May 8, 2009
A recent discussion on our blog, The Point, demonstrated how uneasy many Christians feel about environmentalism. The subject was the book Go Green, $ave Green by Nancy Sleeth (who founded the organization Blessed Earth along with her husband, Matthew). Some of our commenters were bothered by our bringing up a subject that’s largely considered to belong to the left wing.
I can see where they’re coming from. I’ve said before on BreakPoint how appalled I am at the apocalyptic language some people are using to scare us into the green agenda. And Christians ought to oppose any environmentalist agenda that would ignore or even scoff at the plight of the poor and the sanctity of human life.
But Christians don’t have to let concern for the environment—that is, concern for God’s creation—be hijacked by those who are hostile to our beliefs.
And Nancy Sleeth’s approach is a perfect example. Sleeth and her family started learning about how to care for the environment around the same time they came to faith in Christ. Of every religion she and her family investigated, she says that Christianity was the only one that placed a high value on caring for the earth. So she offers an unusual perspective on environmentalism through the eyes of faith.
No matter how you feel about environmentalism, it’s hard to argue with two points that Sleeth makes quite well. First, God made the earth, and we are stewards of His creation. Second, consuming less saves time and money. And that’s time and money we can better spend in God’s service and building up our family life and serving our neighbors.
The book is a result of Nancy’s years of simplifying and conserving resources. By sharing her own experiences, she’s making the learning process easier for all of us—in the home, in the yard, at work, at the dinner table.
I’m especially impressed that she devoted an entire chapter to honoring the Sabbath. Tapping into her conservative Jewish roots, Sleeth tells us that “we need to be still in order to know God. Shifting our focus [on the Sabbath] from productivity to rest, from success to service, from material gain to spiritual good, from the god of money to the God of love, will have a lasting impact throughout our weeks.” Good point.
As for practical tips on saving time, money, and energy, Sleeth’s checklists are easy to use. She’s even calculated the savings that you might expect by doing some very simple things. Adjusting your thermostat three degrees can save you $200 a year. Insulating your water heater can save you $120; sharing a ride to work, $780; turning the lights off when you leave the room, $40.
And if you’re consistently running children around to sports practices, you could save $400 a year or more just by eliminating one sport per child per year. Or do more carpooling.
In the end, Sleeth shows us that environmentalism doesn’t need to be about a radical political agenda. It can be about our own behavior, informed by values like good stewardship, protecting family time, self-restraint, and helping others. That’s not radical. It is common sense and, most important, thoroughly Christian.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.