I rarely take much notice of Earth Day. I hadn’t even realized today was Earth Day until this morning, when I noticed something about it on the internet. I thought how interesting that it was both Earth Day and Good Friday, and wondered if I could come up with an interesting blog post on the subject.
A quick look at Google – where the days Doodle would have reminded me that it was Earth Day if I hadn’t known already – showed me that a lot of people were way ahead of me in thinking about the coincidence. (I thought at first that it must happen every decade, but I’d forgotten how much Good Friday moves around in the calendar. This is the first time, since Earth Day was started 41 years ago, that the two days have coincided, and from what I have read, the next time will be in 2095.)
There seem to be generally three approaches. First (not in importance but in generating comment), there is the Episcopal Church’s stance.
This year, Earth Day falls on Good Friday–a profound coincidence. On the day we mark the crucifixion of Christ, let us remember that when Earth is degraded and species go extinct, a part of God’s body experiences a different type of crucifixion, and another way of seeing and experiencing God is diminished.
They provide a link to resources for Earth Day Sunday from the National Council of Churches of Christ. I considered downloading a resource called “The Gulf Coast: Seeking Rebirth and Ressurection [sic],” but it would have required registering with the Eco-Justice Network, and especially as I’m currently on my husband’s computer, I don’t think he would appreciate it.
Another approach is to see the two days as representing opposing viewpoints. Environmentalism is seen as a pagan religion that calls on people to worship the Earth.
Modern environmentalism has its roots in the idealism and activism of the 1960s. Its ultimate goals were, and are, laudable. But somewhere along the way it began taking on trappings of religion and today it is nothing less than a form of paganism.
Then there are Christians who would rather Earth Day hadn’t fallen on the same day as Good Friday simply because the former distracts from the latter. They know that some more radical elements of the environmental movement do tend toward nature-worship and see humans as the problem rather than the solution. But on the whole they would rather focus on what they have in common with environmentalists – a desire for clean water and clean air and a responsibility to work towards those goals, rather than be in opposition to them.
They point to how both Earth Day and Good Friday are about wholeness. They recognize that God is the source of wholeness both for creation and for the human spirit, and that none of our efforts will amount to anything without Him. They don’t equate Earth Day and Good Friday in importance, but don’t want to see them unnecessarily opposed either.
This last group is where I put myself. I’ve never liked “Earth Day liturgies” even when April 22 doesn’t fall on a special day in the church calendar. But I no more appreciate knee-jerk opposition to environmentism than automatic support of “green” programs. That probably makes me wishy-washy in the eyes of many people at both ends of the spectrum. But if I’m going to take a firm stance on something, it’s generally going to be on the importance of seeing what is true in two opposing views.
In recognition of Earth Day, I post this link to photos that show man’s impact on the planet. The earth is pretty resilient, and if we all vanished overnight, it wouldn’t take long for nature to start reclaiming spaces that now so clearly bear our mark. But there’s also no question that we have altered ecosystems, modified the course of rivers, and left monuments that will stand for centuries. That’s not all a bad thing. Until the last several decades, human dominance over nature was considered a good thing. But it’s also important to recognize the potential for harm in taking for granted our right to do so.
If there’s one thing, besides wholeness, that Earth Day and Good Friday have in common, it’s the human capacity to destroy what is good. Greed, laziness, indifference, and irresponsibility do untold damage to other human beings as well as unleashing all sorts of toxins into the air and water. And when people are told what a mess they’re making of things, they would generally rather get rid of the messenger than listen to the message.
The big difference between Earth Day and Good Friday is that while environmentalists tell people they need to clean up the mess they’ve made, Christianity tells people that they can’t clean themselves up well enough. Only God can do that, and the events commemorated by Good Friday and Easter are central to his plan to restore all things.