The term “Millennial” is tossed around a lot today, mostly with a negative spin. While there are lots of millennial trends I’d rather distance myself from, I can’t deny that i’m a millennial by birth. Those in other generations are ok but they don’t get us in the same way we get us! They merely adopted the term “millennial”, we were born in it, molded by it. But what is a millennial? dictionary.com defines a millennial as “a person born in the 1980s or 1990s, especially in the U.S.; a member of Generation Y.” This definition will suffice. I’m a millennial. I was born in ’91, I grew up watching Batman and Robin on the big screen. I partially remember captain planet. I collected box tops for education. I tattooed my tongue with Fruit Rollups even though Fruit By The Foot was was better. I remember when you could check the couch cushions and actually do stuff with the change you found. I remember the Magic School Bus, Lambchop, The Big Comfy Couch, Wishbone, and Goosebumps. I remember having very confusing feelings for Disney characters and rooting for Gaston in Beauty and The Beast. I remember those UFO pencil sharpeners and trying to get your pencil to the perfect sharpness, that out of the box, perfectly symmetrical “sharp” that was utterly impossible . Is that proof enough?
Today, there are lots of different subgroups within the millennial generation, but I specifically want to address 5 of them: The Postmodern, The Wounded Recoiler, The Erudite Modern, The Earth Keeper and The New Rebel. Millennials get a bad rap today, from all sides, but within each of these 5 subgroups there is a lot of value and genuineness. They each have their own concerns, norms, heroes, directives, hopes, and dreams. Along with every historical movement, these millennial subgroups have their inconsistencies, misguided passions, and they endorse leaders who can’t give them what they’re seeking.
As the title suggests, I’m a Christian Millennial. The deep desire of my life is to show my generation that the logos, ethos and pathos they look for in their own subgroups can only be found in Jesus Christ, in following his way, and in loving him. My goal is to make you think, to make you wonder, and to make you act.
To the Earth Keeper, your love for the earth is indeed commendable, but it only makes sense in a Christian framework.
I think these earthy/spiritual people make some really good points. Earth Keepers believe that the earth is a gift, that all creatures matter, that we shouldn’t just pillage and rape the earth. They believe we have an ethical duty to take care of “mother nature”. They are thoughtful people, and though they get called weirdos and hippies and tree huggers, that doesn’t stop them from fighting for plants and animals that would otherwise be destroyed without a second thought. Many of these endeavors are very admirable.
These are the people who are “in tune” with nature, they love it. Usually they’re prefer natural products and while there may be some over lap with hipsters, these folks care about stuff outside of themselves. Some might think they’re better suited in the movie “Avatar”. Others might think these earth keepers sound more like the Batman villain, Poison Ivy. I think that’s too harsh. These people are thoughtful and caring, though misguided.
Like the other millennial subgroups i’ve discussed, the Earth Keepers take their position too far and undercut their own philosophy. For instance, many of these millennials subscribe to a brand of pantheism or panentheism. “What the heck, Park?!” Ok, hang on, “Panentheism (from the Greek words pan, en, and theos, literally “all-in-God”) is the view that God encompasses everything that exists, including the universe we inhabit, but there is more to God than just the universe. Panentheism shouldn’t be confused with Pantheism, which says that God and the universe are one and the same: the universe is God. In contrast, Panentheism maintains that the universe is a part of God, not the whole.” (What’s Your Worldview, James Anderson, pg.79).
Other earth keepers can better be identified as pagans or mystics, but what all these earth keepers have in common is that they all believe in the single circle. Either there is no God and nature is all there is, or there is a God but it’s inseparable from creation. God is in us and the trees and the buffalo and the crickets, God is everything and everything is God. If this is the case then where do we get the idea that we ought to care for nature? Is that God caring for us or us caring for God, both maybe? How would we explain the difference of opinions between those who would rape the forests and those who would make love to it? How might we argue that we, who would preserve nature (and God and ourselves since we’re all so intermingled), are correct in our desires? How can you get an ethical ought from what is? If we are all contained in the circle then “what is” is what is and “what is” is what ought to be.
I can definitely agree with the Earth Keeper on our ethical duty to conserve and care for nature, but where I disagree is the “why”. Should we care for the lesser life forms because we supposedly evolved from them? If that’s the case and evolution is the great ethos we ought to obey then survival of the fittest is the law of the land. Survive! Why shouldn’t we enslave all the animals and hook them all up to those automatic milking machines. If survival of the fittest is the law of the land than anything goes as long as it helps you survive or helps our species survive. We shouldn’t conserve, we should consume!
