Christians and environmentalists must join forces
Richard "Doc" Rioux · December 8, 1996
I've spent time during the last few weeks in the Southern California mountains around Mount Piños near Frazier Park and Pine Mountain Club to the north of us, west of the I-5 freeway. We are fortunate to have such a beautiful natural theater in close proximity where forests of Ponderosa and Pinion Pines cover mountains touching clear skies that fill with a million stars on dark nights.
Something happens when I'm in what remains of the thick woods that once covered most of this country on the shores of the choppy Atlantic Ocean to the ragged cliffs pushing out into the deep Pacific. The history of this country rolls through the inlets of my mind, beginning at a century before Columbus, when our native American ancestors hunted, fished and gathered berries in a land they never challenged but fit into as an integral part of the natural process and exchange of things.
They settled in hutted communities and raised children among an abundance of flora and fauna. They wasted very little and valued the resources their Great Father gave them to live with and thrive on.
The stewardship of nature which was their heritage is something we must recapture before all that we were given by the Almighty is lost, never to be recaptured, never ever again. The industrialization that accompanied the march of civilization too often exploited and wasted much of the world's natural resources. In 200 years, the process of industrialization laid waste most of the earth's trees and is presently on its way to destroying the rain forests that have from the beginning of time replenished the planet's oxygen supply. We still dump trash into our oceans, turn major rivers into sewers, and transform lakes into huge pools of smells chemicals that fish die in and birds avoid.
Communism was especially harsh on the environment. Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe are now faced with the monumental task of cleaning up the ecological disasters created by communism's forced march toward industrialization. And though democratic capitalism has had a better track record on the environment in the last half of the 20th Century, the story of exploitation and neglect from 1750 to 1950 was not reflective of the stewardship a land inhabited by a freedom-loving people should have demanded.
During my wanderings through our local mountains, I've been reading Tony Campolo's book entitled, How to rescue the Earth without worshiping Nature: A Christian's call to save Creation. In it, Mr. Campolo underscores the importance of having Christians take an active role in preserving their natural environment. According to Campolo, those who call themselves Christians must regard themselves as "caretakers of the environment and instruments for the renewal of a polluted creation."
I hate trash. I hate seeing it and try to participate in ridding my surroundings of it each day. I often announce "trash alerts" at the Acton Rehabilitation Center where your taxes have helped thousands of recovering addicts and alcoholics in residence there for 90 days to return to the mainstream of life to become taxpayers like you. "There is no recovery from addiction without order," I often say, "so let's pick up this center and make it look like a beautiful park."
There is so much trash and disorder in the world that we've become far too accustomed to seeing it. People must be trained to see and appreciate cleanliness in order to take the actions required to sustain it. God did not give us an earth that was polluted and dirty. He did not create a cosmos filled with discarded coffee cups, candy wrappers and banana peels. He gave us a pristine planet with clean air, clear lakes and safe water to drink.
The Santa Clarita Valley is one of the most church-oriented communities in the nation. I would hope that every minister of every church here would begin preaching about the need for their congregations to become active in cleaning up the planet the Almighty gave them to live on.
The modern-day environmental movement has for the most part distanced itself from God and often accused Christians of adopting lifestyles which have helped to destroy the planet. These environmentalists should, however, not forget that the man who started the Sierra Club was an avowed Christian who delighted in viewing the great outdoors as a grand cathedral in which to worship God and enjoy His creation. John Muir's writings were filled with references to the Almighty. "The forests of America, however slighted by man," he once said, "must have been a great delight to God, for they were the best he ever planted."
In is my belief that the mostly secular environmental movement should welcome evangelical Christians in the effort to preserve the planet. This would give our entire people a far better chance then they have currently to reverse the rising tide of destruction gripping our shores.
America's churches should raise up an army of God-centered environmentally conscious people to join the groups who have already dedicated their lives to saving the planet. If environmentalists and Christians don't join hands, the earth will continue to deteriorate, and we will lose it to the forces of evil that would steal its bounty from us all.
Dr. Richard Rioux is a resident of Stevenson Ranch. His commentary appears on Sundays.
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