Although this blog isn’t focused on it, it’s also not a secret that I’m a Christian. My beliefs actually tie directly into some of my developing philosophies that have led to my desire to homestead, and after a great related sermon at my church today, I wanted to share some thoughts on that.
Part of the reason I want to do that is that sometimes people get the impression that Genesis commanding us to have “dominion” over the earth means that we just want to use and abuse it, and while some people who claim Christianity may live and talk like that, the Bible doesn’t actually support that. I also hope that Christians who haven’t already considered this will take some time to think it over, and that non-Christians will appreciate the ideals and thoughts behind it.
We’re doing an Advent series for the Christmas season, and we’re looking at the things that Jesus came for. Today we talked about creation. See, the Bible started with a place called the Garden of Eden, and a perfect relationship between God, mankind, and the earth. It was literally paradise. The mandate to have “dominion” was not one of harsh rule, but one of careful and loving stewardship. Sin and death broke that relationship, but Jesus’ coming was the beginning of repairing that broken relationship. Eventual restoration will include and healed “new earth,” and Revelation promises that all death and brokenness will cease.
This should make believers think twice about our treatment of the earth. I’m not trying to get all political about anything like global warming here; I’m just talking about stewardship and care. Understanding that it’s supposed to be our job to nurture the earth and care for the living things in it should keep us from cruelty, waste, and ill-use.
Cruelty hardens the heart, deadens the conscience, and destroys the finer sensibilities of the soul. The most eminently spiritual men display great delicacy toward all living things…for the man who truly loves his Maker becomes tender towards all the creatures his Lord has made. In gentleness and kindness our great Redeemer is our model. He who dwells with God has a great heart which encompasses all creation…The man of dead heart towards God has a heart of stone towards the Lord’s creatures, and cares for them only so far as he can make them minister to his own wealth or pleasure.
This doesn’t require us to become vegan hippies, I promise. God gave us the animals to eat later in Genesis, and while it happened after the curse — and therefore death — had come to the world, there is no indication that it is a result of the curse or a bad thing, so there’s no reason we should think that our stewardship demands that we never eat or otherwise use animals. It does demand that we do our best to not use them cruelly.
What can that look like? It’s not going to look the same for everyone, and not everyone has to do everything, but here are a few ideas:
- Buying meat from sources that raise, feed, and kill the animals humanely
- Buying produce from farms that use good practices in their care for the earth and its resources
- Avoid buying from companies with unethical and dangerous practices
- Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
- Voting wisely for initiatives that improve our impact on the environment and require large food corporations to be accountable for their practices
- Being aware of how products such as pesticides and herbicides impact the environment even in our own backyard
- Gardening and/or humanely raising food animals like chickens
- Creating local habitats for animals, such as planting bee-friendly flowers not treated with dangerous pesticides and growing trees for birds and squirrels to live in
- Use water carefully, and perhaps improve use with water catchment systems
- Raising children to respect and steward the earth
- Donate to organizations that help people in third-world countries engage in sustainable farming practices, such as teaching them to farm or buying them livestock
I’m sure there’s many more, but please notice that some of these are focused on your money speaking. We’re privileged in America and other industrialized countries with a lot more wealth than many places, and we can change bad practices by refusing to give money to certain companies until they change their methods. There’s also very simple things that we can do at home. Getting and using a recycling bin or choosing the flowers in our flower bed a little more carefully don’t take a lot of effort or commitment for most of us, but they can make a difference.
Yes, these thoughts really do come from a Christian worldview. When we pollute a river and kill the fish in it we’re needlessly and uselessly killing God’s creatures. When we crowd cows into confined farming centers and feed them with grain that will kill them if they’re not fattened and slaughtered fast enough we’re terribly mistreating them and not raising them in the way that God intended. That’s our responsibility, and taking a couple of simple steps in our lives and doing just a little bit of research on what we choose to buy is not too much to ask in being better stewards to this creation that God gave us.
For anyone interested, here is the sermon that inspired this post.