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It Ain’t Easy Being Green

Just ask Kermit the Frog, who sang about it. Or the Jolly Green Giant, about whom the following was sung:

You’ve heard about the Jolly Green Giant,
He’s so big and mean;
He stands there laughing with his hands on his hips ”
And then he hits you with a can of beans!

He lives down in his valley,
The cat stands so tall and green;
But he ain’t no prize, there’s no women his size ”
And that’s why the cat’s so mean!

Yeah, I know ”who besides me would on Earth Day find his thoughts turning to the Jolly Green Giant?

Seriously, though, in some Christian circles it’s not easy being green. That’s because as soon as you start talking about the climate crisis and global warming, which are the heavy environmental topics of the day, some Christians start thinking “vast left-wing conspiracy.” They think, “If Al Gore believes it then I must as a matter of Christian conviction not believe it” ”or something like that.

I confess that I don’t have or take the time to do a lot of reading in this area. The good folks at Scientific American take the crisis seriously and they seem pretty credible to me.

Based on my limited reading, it appears that some of the opposition to the concept of global warming comes down to economic and particularly capitalistic concerns. That is, too much emphasis on the environment may be bad for the expansion of industry and the increase of profits. I appreciate economic concerns; I myself like to have two cents left at the end of the month if at all possible. But it is a fair question: is it a Christian worldview that puts profits ahead of people and that puts industrial expansion ahead of proper care of the earth?

As I understand it, most scientists believe that human activity is a large contributor to the problem of global warming, while some conclude that global warming is a naturally occurring cyclical phenomenon. Simple logic would indicate that both factors are likely at play.

Think of it this way. Let’s say that I have a genetic predisposition to develop cancer. Let’s say that I also have smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 30 years. I develop lung cancer. Did I develop it because of my genetic predisposition or because of my cigarette habit? Perhaps it was both. This much I know, though: putting all that smoke in my body cannot possibly have helped. There was nothing I could do about the naturally occurring predisposition. But I sure could have helped myself by leaving off the cigarettes.

That’s the simple-minded way that I look at global warming. Perhaps we are in a naturally occurring warming cycle. It surely can’t help, though, that we pump so much junk into the air. We can’t do anything about the cycle. But we can do something about the junk. And we should.

God put us in a world where some things happen that are beyond our control. He also put us in a world where we can exercise our free will and use our minds to make sound decisions and to do good rather than harm. We are responsible to do so.

Some folks like to quote Genesis 1:28 in which God said to the first man and woman “Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” as justification for human beings using and manipulating the earth and its resources in any way they see fit.

While it is true that the Hebrew word translated “subdue” has in it the connotation of bringing the earth under human control, surely we Christians must read that verse with Christian eyes, hear it with Christian ears and exercise it with Christian deeds. In other words, ought not our “subduing” of the earth be done with a sense of love, grace and compassion? Ought not we always be trying to treat our planet in ways that are best for God’s good creation and that are best for the people who live within that creation?

No, it’s not easy being green. But it seems to me that it is our Christian duty to do so.

Michael Ruffin is pastor of The Hill Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga. This column is adapted from his blog.