Summary: Stewardship of Creation is part of our responsibility to God: We respond to God through our activity in the world he made.
A Responsible Position
When I prepare a sermon, I often look around to see what other people have made of the passage I am about to preach on. Don’t worry - I could no more preach most other peoples’ sermons than I can fit into my old size 10’s - and for much the same reason. They just DON’T FIT ME. But sometimes I get a new insight into a passage that I may have become too familiar with. So I have a dozen or more Internet sites that I can go to... And the more I looked, the more astonished and frustrated I got. Because nobody - and I mean, NOBODY - was focusing on the aspect of this Psalm that I wanted to talk about. And it’s not that I’d misinterpreted it, either.
As I looked at it, Psalm 8 seems to fall into three distinct parts.
Part 1 emphasizes God’s majesty and power.
Part 2 acknowledges our own sense of insignificance.
And part 3 lays out the job God has given us to do.
Well, I’ve been focusing a lot lately on God’s power and our utter dependence on him, and so I figured it was time to come at the text from a slightly different angle. I decided to preach on part 3, the job God has given us. Well, I’m still going to preach on part 3, but from a slightly different perspective.
After I’d gotten over my initial surprise, I checked out a couple of reliable commentaries to see if I’d somehow gotten it all wrong, that I’d over-interpreted or mis-interpreted or otherwise generally messed up, - something entirely possible, by the way, although usually not at this stage of sermon prep - and discovered that no, I had gotten it pretty much right.
So I went back to the Internet and started looking up sermons dealing with environmental stewardship - and couldn’t find one! Now, I’m sure there must be some out there, but I looked under "dominion" and "earth" and "environment" and "creation" - I must have spent half a day fruitlessly looking to see what if anything my colleagues had to say about the Christian’s responsibility to the world we live in. And I came up empty.
Then I went searching for articles - background, quotes, outrageous behavior. On Christianity Today’s website I found only one article in the last 6 years on environmentalism; well, that’s not quite fair, they had also sponsored an essay contest and printed the winning one (which was, by the way, excellent). I did a little better in World Magazine, which had three editorials. But then I did a general search of the web and found site after site after site for everything from low-energy architecture to animal rights activism. And I started wondering, "Where is the Christian voice in this cause?"
If, as Fred Krueger, director of the Christian Society of the Green Cross claims, "Environmental activism constitutes the "fastest-growing form of Christian ministry," [Christianity Today November 11, 1996] why aren’t we talking about it more?
Why do the animal rights activists seem to have so much more passionate a commitment to their cause than Christians do?
Well, that’s a silly question, actually. I should know better than to ask it. We worship God, not God’s creation. And most of us are - and I think rightly so - more concerned about our fellow human beings, who are created in God’s image, than animals, which although are created by God and are therefore worthy of respect, are nonetheless somewhat lower on our scale of values. Furthermore, we do have a certain sense of humility about how much we can or should tinker with God’s design. But that doesn’t excuse the near total silence that I found on the subject of our role vis-a-vis creation.
I noticed another thing, too... all of the reference to Christian environmentalism had to do with plants and ecosystems, farming and energy use. [read excerpts from Christianity Today article from Nov 11, 1996] There was nothing on how we should relate to animals. And yet today’s Psalm speaks directly to that issue: "...You have put all things under their feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas." [Ps 8:6b-8] That covers ALL creatures - domestic animals, wild animals, ostriches and egrets, salmon and sharks - and even, probably, plankton. The well-being of animals is in our job description. And the subject is not even on our radar screen.
Some of the things that I read on the various web sites were so farfetched as to be almost funny, but some were really rather alarming.
A quote which has already become a classic in the animal rights movement is activist Ingrid Newkirk’s line: "...a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." She sees no difference between their demands upon us. And in case you think that’s an extreme view held only by a fringe minority, Peter Singer, the bioethicist appointed to Princeton last year over storms of protest, believes that animals have a greater claim upon us than unborn children. In 1997, Brian A. Dominick wrote in Animal Liberation and Social Revolution that