Happy Earth Day to you. Happy Earth Day to you.

In our continuing series on holidays, what would be a good Christian appropriation of Earth Day? Christians in the past have co-opted pagan holidays to give them a Christian meaning. What could Christians do with Earth Day? How about turning it into a Creation Day, a festival to commemorate God’s creation of the universe. (Or would we need six days for that?) I don’t recall the church ever celebrating that little event!

It seems to me that a successful holiday has to be inspiring and, if possible, fun. Merely hitting people with guilt about not recycling or scaring them to death with global warming scenarios will not make for a happy holiday. Can you think of ways to actually turn this day into a Christian celebration?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • jrr

    Reading Psalm 19:1-6 is a good start to any day.

  • jrr

    Reading Psalm 19:1-6 is a good start to any day.

  • Don S

    The problem with Earth Day is that it is essentially worship of the creation rather than the Creator. How about a presidential proclamation that today will henceforth be set aside to glorify God and the Love He showed for us in creating this marvelous planet for our use and enjoyment?

  • Don S

    The problem with Earth Day is that it is essentially worship of the creation rather than the Creator. How about a presidential proclamation that today will henceforth be set aside to glorify God and the Love He showed for us in creating this marvelous planet for our use and enjoyment?

  • T.V.

    Ok, I think we’ve become cynical. At work, we are all driving our own vehicles to lunch…in honor of Earth Day.

  • T.V.

    Ok, I think we’ve become cynical. At work, we are all driving our own vehicles to lunch…in honor of Earth Day.

  • Brian

    Don S,

    Don’t be so cynical. For too long Christians, certainly certain conservative evangelicals, have not payed enough attention to the care of God’s good creation. Sure, some radical versions of Earth Day have capitulated to various forms of pantheism and the like, but the general idea of Earth Day is not a bad one.

    As for your entreating the the President to make a proclamation, well, why trade off what you suspect to be creature worship for good ol’ American nationalistic unnamed Deism?

  • Brian

    Don S,

    Don’t be so cynical. For too long Christians, certainly certain conservative evangelicals, have not payed enough attention to the care of God’s good creation. Sure, some radical versions of Earth Day have capitulated to various forms of pantheism and the like, but the general idea of Earth Day is not a bad one.

    As for your entreating the the President to make a proclamation, well, why trade off what you suspect to be creature worship for good ol’ American nationalistic unnamed Deism?

  • Don S

    Brian,

    I wasn’t being cynical. We live in a society that denies the existence, power, and relevance of God the Creator, but worships nature. I think reasonable conservation practices are good stewardship, but setting aside one day as “Earth Day” is symbolic at best and idolatrous at worst. We as Christians would do well to turn our attention from the creation to the Creator, and to remind others to do the same. While conserving the earth is a worthy objective, we know that it is going to pass away, in favor of the new earth, unlike the immortal souls of so many people who devote their lives to its protection.

    The Presidential proclamation would be nice (as I would love to see my country honor the eternal and living God), but that is obviously not on the horizon, and, if it were to occur, as you suggest, it would be legally stripped of meaning like the phrase “In God We Trust”. It’s too bad things have come to that, but that shouldn’t stop us as Christians from reminding those around us that we, and our Earth, are fearfully and wonderfully made.

  • Don S

    Brian,

    I wasn’t being cynical. We live in a society that denies the existence, power, and relevance of God the Creator, but worships nature. I think reasonable conservation practices are good stewardship, but setting aside one day as “Earth Day” is symbolic at best and idolatrous at worst. We as Christians would do well to turn our attention from the creation to the Creator, and to remind others to do the same. While conserving the earth is a worthy objective, we know that it is going to pass away, in favor of the new earth, unlike the immortal souls of so many people who devote their lives to its protection.

    The Presidential proclamation would be nice (as I would love to see my country honor the eternal and living God), but that is obviously not on the horizon, and, if it were to occur, as you suggest, it would be legally stripped of meaning like the phrase “In God We Trust”. It’s too bad things have come to that, but that shouldn’t stop us as Christians from reminding those around us that we, and our Earth, are fearfully and wonderfully made.

