Are you "going green?" That question comes up from time to time at North Greenville University and since I hold the title Vice-President for Student Services and Christian Worldview, it often comes to me. I usually have to bite my tongue to avoid responding with something like, "Why … do I look like I bit into a bad apple?"
I was sitting in a meeting recently with our food service provider and he announced to me with much excitement, "You know, Earth Day is coming up soon … what would you like for us to do to celebrate?" It was his way of asking me if I was "going green." I asked him how we celebrated last year and he said, "Well, we didn't do anything." I suggested that sounded like a perfect plan for this year. He was shocked and suggested that most College and University Dining Halls would at least be withholding trays from their students for Earth Day. I was shocked and I asked what earthly good it would do to make people carry their plates, cups, and silverware without the benefit of a tray? He said (with a straight face, I might add), "The students won't take as much food if they have to carry their plate without a tray." I said, "That may be true but the food wasted because it winds up on the floor will more than offset any savings we get from not using the tray" (food credits maybe?). My food service director gave me the "you just don't get it" look.
I recently got the same look from the owner of the fitness club where I work out. He told me in a very excited manner that a windmill now provided all the electricity for the club. I looked out the window, scanned the parking lot and adjacent property and saw nothing more than a small propeller turning on what looked like a combination miniature windmill and weathervane. I pointed at the contraption and said, "You mean that little windmill?" "No, of course not!" he said. "Our wind power comes from a windmill in the Midwest." Before I could make a comment about how long the power cable must be, he explained, "We estimate our monthly electric costs and send a company out west a check equal to the amount we send the power company. They respond by issuing us enough carbon credits to cover the cost of the power we are using!"
Rather than sharing in his excitement, I asked if he would let me work out the same deal with some of the members who are struggling to lose weight. "What kind of deal?" he asked. I said, "Well whenever they eat a double-bacon cheeseburger they can send me what they paid for the burger and we will call it "calorie credits." I will take the money, spend it on whatever I want and they can say they stayed on their diet because they offset the calories in the burger by sending me the money. He responded by giving me "the look."
Then I got "the look" from two students who interviewed me for the campus T.V. station. They asked me what I thought about "going green" and I answered by holding up an Earth Day T-Shirt someone had sent me in the mail. I got "the look" when I complained the shirt came in an oversized envelope (not recycled) with instructions to "wash separately in cold water before wearing." I told them it would be better for the earth if I just wore one of my old "Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart" t-shirts and put the envelope in the recycle bin.
Going green is the latest thing for Evangelicals. For many, it is the new test of faithfulness. The problem for me is it seems the modern fad of going green has more to do with Mother Earth than with Father God. For example, according to the Dalton-based Daily Citizen Newspaper, Cheryl Phipps, a committee member of the Ecumenical Earth Day Celebration at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Dalton, Ga., summed up her Church's Earth Day activities saying, "We have a lot of things to promote the earth." Wow…. and I thought the Church was supposed to be about glorifying God.
This is why Evangelicals should think twice before they head for the greener pastures of going green. God has called all believers to be good stewards of the earth. If we cut down a tree we should plant a tree. If we make a mess we should clean it up. We should refrain from pouring filth in the air and throwing our garage onto the highway. We should manage what we use with care making sure we use common sense, always giving glory to God as the Author of Creation.
Many in the "going green" movement have "exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever" (Romans 1:25, NASV). Evangelicals must remember that "the earth is the Lord's and all it contains" (1 Cor.10: 26). Genesis tells us God is the Creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). Isaiah tells us the earth is the footstool of God (Is. 66:1) and it is filled with His glory (6:3). Revelation reminds us one day there will be a "new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away" (21:1).
Celebrating Earth Day should be a celebration of God's greatness and His sovereignty over the earth. Instead of "going green" why don't we just fulfill the command of God to exercise wisdom and common sense stewardship over His creation? We will avoid the extreme view of pagan earth worship and we will manage to stay away from those who have made the environment a political hotter-than-global-warming hot potato.
Of course, if we do we will have to learn to live with "the look."
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.