It’s indicative of the sad state of what is conventionally termed Christianity (but I have my doubts) when an avowed atheist calls our bluff, as Brendan O’Neill does in his article Mankind is more than the janitor of planet Earth:
In his Christmas sermon, delivered at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Williams finally completed his journey from old-world Christianity to trendy New Ageism. His sermon was indistinguishable from those delivered (not just at Christmas but for life) by the heads of Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. Williams did not speak about Christian morality; in fact, he didn’t utter the m-word at all. He said little about men’s responsibility to love one another and God, the two Commandments Jesus Christ said we should live by. Instead he talked about our role as janitors on planet Earth, who must stop plundering the ‘warehouse of natural resources’ and ensure that we clean up after ourselves…
Christian teaching was once concerned with man, meaning and morality, with questions of free will, inner life and human destiny. As it happens, atheists, at least progressive ones, were concerned with exactly the same things. The chasm-sized difference between atheists and Christians occurred over the question of whether the moral meaning of man came from within or without; whether, as some atheists believed, the purpose of humanity was to be found within humanity itself; or, as Christians believed, humanity achieved meaning only through an external deity, God…
The cult of environmentalism embraced by the Christian churches does away with morality altogether. Some sceptics claim that environmentalism is a new form of moralistic hectoring; it is better to see it as amoralistic hectoring. In judging everything by how much CO2 or pollution it creates, environmentalism dispenses with questions of moral worth and judgement. So a flight to visit a newborn nephew in Australia (5.61 tonnes of CO2) is as wicked as taking a flight to Barbados to lounge in the sun; and the transportation of delicious food from Africa to Britain is as unforgivable as the transportation of weapons and drugs from Latin America to Los Angeles: after all, both involve exploiting the ‘warehouse of resources’ and upsetting the ‘fragile balance of species and environments’, as Williams put it (5). When human actions are judged by their levels of pollution alone, the issue of meaning – of why we do things, who we do them for, and how we might do them better – is implicitly downgraded.
This last comment has a parallel with one I made about Islam:
And that leads to the next problem–what works are acceptable? As an example, one of the pillars of Islam is the haj, the trip to Mecca. They believe this is good. For the environmentalist, however, all this does is add to global warming. That kind of problem is why works salvation doesn’t cut it.
If this were the entire province of liberals, that would be one thing. But there are Evangelical leaders who are going down the same road.
So whatever happened to the following:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28, KJV.
Dominion. That grant was the beginning of the Christian concept of stewardship. Now stewardship in Christian churches is almost exclusively understood in regard to lay people giving money to the church. But stewardship is more than that: it is the active, intelligent and productive management of the resources that God has given us. He gave us this planet, and the intelligence (that’s the created in his image and likeness business) to productively manage and develop these resources so that they will continue to sustain life. That implies more than just cutting back or making us feel like we’re rubbish; that means getting busy and creative to solve our problems.
My father (who hated environmentalists and environmentalism with a passion) nevertheless observed that man was the only animal who “crapped in his own box.” Our cat (shown in a previously unreleased photograph) addressed this problem by always squatting near the edge of his, which meant that the result occasionally ended up in the floor. The solutions that are tendered by environmentalists and their New Atheist and Christian sympathisers alike don’t show much more imagination than the cat did. It’s time that Christian leaders wake up and take a really Biblical position on this subject, one that shows that our Creator’s confidence in us was not entirely misplaced.