation. God is thoughtful, responsive, and caring to the needs of God’s creation. 

In his book Story and Promise, Robert Jensen states that “to say that God is Creator is to say that I at this moment of writing, and you at your moment of reading, exist because God now decides that we shall.” That is to say that God chose to create us and chose to be in relationship with us. Jensen also refers to creation as a “purposive event.” Our purpose is to be in relationship with God, with one another, and with the rest of God’s creation. However, these are not three separate things. God is not some entity floating up in the sky or space or “heaven”. God is present in the love we show each other. God is present in the event of a sunrise, the roll of thunder, and beauty of Spring. In Scripture, God comes as fire, a cloud, an earthquake, and wind. God is revealed in the sound of sheer silence, descends as a dove, and can be found in water, bread, and wine. God comes as Jesus who is both fully man and fully God. God is in God’s creation, and can be revealed anywhere that we seek God.

We are called to love God, and therefore love God’s creation. However, I want reiterate one important point that is too often overlooked! WE are part of God’s creation! God is in us! We are called to love ourselves and one another. To care for the rain forest, yet walk past the homeless on the streets show that we don’t get this truth. To worry more about the oceans being polluted than the pollutants we put into our bodies is nonsense. To see the internet explode with concern for a lion getting shot more than when a young black man does, seems ridiculous. We are all God’s creation, so being “green” requires self-care and care for one another, in addition to, care for the living earth and its creatures.

God said, “Let there be…and there was…” As God called creation into being, we are called, as part of God’s creation, to love ourselves, our neighbor, and our world. Call it “going green” if you want. I’ll call it part of God’s plan since the very beginning, I will tend to the garden of the earth God created, and I will seek God in justice, mercy, and grace through my relationships with others.

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it.
— Psalm 24:1