  • Bruce

    The first thing is, kill all the lawyers.

    Oop. Wait. Wrong day.

    We baptize Earth Day by ignoring the pantheism inherent in it and emphasizing the spirit of stewardship that we are called to. That may not look much different from what the pagans are doing, but the emphasis would be on our vocations as stewards rather than this “heal the earth” environmentalism. Take the high ground! We love the creation more deeply than any pagan! We just don’t worship it.

    After all, ours is an incarnational theology.

  • Bruce

    The first thing is, kill all the lawyers.

    Oop. Wait. Wrong day.

    We baptize Earth Day by ignoring the pantheism inherent in it and emphasizing the spirit of stewardship that we are called to. That may not look much different from what the pagans are doing, but the emphasis would be on our vocations as stewards rather than this “heal the earth” environmentalism. Take the high ground! We love the creation more deeply than any pagan! We just don’t worship it.

    After all, ours is an incarnational theology.

  • Brian

    Ding. Ding Ding. Bruce, you win the prize. Excellent point. in “we baptize Earth Day by ignoring the pantheism inherent in it and emphasizing the spirit of stewardship that we are called to”. Don, listen to Bruce.

  • Brian

    Ding. Ding Ding. Bruce, you win the prize. Excellent point. in “we baptize Earth Day by ignoring the pantheism inherent in it and emphasizing the spirit of stewardship that we are called to”. Don, listen to Bruce.

  • Don S

    I think we should endeavor with all our hearts, souls, and minds to look as different from the pagans as possible. Let them have their pagan celebrations. We have our own higher and eternal calling. Stewardship is a 365 day per year vocation. We don’t need a special day to celebrate one of the many gifts which we are responsible for as stewards. If I had to pick a day to be the first one which Christians set aside to celebrate their stewardship responsbilities, it would be “Children Day” or “Family Day”, not “Earth Day”.

    Let’s keep our priorities in order.

  • Don S

    I think we should endeavor with all our hearts, souls, and minds to look as different from the pagans as possible. Let them have their pagan celebrations. We have our own higher and eternal calling. Stewardship is a 365 day per year vocation. We don’t need a special day to celebrate one of the many gifts which we are responsible for as stewards. If I had to pick a day to be the first one which Christians set aside to celebrate their stewardship responsbilities, it would be “Children Day” or “Family Day”, not “Earth Day”.

    Let’s keep our priorities in order.

  • Brian

    Don S,

    I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not sure if you are seeing the distinction that I see or that Bruce set forth above.

    A good analogy would be beer and vestments: I drink beer. “Pagans” drink beer. I try to use alcohol in moderation as a good gift in distinction from the drunkard who uses it as an end in itself.

    Liturgical vestments. Vestments were the attire ordinary citizens of old Rome and also of certain officials in the Empire. They have over time been “baptized” and given symbolic and Christian import.

    Of course, (creation, economic, familial, etc.) stewardship is a “65 day per year vocation”. Just as every day is a day of Resurrection – but I’m not dispensing with Easter!

    All I’m saying is that is that a concern for creation care is a good thing, even if it’s noticed by “pagans”. That doesn’t mean I buy into any of their pantheism.

  • Brian

    Don S,

    I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not sure if you are seeing the distinction that I see or that Bruce set forth above.

    A good analogy would be beer and vestments: I drink beer. “Pagans” drink beer. I try to use alcohol in moderation as a good gift in distinction from the drunkard who uses it as an end in itself.

    Liturgical vestments. Vestments were the attire ordinary citizens of old Rome and also of certain officials in the Empire. They have over time been “baptized” and given symbolic and Christian import.

    Of course, (creation, economic, familial, etc.) stewardship is a “65 day per year vocation”. Just as every day is a day of Resurrection – but I’m not dispensing with Easter!

    All I’m saying is that is that a concern for creation care is a good thing, even if it’s noticed by “pagans”. That doesn’t mean I buy into any of their pantheism.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    I agree with Bruce (@6) — we could even generalize it to include all stewardship — not just that of the earth and its natural resources, but of our time, money, etc.

