Nov 4 2012

What Does It Mean to be Pro-Life?

Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:19b-20

I don’t know about you but I will be glad when the election is over later this week.  Over the past several months I have grown both tired and discouraged by all the name calling and meaningless rhetoric.  It hurts me to see the country I love so polarized.  As both a Christian minister and someone who believes strongly in environmental stewardship it also bothers me a lot the way certain issues have been framed in the recent political debate.  The “pro-life” issue is one example.

In recent days I’ve been reading a book co-authored by Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne called Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?  I have admired the writings and teaching of Tony Campolo for many years.  I have only recently been introduced to the ministry and writings of Shane Claiborne.  In a chapter called “Dialogue on Being Pro-Life” Claiborne makes this interesting statement: “As Red Letter Christians, we need to be pro-life from the womb to the tomb.  Abortion and euthanasia, the death penalty and war, poverty and health care—all of these are issues of life and death.  And they are issues Jesus cares about because they affect real people.”  In a way I rarely hear voiced in the public debate both Claiborne and Campolo argue that being pro-life involves far more than just being against abortion.  They indicate that many people appear to be only “pro-birth” and are not really pro-life.  I think they have a point.

In the following chapter, “Dialogue on Environmentalism,” Campolo says “Not much is being said about environmentalism being a pro-life issue, but the two are related.”   This is something that I have believed for a long time.  Our attitude about caring for this planet we call home will reveal just how “pro-life” we really are.  You cannot tell me that it’s o.k. to pour toxins into our rivers, streams and lakes, to fill the air with pollutants, to use pesticides irresponsibly, or to carelessly destroy our forests, mountains and wetlands and still be “pro-life.”  The authors are right; environmentalism and being pro-life are related.  I just wish more people understood this.

I hope that this is something people will think about when they go to the polls on Tuesday.  I can assure you that I will.  I can also assure you that after Tuesday, whatever the outcome, it will remain a big concern of mine.  I trust it will for you as well.


(I took the top image in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the middle image at Breaks Interstate Park in Virginia, and the bottom image in Montana.)

Jun 5 2011

Looking For Recruits

At the bottom of the e-mails Rob Sheppard sends you will find this saying by Baba Dioum: “In the end we will conserve only what we love.  We love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.”  After reading this weekend an essay in the New York Times based on a commencement address given by Jonathan Franzen I understand this saying a lot better than I did before.

In his commencement address (given at Kenyon College) Franzen draws a clear distinction between liking and loving something or someone.  Drawing on his personal experience he said, “When I was in college, and for many years after, I liked the natural world.  Didn’t love it, but definitely liked it.”  He goes on to say “It can be very pretty, nature.  And since I was looking for things to find wrong with the world, I naturally gravitated to environmentalism, because there were certainly plenty of things wrong with the environment.  And the more I looked at what was wrong—an exploding world population, exploding levels of resource consumption, rising global temperatures, the trashing of oceans, the logging of our last old-growth forests—the angrier I became.”

Franzen admits his concern for the environment eventually waned when he realized that “there was nothing meaningful that I personally could do to save the planet, and I wanted to get on with devoting myself to things I loved.”  Things changed however when he fell in love with birds and became a devoted birdwatcher.  His love for birds forced him once more to become involved in environmental issues.  He felt he had to.  “Because now, not merely liking nature but loving a specific and vital part of it, I had no choice but to start worrying about the environment again.  The news on that front was no better than when I decided to quit worrying about it—was considerably worse, in fact—but now those threatened forests and wetlands and oceans weren’t just pretty scenes for me to enjoy.  They were the home of animals I loved.”

When I read these words I couldn’t help but think of the quote at the bottom of Rob’s e-mails.  It’s true; “in the end we will conserve only what we loveWe love only what we understand.  We will understand only what we are taught.” If you are concerned about what’s happening to God’s Creation you would be wise to remember this truth.  In all likelihood you already love what God has made and are trying to make a difference in caring for the earth.   Others aren’t there yet, however, and one of our jobs as good stewards is recruiting others to join us.  One way we can do this is by helping others develop a love for nature.  We can encourage people to get to know the flora and fauna of their area.  We can help them better understand the goodness of God’s Creation and how all parts of it are important and work together.  Many people simply haven’t been taught these things.  Speaking of the gospel the apostle Paul once asked, “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”  (Romans 10:14) The same thing might be asked about sharing God’s love and concern for the earth.  How can they hear without someone teaching them? Someone like you perhaps…


(I took both of the images above in Florida.  The herons and egret were photographed at Venice and the burrowing owl in Marcos.)