Unheard Voices

This April 24 is "Creation Sunday." The goal is to "help churches and individuals develop an understanding of the Christian joy and responsibility of caring for Christ's creation." Well, I'm all for joy, responsibility, and caring, but there are a few things that need to be clarified here. The theme of this year's "Creation Sunday" is "protecting God's endangered creatures." The event's sponsors tell us that "God's word calls on all His creatures to praise Him." And "God's other creatures cannot praise Him if we extinguish them from the earth." Well, no one is going to argue with that -- or with the fact that Christians are called "to protect God's oceans" and that environmental degradation "works against the abundant life Christ brings." These are all part of our responsibility toward God's creation. There is, however, another "creature" called on to praise God and for whose well-being we are all responsible: that is, man. But if you have been paying close attention to the rhetoric of most environmental groups, you have already discovered that human well-being is decidedly secondary. When we're told that global warming or other "environmental degradation" can hurt people, it's not an expression of concern; it's more like a threat. We saw this mindset at work following December's tsunami. The bodies were still lying on the ground when some environmentalists tried to turn the event into a lesson about global warming and sea rise. Even if what they said was true, which it wasn't, their crass opportunism manifested indifference to human suffering. Okay, that was an extreme example. But even more respectable phrases like sustainable development suggest that our choices are either environmental protection or raising standards of living. In the minds of radical environmentalists, it's is a "zero-sum" game in which nature or man must lose, and it's clear, in their minds, that the losers should be man. And that's the problem, because even if you're not a Christian and do not regard man as the "crown of creation," there's a great injustice at work here. For the West, you see, "sustainable development" means a modest reduction, not in living standards, but in expectations: maybe slightly smaller homes and cars. The West is rich enough to believe in "sustainable development." But much of the world is not. For them, "development" isn't the difference between a Prius and a Navigator; it's about being able to feed, clothe, and educate their families. Their expectations and aspirations involve a better life for their children and grandchildren. Only if the three billion people living on less than three dollars a day are able to be assured of their economic well-being can they then think about their responsibility to the rest of creation. Talking about the "Christian joy and responsibility of caring for Christ's creation" without placing human well-being at the heart of the equation is pointless. Come April 24 when many of our thoughts turn toward creatures that cannot speak, let's remember those who can speak, but whose voices are seldom heard in the West's environmental debates.


Chuck Colson



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