Celebrating Earth Day… the Christian Way
April 20, 2023
So, how are you going to celebrate Earth Day? Many Americans may have a suspicious attitude toward celebrating what some see as a “hippie holiday” or a political statement against anyone who doesn’t embrace a 100% “Green” lifestyle. As devoted Christians, some of us might struggle with expressions of “Environmental Spiritualism”; i.e., treating the Earth as if it were God or another type of deity.
As a Catholic convert, and once-upon-a-time unbeliever and ardent environmentalist, I have progressed from an attitude of “environmental spiritualism” to an attitude of Christian gratitude and commitment for the care of God’s gift of creation.
I happily discovered that one of the themes of Catholic Social Teaching is to safeguard the environment.
The Church teaching to “Care for Creation” is summed up with the statement:
If we destroy the environment, we ultimately destroy the human person and if we care for creation, we uphold human dignity.
Our human dignity demands our human responsibility to care for creation because we are part of creation.
These sentiments have been reinforced over the past 50 years by the past three Popes.
Benedict XVI made a clear statement for the care of creation by installing enough solar panels in the Vatican to power all of Vatican City.
This and other actions gained him the nickname, “The Green Pope.”
In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis provides a clear, practical reflection on integral ecology:
What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? … When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results.
But if these issues are courageously faced, we are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions:
What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us? It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn. ~ Pope Francis, Laudato Si’. Paragraph 160
These and other writings of the Church on caring for creation compel me to see Earth Day as something for Christians to take seriously, reflecting upon how we are called to care for our common home.
I conclude with a quote from John Muir, one of the mystic voices about God and creation.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. “
Happy Earth Day!