Of course you wont agree to that, it undermines your whole goal of conservation. So how can we have a firm ethical grounding for the “ought” in your mission statement? Why ought we care for nature?
The Christian worldview provides that ethical ought you nature lovers need. Christians believe in two circles instead of one. We believe in the self-contained God of the Bible who is outside of nature, yet interacts with it in an intimate way. God does not depend on creation, he created it out of love and for love but He didn’t have to. The rest of us are in the other circle, creation. We all bear His fingerprints and the nature lovers mistake His fingerprints for His personhood.
I will grant you that many Christians have been more concerned with capitalism than stewardship but just because some Christians haven’t lived up to their faith doesn’t mean the faith is inherently wrong. “Ok, get on with it dude.” Alright, i’m getting to it. In Genesis 1 the creation account goes like this “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth'”. (Genesis 1:27-28).
The Bible makes sense of your inherent love for nature! It’s part of our DNA, it’s part of who we’ve been made to be. Some on you might seize on the word “dominion”, but to be upset by that word is to not have the biblical understanding of it. Dominion is about being a care taker, it meant naming the animals, pruning the hedges, bringing the wildness of nature into submission. That doesn’t mean suburbanizing everything, but rather, it means making paths, planting trees, doing controlled burns, putting injured animals out of their misery, making sure the herds aren’t too thin or too massive for the land they’re meant to graze. Dominion isn’t an easy thing but it is a good thing.
Dominion explains why we feel so great when we garden or mow the lawn or feed and nurture our pets. We were meant to care for nature, we ought to live out what God made us to do, but we don’t. The same Bible that provides the necessary preconditions for loving nature also explains why humanity and nature are so broken. Mankind was to live for God, to love God and care for His creation but we turned from Him and sought to make ourselves gods. Sin entered the world and now we’re living the consequences of that. Greed and corporatism, slavery, deforestation, animal cruelty, hatred and murder.
We turned our worship towards creation instead of the Creator. In so doing we’ve become foolish in our thinking and our hearts are darkened. Though mankind claims to be wise we have become fools, we exchanged the glory of the immortal God for His fingerprints. We find beauty and wonder and awe in nature and we worship it. Some people worship sex or power or humanity in general. Others worship mother earth or the spirit of the planet or animals. We see God’s handiwork, His power and eternal nature in the things that have been created but instead of praising God for His awesome creation we let our praise terminate on the created order itself.
While God has revealed Himself in nature, we misinterpret nature’s testimony. We ought to heed St. Augustine’s words in when we look for God in nature, “But what is my God? I put my question to the earth. It answered ‘I am not God’, and all things on earth declared the same. I asked the sea and the chasms of the deep and the living things that creep in them, but they answered ‘we are not your God. Seek what is above us.’ I spoke to the winds that blow, and the whole air and all that lives in it replied, ‘Anaximenes is wrong. I am not God.’ I asked the sky, the sun, the moon, and the stars, but they told me, ‘neither are we the God whom you seek.’ I spoke to all the things that are about me, all that can be admitted by the door of the senses, and I said, ‘since you are not my God, tell me about him. Tell me something of my God.’ Clear and loud they answered, ‘God is he who made us’. I asked these questions simply by gazing at these things, and their beauty was all the answer they gave.”
If you want to care for nature then I solute you, but I wish you’d care for yourself as well. Get to know the God who has made you; the God of the Bible who made the vast expanse of the universe, the tiny micro-world of bacterium and the “thinking reed” know as “man”, smack dab in the middle of it all. God made us to love His creation but not to worship it. We can know the God of the universe, the God who cares for all the birds in the Amazon Rain Forrest as well every human He put on this planet.
Though we continually worship His fingerprints instead of God Himself, He sent His son to die for us so that we could know Him and walk with Him again. This good news is the only way for us to save this planet. If we all acted more like Jesus and cared for God’s creation as He made us to, this world would be more lush and wonderful than any of us could ever imagine. Though conservationism is vitally important today, knowing Christ is not only more important, it’s the very foundation that conservationism is missing. We ought to care for nature because it’s what God made us to do.
God is He who made us. If you love nature get to know its Maker.