Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Environmentalism as idolatry: why we must repent of environmentalism to be green

Some Christians are quick to identify environmentalism as a contemporary form of idolatry.

If and when it is indeed so, then like all idolatries, environmentalism takes something good and treats it as though it were God. In doing so, by trying to make some created good into the centre, it ends up distorting all of life and ultimately, failing to love even that which it tries to worship.

But the solution is not to throw out the baby with the bathwater by rejecting the object of idolatrous attention. God is worshipped not by removing ourselves from the created order, but by rightly loving it. And so rather than rejecting ecological concerns because some have made them into an idol, loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength can give us a greater capacity to love our neighbour and to respect the beauty and integrity of the living spaces of the planet. Christians are free to be more humane than the humanists, more wealthy (in the things that matter) than the capitalists, more concerned about glory than the celebrities, more free than the liberals and more green than the greenies!
Image by Brennan Jacoby.

6 comments:

Matthew Moffitt said...

Excellent. This post was very helpful for my thinking on this.

byron smith said...

Yes, it represented a significant development of my own thinking, largely taken from the work of a friend here in Edinburgh, as I think I mentioned back then (at least in the comments).

byron smith said...

Oops, I should have mentioned that my friend's name is Becky Artinian Kaiser. Credit where credit is due!

Becky, if you're reading this, thanks for sharing your work!

Pstyle said...

ot all environmentalism is pantheistic or idolatorous... what you describe is more akin to deep-ecology than borad environmentalism....

byron smith said...

Pstyle - Thanks for commenting. You are of course correct and if you have a look around this blog, you'll see that ecological responsibility through the joyful embrace of our creaturely situation is indeed a longstanding concern of mine. I guess this post is really a short reply to some Christians who label all "environmentalism" as idolatry.

Having said that, I think that there are forms of idolatrous environmentalism that are not deep ecology, and ways of embracing deep ecology that are not idolatrous (depending on exactly how you define the "deep").

byron smith said...

I've said a little more about in the comments over here.