Nature Ain’t My Mama: Some Recent Thoughts on the Idolatry of Environmentalism

What? Environmentalism is idolatry? Are you nuts? That’s a scandalous statement! How could you say such a thing? Aren’t you concerned about the Tar Sands, the omnibus budget bill, climate change, single use grocery bags and leaving carbon footprints all over the planet?

The short answer? Yes and no.

The care of Planet Earth is a stewardship, and as stewards we have failed miserably. I suspect any environmentalist worth his organic sea salt would agree.

There ya go–I knew it! You’re one of those politically incorrect wackos who insists on using sexist language to spew their right-wing rhetoric! 

OK, just stop. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Drink a mug of warm soy milk and put your feet up. You’ll feel better in a few minutes.

In Romans 1, Paul makes a significant assertion about the theology of environmentalism.

Hah–I knew it! You’re one of those born-gain Bible people! Coulda told you that right from the get-go!

Well, you got me there. I am a committed Christian and I do believe what the Bible says. About everything. So you drink your milk assuming God doesn’t exist and I’ll write my piece assuming He does. Problem is, I don’t have to prove my point of view. You do–but you can’t. In fact, you’d actually have to be God to prove He doesn’t exist!

So, here’s what Paul says in Romans 1:16-25:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (ESV)

Did you get all that? What Paul is teaching here is that just by virtue of what He says about Himself in creation, every person on earth is without excuse before God. Nobody–including you–will be able to stand before Him and say, “But I had no idea you were out there!”

Uh-uh. That just won’t cut it with Him, and you know it. You have simply chosen to ignore it, so you “suppress the truth”, having “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” That’s called idolatry.

Here’s the difference between how we view the stewardship of the planet. A stewardship is something entrusted to us by someone else, right? A duty, a sum of money or maybe the family car. The important question is this: Who entrusted to us the care of Planet Earth?

Most environmentalists I’ve encountered or to whom I’ve listened feel an obligation either to Mother Nature herself (sic), to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, to a political agenda or to their own consciences.

But the planet is not a moral agent–it’s a planet–and therefore it cannot impose any moral obligations. Future generations have not yet been born. Politicians care about your votes, not your grocery bags. So, if we replace the One who imposed that stewardship upon us with anyone or anything else, including ourselves, we have committed an act of idolatry–high treason against the Creator.

God is a conservationist, not an environmentalist. He’s not out to save the planet, but the people who live here. Though He originally designed the earth so it could last forever, it won’t. No matter how many trees we hug.

So, should we be better stewards of the earth? Of course we should. I won’t deny that for a minute. In fact, I could be mistaken for an environmentalist by a casual observer. But we have to remember by whom we have been entrusted with the earth’s care. Populating the planet and exercising dominion over the rest of the created order was God’s first charge to the first humans. But it wasn’t the last one or even the most important one.

Call me a fool, if you like. I’d rather be called a fool than be one. As a steward of the earth, I need to be more concerned with His Divine hand print than with my carbon footprint. More concerned about the people who live on the earth than about the earth itself. Otherwise, God says I am a fool.

And an idolator.

The image of the Mexico City landfill is, ironically enough, from the site of 


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