Hugging Trees: Christians and the Environment

04/13/2015 01:48 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2015

This month is Earth Month, with Earth Day on April 22. Communities and organizations take time to place a special emphasis on the environment and how our care (or neglect) of creation impacts us, our neighbors and future generations.

Growing up, my dad influenced my love for nature and being outside. I grew up "hugging trees," not because of some New Age thing, but because my dad was always enamored with the tree trunks that could take more than a person to span the width of their trunks! He was in sheer childhood delight when we took him to the sequoias. Every once in a while, I find myself wanting to throw my arms around a tree both in memory of him and also to appreciate the glory of God's creation!

Scripture affirms this delight at nature; Psalm 19 begins, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Brilliant skies and captivating views encourage us to believe that there is a creator who is an artist.


Beyond the beauty though, we have a responsibility to our environment. As Christians we do this both because creation is a beautiful, life-giving, part of God's creation and because when we fail to care for the environment the disastrous effects are felt most profoundly by the world's poor. Those living in poverty are most significantly affected by climate change, pollution, and other environmental degradation.

Climate change, perhaps the most well-known environmental issue of the day, affects everything from the water needed grow crops to the spread of disease around the world.

In Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith, my co-authors and I point out that the religious thought and norms of early settlers to the North American continent encouraged them to "tame" the wild -- clearing land, killing animals and otherwise "conquering" the nature they saw. Taken to the extreme -- this type of theological understanding of "subduing" nature causes us to push species to extinction. What we need instead is a theology of "stewardship" for creation that encourages us to find the beauty and purpose in nature and work to cultivate all that is life-giving in the world.

We have a responsibility as humans created in the image of God -- to carry forth the life-giving, sustaining, healing, and providing image of God into all the world. That includes our interactions with plants and animals and the environment. We do this for the inherent worth of creation, but also because these actions impact our fellow human beings.

I invite you to join me, the other authors of Forgive Us, and other Christians concerned about the environment in a Twitter chat on Sins of the Church against Creation on April 22, 9 pm est. #forgiveusbook