Looting the Earth is a Sin!
Photo (c) Samuel Lee 2021,
Deze column is ook verschenen in Nederlands in De Nieuwe Koers van de maand juni. Lees hier voor Nederlands.
We've been fighting the corona pandemic for over a year, and it's had a significant impact on our lives. There are many things we can learn and conclude from our experiences, but one that keeps my mind busy is what I call the destruction of God's ecology. By God's ecology, I mean the human realization that we are all interconnected and dependent on one another. Not only between humans, but also between humans and nature (plants, animals, living and non-living materials). We are part of the same ecosystem that God created, both as humans in God's image and as nature in and through God's Word, which carries God's mind and design (John 1). With the rise of capitalism, the growing consumerism generated by human greed, and the out-of-balance globalization, humans have not only caused wars and injustices among themselves, but they are also destroying the earth and breaking the harmony that was intended for a beautiful world.
“Sin is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.” Shusaku Endo (1923-1996)
I graduated in Development Sociology from Leiden University in the early 1990s. We had a professor in rural studies who used to say, "Years ago, our animals in the farms all had names, but now they are numbers." They no longer run freely in the fields, but they are crammed into small spaces, close to one another, imprisoned, and mistreated by our human greed. Consider how animals are treated in factory farms, where they are subjected to inherently cruel and inhumane conditions that deprive them of all their "simply being animals." We need land to have these factory farms, so we destroy forests to grow soybeans and other products to feed and support our fast-food industry. In this way, we have destroyed the Amazon forest, and thus the God's ecosystem. Today's food is primarily commercialized; meat is pumped with hormones and other chemicals to increase weight, for example. Let us move on from forests to the oceans and seas: our capitalism, lifestyle, and consumerism pollute the waters, and thus the creatures in the oceans suffer. Turtles trapped in plastic products, dolphins who commit suicide because of human actions, and sea corals that are being destroyed!
We need to reconsider our ways, restructure our economies on a just basis, redefine our politics, and, most importantly, I hope that Christians who are unaware of God's ecology will reconsider their theologies and thus their views and lifestyles.
The corona pandemic, in my opinion, is more of a punishment by nature because of our actions than a punishment by God. “If we have deteriorated the Earth, the response will be very ugly,” Pope Francis says, quoting a Spanish proverb: “God always forgives, we humans forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives.” I like to quote from the book Silence by one of my favorite Japanese Christian writers, Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) about sin: “Sin is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.” I believe, if Endo was alive today, he would agree with me that humans have not only walked brutally over each other’s lives but also over the entire ecosystem of God, leaving behind a suffering world in which we suffer together.
humans have not only walked brutally over each other’s lives but also over the entire ecosystem of God, leaving behind a suffering world in which we suffer together...and this is surely a sin.
To me, since Christ is the author of life, and since everything was created through God's Word, the ecology of God, nature, carries the logos of God within its very being. Thus, the created world supposed to be in a harmonious cycle of life, yet humans are destroying this cycle, and by doing so they trample on God’s logos. Thus, while the created world is supposed to be in a harmonious cycle of life, humans are destroying this cycle, trampling on God's logos in the process. Apostle Paul rightly says that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21). What is the purpose of revealing God's children to a hurting creation, injured nature, and broken humanity? Therefore, the message of Christ is not only saving souls to get them to heaven, but bringing forth sons and daughters, disciples, who are willing to act against all kinds of injustices, including injustice done to nature.
I hope that this pandemic teaches us numerous lessons, including the need to reconsider our ways, restructure our economies on a just basis, redefine our politics, and, most importantly, I hope that Christians who are unaware of God's ecology will reconsider their theologies and thus their views and lifestyles.