    “It seems to me that a successful holiday has to be inspiring and, if possible, fun.” Actually, most holidays I can think of are not, of themselves, fun (though I usually enjoy having the day off). A lack of “fun” doesn’t seem to have held back Yom Kippur, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, etc.

    Saying that Earth Day is only about “hitting people with guilt about not recycling or scaring them to death with global warming scenarios” is kind of like seeing Thanksgiving as being about reminding people how selfish and greedy they are. It’s possible to view both in a positive light.

    Don, you said, “Stewardship is a 365 day per year vocation. We don’t need a special day to celebrate one of the many gifts which we are responsible for as stewards.” Yes, and independence is a year-round blessing. We don’t need a special day to celebrate it. For that matter, we don’t need a special day to celebrate mothers, fathers, or the birth of people, either. We should be honoring those people every day. You see where this goes.

    And you claim that Earth Day is “idolatrous”. Would you have us trade idolatry of the earth for idolatry of our families? (“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”) Or is it possible to celebrate something once a year without worshipping it?

    As for endeavoring “to look as different from the pagans as possible,” I look forward to photos of your new wardrobe change. In my opinion, hats cannot be either too tall or too ornate. The Vatican has learned this lesson well.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    I agree with Bruce (@6) — we could even generalize it to include all stewardship — not just that of the earth and its natural resources, but of our time, money, etc.

    “It seems to me that a successful holiday has to be inspiring and, if possible, fun.” Actually, most holidays I can think of are not, of themselves, fun (though I usually enjoy having the day off). A lack of “fun” doesn’t seem to have held back Yom Kippur, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, etc.

    Saying that Earth Day is only about “hitting people with guilt about not recycling or scaring them to death with global warming scenarios” is kind of like seeing Thanksgiving as being about reminding people how selfish and greedy they are. It’s possible to view both in a positive light.

    Don, you said, “Stewardship is a 365 day per year vocation. We don’t need a special day to celebrate one of the many gifts which we are responsible for as stewards.” Yes, and independence is a year-round blessing. We don’t need a special day to celebrate it. For that matter, we don’t need a special day to celebrate mothers, fathers, or the birth of people, either. We should be honoring those people every day. You see where this goes.

    And you claim that Earth Day is “idolatrous”. Would you have us trade idolatry of the earth for idolatry of our families? (“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”) Or is it possible to celebrate something once a year without worshipping it?

    As for endeavoring “to look as different from the pagans as possible,” I look forward to photos of your new wardrobe change. In my opinion, hats cannot be either too tall or too ornate. The Vatican has learned this lesson well.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Hmm. Should’ve refreshed before I typed my response. Ended up echoing some things Brian had written (@9). Sorry for piling on.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Hmm. Should’ve refreshed before I typed my response. Ended up echoing some things Brian had written (@9). Sorry for piling on.

  • Theodore Gullixson

    I notice that Arbor Day is one week after “Earth Day.” Perhaps Christians should resurrect this secular holiday as a time to plant trees and care for the earth since it does not have the same connotations as “Earth Day.”
    One other aspect to Arbor day would be to appreciate Beauty as God created it, to pull in another thread. One “fun” activity might be to have a “scavanger hunt” where children collect the beauties of nature and the adults explain why they are beautiful.

  • Theodore Gullixson

    I notice that Arbor Day is one week after “Earth Day.” Perhaps Christians should resurrect this secular holiday as a time to plant trees and care for the earth since it does not have the same connotations as “Earth Day.”
    One other aspect to Arbor day would be to appreciate Beauty as God created it, to pull in another thread. One “fun” activity might be to have a “scavanger hunt” where children collect the beauties of nature and the adults explain why they are beautiful.

  • Don S

    We have an abundance of holidays. I would personally prefer to pare them down to New Years Day (for the football of course), Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. We don’t need the others, they clutter the schedule and have become largely meaningless. We certainly don’t need to compromise ourselves by adopting the pagan “holiday” of Earth Day, even if we “baptise” it to somehow make it holy. Why? What is the purpose? Why are we singling out this one asset which God has entrusted to us for special recognition.

