At a recent conference in the United States, keynote speaker, author and Professor
of philosophy Kathleen Dean Moore, invited the audience to “give up hope” for
the environment. At one end of the hope extreme, she said, is “hopelessness”: The
problems are simply too big and too complex; nothing we do will matter. At the
other end of the spectrum is “uninformed hope”: Everything will turn out all right;
we don’t need to do anything.
Rather than hope, she argued, we need “moral integrity.” We must recognize that
the roots of the ecological crises we face lie in our choices.
I agree with Moore that we do, in fact, need moral integrity. Indeed, we need
the highest form of moral integrity; we need biblical integrity. I also agree that
neither hopelessness nor uninformed hope is of any value. I stop short, however, of
discarding hope. No need to toss the baby out with the bathwater.
As a pastor of mine once taught, we must define our terms. And so I clarify that
by “hope”, I mean the confidence which Christians place in Jesus Christ, in whom,
the Bible says, all things were created, in whom all things hold together, and
through whom all things are reconciled to God. Christ’s already-but-not-yet
Kingdom brings ‘shalom’ to the created order: human and non-human alike. Though
the battle rages on—species die off, the climate changes and people suffer—the war
is over. Victory is assured.
Therefore, Christians can have hope.
That hope, however, is far different from the all-is-well-sit-back-and-relax hope that
Moore rightly cautions against. This hope leads to action. The exact nature of the
action, of course, varies according to context.
Within the international family of A Rocha projects, the action ranges from restoring
marshes and bird habitats to teaching children about creation and Creator, from
growing vegetables for those in need to helping others in need create jobs, and
Individual and family action will likely involve what pastor and author Tri Robinson
calls “decreasing the footprint and increasing the handprint.” Examples of a smaller
footprint include reduced use of fossil fuels, reduced consumption of foods from
far away and reduced consumption in general. (These examples are, admittedly,
from an American lifestyle that consumes far more than our fair share of the earth’s
resources.) On the handprint side of the equation are such things as replacing
invasive species with native plants to improve habitat, using earth-friendly farming
techniques, and working to clean and protect water bodies.
For churches, the action might start with preaching and teaching about God’s very
good creation—both human and nonhuman alike—and the command to care for it.
From there, the action might spread to include greening the facilities by using less
water and recycling. And for churches who are looking for still more action, hope
might lead to partnering with other organizations in the community to clean a local
stream, remove invasive plant species or even adopt the local watershed.
These, of course, are just a few of the myriad possibilities for hope-inspired action
Christians can take to care for God’s wondrous yet beleaguered creation. Whatever
the exact actions, however, it is vital to remember from whence our hope and
therefore our strength come. The work can be hard. The results may be small or
even invisible. We are called only to be faithful. God is in charge of the results. And
that is reason to hope and to act.