A standup comedian asks the question to perhaps the most critical concern of our time. Why do people who profess to believe in the biblical God trash the home he is alleged to have entrusted to their care?
I was watching CK Louis’s standup routine “Live at the Beacon Theater” the other night on Netflix. In it there was this 3 minute segment about two-thirds of the way through where he played out a scenario as God chastising some of those he entrusted to act as good stewards for his earth creation. CK pretends to be God and comes back to earth to see how his creation has been taken care of and is simply blown away with what he sees. Portraying both Jehovah and the earthling he grills, here’s the gist of that interaction in typical CK Louis fashion
God: “What the fuck did you do? I gave this to you mother fucker! Are you crazy? The polar bears are brown, what did you .. what did you do to the polar bears? Did you shit all over every polar bear? Who did this? Who spilled this shit”?
Then he points at an imaginary earthling and tells him, “Come over here! Did you spill this shit? What is that”?
Earthling: (in a rather doofus voice) “It’s oil, its’ just some oil. I didn’t mean to spill it.”
God: “Well why did you even take it out of the fucking ground?”
Earthling: “Because I wanted to go faster” as he gyrates his arms in a locomotive fashion. “and I was cold” wrapping his arms around himself imitating being chilled.
God: “What the fuck do you mean cold? I gave you everything you needed you piece of shit”
And then the earthling dribbles out a few words that are meant to explain everything like most Republicans do when they talk about tax cuts for so-called “job creators” and the very wealthy.
Earthling: “Well, because of ‘jobs’”
God: “Jobs? For what? Why do you need jobs?”
Earthling: “To make money. Money is needed to buy food”.
God: “I gave you free food. Just eat the stuff off of the floor I gave you”
Earthling: “Yes, but … it doesn’t have like bacon around it. I like when it has bacon on it.”
It’s laugh out loud funny to think fossil fuel extraction has been all about our cravings for bacon. This skit does in its simplicity though unmasks where most of our values lie – in the self-interests of creature comforts that often wreak havoc on the only planet we’re ever going to be able to call home.
It struck me then how some Christians strain a gnat but will swallow a camel as they ignore the word of God, according to their own scriptures, failing to be good stewards of this planet but can milk a few words from the psalmist to rationalize the massive campaign to prevent a scared teenager from aborting an unwanted pregnancy.
In a christian apologetic written back in 1977 by assistant professor of political theory at the University of Michigan, J. Patrick Dobel, entitled “Stewards of the Earth’s Resources: A Christian Response to Ecology” the author drives home, through the use of multiple biblical references, where humans lie within in the scheme of earth and its resources and who in fact owns them. Capitalists and free-marketers may want to close their eyes and block their hearing, chanting la-la-la-la-la-la-la as loud as they can.
The proper relation between humanity and the bountiful earth is … complex. One fact is of outstanding moral relevance: the earth does not belong to humanity; it belongs to God. Jeremiah summarizes it quite succinctly: “I by my great power and outstretched arm made the earth, land and animals that are on the earth. And I can give them to whom I please” (Jer. 27:5). For an ecological ethic this fact cannot be ignored. The resources and environment of the earth are not ours in any sovereign or unlimited sense; they belong to someone else.
Humanity’s relation to the earth is dominated by the next fact: God “bestows” the earth upon all of humanity (Ps. 115:16). This gift does not, however, grant sovereign control. The prophets constantly remind us that God is still the “king” and the ruler/owner, to whom the earth reverts. No one generation of people possesses the earth. The earth was made “to endure” and was given for all future generations. Consequently the texts constantly reaffirm that the gift comes under covenanted conditions, and that the covenant is “forever.” The Bible is permeated with a careful concern for preserving the “land” and the “earth” as an “allotted heritage” (Ps. 2:7-12).
This point is central to the Judeo-Christian response to the world. The world is given to all. Its heritage is something of enduring value designed to benefit all future generations. Those who receive such a gift and benefit from it are duty-bound to conserve the resources and pass them on for future generations to enjoy. An “earth of abundance” (Judg. 18:10) provides for humanity’s needs and survival (Gen. 1:26-28, 9:2-5).