I’d like to discuss two specific aspects of the Christian economy (common to all the Abrahamic religions, but most prevalent in Christianity.)
- Specific Purpose External to the Individual.
- Specific Finite Historical Timeline.
In the second half of the 20th century many Christians were won over to Christ with the aid of a small orange booklet titled “Have You Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?” For many people, myself included, the allure of an all-powerful creator having a particular purpose for my life was hard to resist. Who wouldn’t be comforted in the midst of a chaotic and troubled world to know that God was working on a grand plan for each individual person?
Not only that, but Evangelical theology asserts that god has a grand, fully detailed purpose for the entire universe (Romans 8:28 and others.) No evangelical would contest that.
Furthermore, Evangelical theology asserts that god has a very specific unchangeable timeline for the the earth and the universe and all life therein. In it the earth’s days are numbered. This earth is slated for destruction. It will be razed on the last day, and in its place god will create both a new heaven and a new earth, perfect and eternal, on which the elect will live forever in the glory of the presence of the lord.
That makes this world, in a word, disposable. It was to me, as a Christian. I feigned some level of care. I recycled, most of the time. I… no, that was it. Oh, and I didn’t litter. Yay for me. Iron Eyes Cody would be proud.
The consistent attitude that this earth is fading, dying, groaning, deteriorating, crumbling, is pervasive. And how did it get this way?
Because the first man and woman sinned, sin entered the world. The perfect world was corrupt. Instead of being perfect and eternal, it was now corrupt, and this corruption slowly works through the world like yeast through a loaf of bread.
So it is not just that it’s slowly deteriorating. It’s that it has been corrupted by evil and that the only solution to forever rid the universe of the corruption of sin is to forever totally destroy it and replace it with the incorruptible.
Nevermind the logical inconsistencies in that doctrinal area. That’s for another time. Here is, to my mind, what makes this disposability so pernicious:
Once freed from the notion that there is a paternalistic being looking over everything an applying some sort of purpose, you begin to see life and nature for the beautifully random thing it is. There is no upcoming final countdown. There is no specific redeeming of this particular earth. In fact, the Earth fits quite perfectly into its space in this natural universe. It does not exhibit some sort of special corruption that is unique from the rest of the unscathed universe. Everything operates by the same physical laws that govern the rest of the universe.
When you see there is no why you can also see there is no must.
Catch this. There is no external authority guaranteeing the permanent continuation of the human race, or any particular Earth species. We are here on this planet, and only we care. There is nobody out there guarding us against catastrophe. As we have seen time and time again, nature is no respecter of persons or animals or any particular life forms. It simply is. We are self-conscious animals who psychologically apply meaning and purpose to our lives, which is excellent for developing community and partnership among humans, but has no bearing on the actual survival of individual or of group.
If tomorrow we were to set off all the bombs and wipe out all the species on earth – all dead, all gone, all so very quiet, nobody will care.
Nobody will note the passing of this race of people. Nobody will remark, set up a memorial, or attempt a last-ditch rescue. Nobody will notice a thing. The universe will be as quiet here as anywhere.
There is only this small group of tiny people on this tiny orb. We care. Only we care. It’s up to us to care. We have nowhere to take out an insurance policy, to institute any guarantee. We have to care. There isn’t a line in the sand that we cannot cross. Nobody’s waiting and watching to keep us from running our little feet into the deep end of the pool. We absolutely can cross that line.
We can cross the line. We can end human viability.
We have nobody to ask to prevent this from ever happening. We have no second chance, no redemption save for ourselves. We must take the issues of climate change, resource depletion, and overpopulation seriously.
Do I mean you should go tie dye your t-shirt and hitch a ride on the Rainbow Warrior?
No, of course not. But it does mean that we cannot let the unprovable views of apocalyptic religions distract us from the reasonable task of caring for our environment. It does mean that we must cherish this life and preserve and care for its support system for ourselves and for our children and theirs.
If we don’t – if we allow religious, unsubstantiated faith to distract us as a human community from taking proper care – we might someday find that we have not done enough, that we have stepped across the line and rendered our own world incapable of sustaining us as a species.
We may someday go extinct. Well, someday we surely will – of that there is no serious doubt. But we may find that we’ve accelerated the process beyond turning back.
And nobody out there will care.