    If we truly believe we are responsible to care for God’s Creation (and I agree that we are) then why do we need a special day to acknowledge that? And more to the point, why do we need to appropriate the day that has been co-opted by those zealots who have no sense of balance and no sense of God as the Creator of that which they seek to protect and to worship?

  • Don S

    We have an abundance of holidays. I would personally prefer to pare them down to New Years Day (for the football of course), Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. We don’t need the others, they clutter the schedule and have become largely meaningless. We certainly don’t need to compromise ourselves by adopting the pagan “holiday” of Earth Day, even if we “baptise” it to somehow make it holy. Why? What is the purpose? Why are we singling out this one asset which God has entrusted to us for special recognition.

    If we truly believe we are responsible to care for God’s Creation (and I agree that we are) then why do we need a special day to acknowledge that? And more to the point, why do we need to appropriate the day that has been co-opted by those zealots who have no sense of balance and no sense of God as the Creator of that which they seek to protect and to worship?

  • Brian

    Don S, of the six days you mention only two are holidays, properly speaking: Easter and Christmas.

    The point, or at least my point, is not that we need Earth Day, but rather that since society at large (both Christians and non-Christians) has become aware of the fact that we have a lousy track record in regards to stewardship of the earth, Earth day can kind of serve as a general pointer towards good stewardship.

    Let me clear, I am not saying it should be made a “holiday”, not of the secular kind nor on the church’s calendar. (and by the way, if you want a good example of a Christian steward of creation, think St. Francis of Assisi).

    Nor am I saying that everything that flies under the banner of “Earth Day” is valuable. Some of it is pantheistic thought that should be rejected even by the most ardent of Christian environmentalists.

    Finally, let me say that Earth Day actually passes by in my own private world without a glancing notice. It’s not that big of a deal to me, neither to actively celebrate it or challenge it.

  • Brian

    Don S, of the six days you mention only two are holidays, properly speaking: Easter and Christmas.

    The point, or at least my point, is not that we need Earth Day, but rather that since society at large (both Christians and non-Christians) has become aware of the fact that we have a lousy track record in regards to stewardship of the earth, Earth day can kind of serve as a general pointer towards good stewardship.

    Let me clear, I am not saying it should be made a “holiday”, not of the secular kind nor on the church’s calendar. (and by the way, if you want a good example of a Christian steward of creation, think St. Francis of Assisi).

    Nor am I saying that everything that flies under the banner of “Earth Day” is valuable. Some of it is pantheistic thought that should be rejected even by the most ardent of Christian environmentalists.

    Finally, let me say that Earth Day actually passes by in my own private world without a glancing notice. It’s not that big of a deal to me, neither to actively celebrate it or challenge it.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Junk Earth Day, except maybe to fire up the old chain saw and cut down a tree, and then cook your dinner on the remains.

    If we wanted to celebrate a CreationDay, I’d suggest Rosh Hashana, as it’s said to be the day of the year when He spoke man into existence. I believe it’s also observed by eating a nice brisket, that you could also cook over the remains of the tree you cut down for Earth Day.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Junk Earth Day, except maybe to fire up the old chain saw and cut down a tree, and then cook your dinner on the remains.

    If we wanted to celebrate a CreationDay, I’d suggest Rosh Hashana, as it’s said to be the day of the year when He spoke man into existence. I believe it’s also observed by eating a nice brisket, that you could also cook over the remains of the tree you cut down for Earth Day.

  • Anon

    Simple: Arbor Day, which is today.

    “Nee”

  • Anon

    Simple: Arbor Day, which is today.

    “Nee”

  • Anon

    Pantheist, I remember one Concordia education prof, former principal, regaling the teaching students of how he snowed a concerned pastor about his having the school observe Earth Day.

  • Anon

    Pantheist, I remember one Concordia education prof, former principal, regaling the teaching students of how he snowed a concerned pastor about his having the school observe Earth Day.


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