Jesus Is an Environmentalist

What I know about Jesus is based solely on what I’ve heard and what I’ve read. My opinions on the man come from hearsay along with some good books, so to speak, that paint a fairly clear picture of his times and culture, if not of Him Himself.

Unfortunately, when having any “What Would Jesus Do?” discussion, this leaves me at a distinct disadvantage to those who apparently know Jesus personally. And it turns out there are a lot of people out there who are on more than a first name basis with the guy. Not only that, they’re also happy to tell us all what he thought and, to some, thinks, about a host of issues including environmentalism.

These very knowledgeable people have a number of oft-used arguments explaining why environmentalism is “against” Jesus and God and the Bible. While they’re not specifically limited to the fundamentalist religious right (just a couple years ago, for example, the Pope was warned by council of an Antichrist who is “a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist”), they do seem to be in possession of the greatest amount of truth on the matter. Here are some examples of how green clashes with God:

  • The End of Days: Coming soon to an ecosystem near you. Environmental disasters are canaries in our coal mine of sin (or blackbirds falling from the sky). Jesus is coming and the Word is there’s going to be some global warming involved, anyway.
  • Who’s driving this bus? You? Me? No. Just ask the Representative from the Great state of Illinois, John Shimkus, who reminds us “God will decide when to end the Earth, not man.” Well, there you go. Stop that silly worrying and drill, baby, drill!
  • Stop monkeying around! Many in the religious right see a distinct connection between environmentalism, evolution and humanism. Think of it like a domino effect – first we evolve and pretty soon we’re all wanting to save the planet. It’s a slippery slope.
  • Greenies are all about the S-word. Environmentalists tend to rely on the cult of science that proves things such as the earth being much, much more than 6,000ish years old.
  • Kill the competition. The far Christian right works to paint the Green movement as type of religion. Unsurprisingly, like most movements other than their own, it’s after our children and determined to undermine our way of life.

Many of these points are laid out in the recently released and much-covered video film series Resisting the Green Dragon, described by its creators as “a biblical response to one of the greatest deceptions of our day.” Watch it and get the “the armor you need to rise up slay the Green Dragon and promote the true gospel of Jesus Christ.” The storyline, celebrated by Glenn Beck and told by a who’s who of right wing religious think-tankers and Christian group leaders, paints environmentalism as “a threat to the Christian state” (Michigan? New Hampshire? Oh yes, the United States) and takes pot shots at the movement’s “gospel” – some movie called Avatar.

But back to our man.

While many of these know-Him-alls’ points are said to be based on the Bible, it’s pretty tough to pin an anti-green label on Jesus. In my own anecdotal research, I have yet to hear someone say “Jesus said it’s okay to trash the planet.” The truth is that most data, even some from the Good Book, leads us to an entirely different conclusion than God vs. Green.

What, briefly speaking, do we know about Jesus? What kind of lifestyle did he lead and embody? As near as we can tell, given the time lapse between his death and the emergence of scripture, what types of ideas did he champion?

Jesus, it seems, lived a communal lifestyle in a close-to-the-land manner. He shunned wealth accumulation at the expense of the poor, spoke of the meek inheriting the earth and of creation – all creation – as being a gift from his father, God. He identified with pain and suffering and sacrifice for the good of the whole, promoting a spirit of equal access to many, as opposed to special privileges for the few. Exploitation, he preached, was a sin. A good summation comes from The Reverend Stuart C. Lord, Dean of Dartmouth’s Tucker Foundation, who answers that he calls “The Lifestyle of Jesus Question” with four key concepts: inclusivity, community, integrity and humility.

Let’s take a moment to consider the tenets of environmentalism.

Environmentalism, says Merriam-Webster, is the “advocacy of the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment; especially: the movement to control pollution.” Inclusive? One people, one planet. Community? Is there anything more community-oriented than efforts to preserve, restore and improve its home. Integrity? What do they say about cleanliness? Where is it? Oh yeah. And what about that final concept, humility? Who are we to look a gift-God in the mouth. It’s enough, perhaps, to say thank you, give a bow if you wish, and refrain from defiling what’s been given.

If we dare ask the question of why anyone would want to paint the concept of environmentalism as anti-Christian, we have to be prepared to take a serious look at the co-opting of broad-based cultural and religious movements into corporate fiscal and political agendas. Other questions come to mind, like: Why are so many poor against national healthcare? Why are anti-spending hawks so gung-ho for massive military expenditures? When asking how so many have become convinced of the sheer nonsense that taking care of our Earth – our God-given home, if you like – is somehow heretical or socially dangerous, it would be folly not to consider the obvious. Read: follow the money.

That thesis paper aside, which would make note of Sliming the Green Dragon’s hackneyed brainwash-speech (constant repetition of terms like terms like “policy,” “new world order,” “liberty” and the dreaded “global governance”), isn’t it time to take a look at what The Man actually said and did? Indeed some Christian groups already are, as the Creation Care and Evangelical environmentalist movements continue to grow in the United States and around the world. Whether or not these groups will have the will to take on the well-funded Becks, Cornwall Alliances and Shimkuses of the world is another matter.

Having never dreamed that I would end a story with a quote from the Bible, I’m going to go ahead and throw down (I know, it’s Old Testament. So shoot me): “You shall not pollute the land in which you live… you shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell.” Numbers 35:33-34.

Amen.

Scott Adelson is a Jewish-born, Buddhist atheist. <ducks>

Image: Rodrigo Soldon

Scott Adelson

Scott Adelson is EcoSalon's Senior Editor of HyperKulture, a monthly column that explores opening cultural doors to initiate personal change. He is also the author of InPRINT, which reviews and discusses books, new and old. You can reach him at scott@adelson.org.