Aug 29 2010

Tending to Eden

charcoalI have just finished reading a new book by Scott Sabin called Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People.  I have lots of books on Christianity and the environment but this one is different in that it highlights how environmental degradation both contributes to poverty and effects the poor disproportionately.

Sabin is executive director of Plant with Purpose, a nonprofit Christian environmental organization with operations in seven countries.  One of the primary goals of his organization is planting trees and promoting sustainable farming practices.  To some this may not seem like much of a Christian mission but Sabin argues convincingly that it truly is.  By addressing environmental issues in poor countries Plant with Purpose offers hope for the future and love for those in need now.

One of the places the book talks a lot about is Haiti.  I have seen firsthand the deforestation that has taken place in this Caribbean country due to cutting trees for fire wood or the production of charcoal.  Ninety six percent of the Haitian forests have been denuded.  I have also seen firsthand the devastation caused by the flooding deforestation contributes to.  Without a doubt, one of the best things we can do for places like Haiti is assist them in reforestation projects.  As Sabin notes, “When the land is impoverished, its people will remain in poverty.”

In the study guide that is included in the back of the book Sabin says, “The hardships faced by these communities are linked to environmental health. Deforestation, pollution, famine, unsanitary water sources, and events such as drought, flooding, and mudslides are environmental issues.  For Christians, who have been charged with caring for the poor, a response to poverty must include responding to the environmental issues in which poverty is rooted.”

Haitian street scene 6In the book’s conclusion there is this wonderful summary: “When we see creation through God’s eyes, we see that God is revealed in and glorified by this wondrous symphony playing all around us.  The good steward knows that humans have a special part to play in this symphony.  Made in God’s image, humans have a responsibility to care for creation, and thus the good steward seeks to exercise dominion with the same compassion with which God rules.  The good steward’s attitude is best described as one of humility.  With humility, the good steward works to serve and protect creation, acknowledging human dependence on habitat.  Because humans are so dependent on habitat, the good steward responds to Christ’s call to care for ‘the least of these’ by responding to the ecological degradation that characterizes the habitats of our world’s poorest communities.”

Reading Tending to Eden has opened my eyes to seeing Creation and Creation Care to a new level.   I commend the book to you and encourage you to pay a visit to


(The top image shows charcoal being produced in Haiti.  Note the lack of trees on the mountains in the background.  The bottom image is a street scene near Port au Prince.)

Jan 24 2010

Another View of Earthquakes

Haiti scenicThe images coming out of Haiti the last couple of weeks have been horrifying.  I spent some time in that country a few years ago on a mission trip and I find it difficult to comprehend how people who were already suffering greatly can deal with this tragedy.  I find the whole situation most distressing.

What I also find distressing is the response that has come from a number of “religious” voices.  Some are claiming that the earthquake was God’s judgment on Haiti, that the quake was an agent of God’s wrath.  I do not believe such thinking is consistent with the Christian understanding of God nor with good science.

I came across an article on Christianity Today’s website this past week that addresses the issue of why we need earthquakes.  (You can find this article at ) Here you can read how earthquakes, seaquakes and tsunamis are the consequences of plate tectonics and that without plate tectonics we would have no large mountain ranges or continents.  The author makes the claim that “our planet needs plate tectonics to produce the biodiversity that enables complex life to flourish on earth.  Without plate tectonics, earth’s land would be submerged to a depth of several thousand feet. Fish might survive in such an environment, but not humans.”

Obviously, earthquakes can be powerful and have the potential to do massive damage to improperly built structures like those you find throughout Haiti.   Inadequate infrastructure and building codes has been the real culprit behind Haiti’s loss of life.  According to this week’s issue of Newsweek, authorities in Haiti knew a huge earthquake would one day hit their country, but little was done to prepare for it. 

Looking at another natural force of consequence,  hurricanes for millennia have helped form and shape the beautiful beaches people flock to and want to live near.  Those living there often become distressed when hurricanes come their way and cause death and destruction.  Some even point angry fingers at God.  Such folks remind me of those who smoke and then get angry at God when they get cancer.  What did they really expect?

I stand with the Scriptures in affirming that Creation is good and that God is love.  In His love He made us the best possible world.  We may not fully understand why God has arranged some things the way that He did but how could we; He’s God and we’re not!  I hope we can learn to see the goodness inherent in all of God’s Creation and to realize that the apostle Paul was right when he declared that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 8:38-39)

I reject any theology that says God caused this earthquake to punish Haiti.  The God Jesus showed us loves those people.  As Emmanuel, I even believe that Christ is there in the midst of them now, suffering with them.  I also believe that God is calling on folks like you and me to respond to this crisis by praying for those affected by this natural disaster and to make contributions to reputable organizations that are there trying to help out.  I, too, want to encourage you to give.


(The image above was taken in Haiti on my visit there.  Unfortunately, 98% of their forests have been denuded and in additional to human healing, Haiti needs environmental healing as well.)