Saturday, January 26, 2013

Creation Care is NOT Creation Worship

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Last week I wrote that creation care is worship and explored some reasons that many Christians, particularly here in the United States, fail to recognize the connection. Today I want to consider some other obstacles that may hinder many Christians from caring for creation as an act of worship.

Creation care as worship sounds awfully close to worshiping creation. They are not the same thing. I am not advocating nature as God, nor the worship of the creation as some type of deity. Creation care from a Christian perspective clearly recognizes and distinguishes between the creation and the Creator. I do think that some aspects of native American (and probably other native religions, I'm not particularly familiar with most of them) do recognize something important in the interconnection of human life with the rest of the natural world. Somewhere in our Christian theology we have lost this connection, to our detriment and to the detriment of the natural world. We have forgotten that God created as in harmony with the rest of creation. We were not created to live disconnected from the world around us. We were not created to exploit, abuse and use creation solely for our own benefit, without regard for the holistic balance of life nor without concern for future generations. All of creation comes from God and all of it was declared good by the Creator. When we affirm the created world, when we care for it and nurture it so that it sustains our lives and the lives of future generations, we honor and worship the Creator God, not the creation itself. Let's not let our fear of confusing the two keep us from expressing our worship through care for creation.

Christians may also reject creation care because they reject modern science and the evidence that our human behaviour is causing significant harm to the global environment. I see in certain Christian circles a very strong fear of what we might call scientific conspiracy, an ongoing effort to undermine Christian faith through science. There are many aspects of this, more than I can possibly or want to address in this article. But I do want to challenge the thinking that global climate change represents a scientific hoax designed to undermine Christian faith. Not that long ago I was rather skeptical about global climate change and the threat it poses to human life and well-being. The more I read and observe what is happening though, the more I realize that the data is there to back up the concerns being raised by scientists. I wrote some time ago about watching the movie and the effect it had on my thinking. Currently I am reading the book Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman, which is a powerful argument for our need to change our lifestyle for the sake of ourselves and the future of our planet. I don't see how this challenges the foundations of Christian faith. Rather, it should stir us as Christians to recognize that we have failed to be good stewards of creation, as we were tasked to be in the beginning according to Genesis. Why do so many American Christians refuse to hear the siren call being sounded?

The answer to that lies in another problem we have as American Christians: We love our American lifestyle more than we love God. In fact, we have conflated the two. There. I said it. We would prefer to choose our life of personal comfort, convenience and individual freedom, over social responsibility and accepting God's call to care for creation. Caring for creation comes at a price. We cannot live as we have been living if we want to worship God through creation care. Faced with that reality, many Christians in America prefer to cling to a cultural Christianity that allows them to pursue their desired lifestyle without care for creation or the poor of the earth who will be most significantly affected by the environmental destruction we are causing directly and indirectly. Our lifestyles come at more expense that the dollars we pay, but because that expense is paid by the poor in other countries and will be paid by future generations, we do not let it concern us. Worshiping God through caring for creation will require us to make changes and, yes, sacrifices. It will challenge us to value more highly something other than our personal comfort and pleasure. This does not mean that we must live in poverty. It doesn't mean that we will not be able to have pleasant, enjoyable lives. But it will mean that we choose more carefully and wisely how we purchase and use resources, thinking not only of the bottom line now but of the impact on others around the globe today and in the future. It does mean reexamining our values and priorities in the light of Jesus Christ. Ron Sider, in this article, pointedly states:

The church of Jesus Christ will do what God wants it to do for the environment and the poor if member by member, congregation by congregation, we look up into the face of the risen Lord and submit ourselves totally and unconditionally in worship and obedience. Let's look into his face in surrender as we face very decision- about money, sex, business, marriage, politics, divorce, peacemaking. Can we keep doing some of the things we are now doing if we look constantly and intently into his face and ask him, "My Lord, are you pleased with how I am living, or does it make you weep?" Let's dare daily to look into his face and invite him to make us more and more like himself, transforming us from one degree of glory to another.

Worshiping God through creation care does not come easily. It requires us to rethink our values and priorities and in consequence to make some adjustments – for most of us probably fairly radical adjustments over time – to how we live. Because we love our God, we need to love and care for the whole of creation: the other people living on the planet now, the plants, animals, water and air that surround us, and all that will exist in coming years. I myself have only begun to reexamine my lifestyle, and my wife and I have begun making changes in how we live as a result. I shared some of these last year, in this article, this article, and this article.

How do you already express worship through caring for God's creation? What changes might you make to better worship God in this way? What hinders you from caring for creation?

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