Throughout Scripture, devastation done to the earth is connected with and seen as a reflection of human sin. Humans were expected to take care of the earth as its stewards. While they have sinned by abandoning their proper place as guardians and protectors of the earth, they have done much worse than that, for in their selfishness and greed, they have looted the earth, destroying the beauty of God’s wonderful creation. In this manner, the prophet Isaiah was able to see the relationship between destructive pollution covering the earth and the transgression of the law of God:
The earth mourns and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left (Isa. 24:4-6 RSV).
Those who destroy the earth, those who break the natural law by defiling the beauty of God’s creation, will face God’s wrath:
The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear thy name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth (Rev. 11:18 RSV).
Christians should join hand in hand with all who seek to protect the earth. Obviously, not all the means suggested for such environmentalism necessarily are good, but this should not be used to reject the good that environmentalism entails. When destructive oil pipelines threaten the landscape, risking grave, irreversible harm to local ecology, Christians have a duty to fight against them. When the rich want to find more, easy access to riches, such as with the Keystone Pipeline, their lack of concern the rich have for what they do means the danger of a leak causing a major catastrophe is real. The warning signs are there, as it is easy for a leak to form, causing fast harm which will be difficult to control, as a recent leak with a different Keystone Pipeline demonstrated. Christians, seeing the destruction of the earth which has already come from the greed of oil executives, must go hand in hand with those who are concerned and challenge the new, bigger pipeline which Trump and many in the GOP have supported. What is worse, what Trump and his GOP colleagues promises are lies; the pipeline will not provide long term jobs and economic gain for the United States; it will only help fill the coffers of a few rich oil barons who automate the process of destroying the earth for the sake of a few dollars more in their bank accounts.
The workers of the world, those who are finding their pay decreasing as the rich corporate elite from their profits rising, must work together. They must combat the greed of the executives who squeeze profits from the earth, not caring on the harm they do as a result of their avarice, as Pope Francis stated in his Letter To the International Conference “From Populorum progressio to Laudato si’ (Nov. 23-24,2017):
However, as Paul VI observed, one must not exaggerate the “mystique” of work. The person “is not only work”; there are other human needs that we must cultivate and consider, such as family, friends, and rest, It is important, therefore, to remember that any work must be at the service of the person, not the person in the service of work, and this implies that we must question structures that damage or exploit people, families, societies and our mother earth.
Pope Francis in the same letter indicated that to establish what is right and good is going to require a struggle in which those who have been cast aside and thrown to the peripheries will have to be given preferential treatment, so that they will take center stage and help combat the social structures of sin inherent in today’s economic system:
But we cannot be ingenuous and think that dialogue will occur naturally and without conflict. There is a need for people who can work tirelessly to bring to life processes of dialogue at all levels: at the level of the business enterprise, the trade union, the movement; at the level of the neighbourhood, the city, regional, national and global. In this dialogue on development, all voices and visions are necessary, but especially the least-heard voices, those of the peripheries. I know the effort made by many people to make these voices emerge in the places where decisions are taken regarding work. I ask you to take on this noble commitment.
Too much preference is given to the rich, to freeing them from social and moral restraints; this is the so-called freedom many preach, ignoring that as the rich gain more power and might, the poor, the middle class, and even the lesser among the rich, find their own freedoms squashed and trampled upon. It is a false freedom, the Satanic temptation of power, which is being promoted by false prophets exploiting people and their desire for freedom, so as to have them give up the regulations and controls which would best keep them free. Despite the power they think they might gain in the world, their class warfare is going to end badly for them, both in the earthly sense of history as those they oppress end up fighting back, as well as in eternity, as the consequences of their actions are not merely historical in nature:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep (2Ptr. 2:1-3 RSV).
It is possible for some to be rich and moral, if they use their riches to help the poor and needy and they fight against the structures of sin which keep the poor oppressed. Thus, those who are rich are told to be humble, not proud, to be servants instead of seeking the service of others, if they do not want to face the condemnation which comes upon the greedy:
As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed (1Tim. 6:17-19 RSV).
Yet, it is clear, we live in an age where the rich exploit the poor, and they defend their greed with such extreme gaslighting, most who have no time or energy to research what is being said will follow the few catchwords and slogans which the elite use to encourage support for decisions which ultimately help serve an elect few, the rich, who will get the benefits which many of the poor and middle class believes are being promised to them. The rise of ecological disaster and pollution and the extinction of many animal species demonstrates the exploitation which the rich are willing to engage for the sake of their own benefit. They do not care what harm they do so long as they feel they stay on top and away from the it themselves; but as Scripture and history shows, that short-sighted vision will be their own demise. The pain and sorrow they have inflicted upon others will come back and haunt them if they do not repent and fix what they have broken before it is too late. Christians must stand hand in hand with the victims of oppression, putting them first before all others. They cannot stand with and support the oppressors; to do so is to become like Judas, who was willing to sell out his beatitude for negligible wealth.
[Image= A crowd near the Washington Monument on Feb 17, 2013 to protest the Keystone XL pipeline by Jmcdaid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]
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