By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” — Genesis 1:28
Sometime in 1997, a protocol was signed in Kyoto, Japan by UN member nations purposely to cut emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. But industrialized nations, like the US, emitting the greatest amount of greenhouse gases did not sign the Kyoto Protocol. They seemed not to care even if the rising temperatures will cause widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening storms.
Thus, we are delighted to note that the US backed down in the recently concluded climate summit held in Bali, Indonesia, even as world leaders adopted a plan to negotiate a new global warming pact by 2009. This is a very significant development, because global warming affects everyone. It is no respecter of race or creed.
Christianity or the church is partly to be blamed for our worsening ecological situation. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 17th Century, the church has been giving its moral, theological, and Biblical justification. Oftentimes, Genesis 1:28 has been referred to as the Biblical basis: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
The two key words in the aforementioned Biblical text “subdue and dominion” were wrongly interpreted to mean exploitation. Thus, people exploited the resources of the earth to their hearts content presumably in obedience to God’s command to subdue and to have dominion. This, however, sparked the industrial revolution that somehow yielded negative effects on the environment worldwide.
While it is true that industrialization has brought about modernization and a more comfortable way of life, it has also brought destruction on the environment which may ultimately cancel out its positive gains, if we do not do something about it. Actually, it all boils down to human greed. With the machine at hand, people tend to produce more than what they really need. Hence, they do not only deplete the world’s resources and deprive others; they even destroy the environment.
Christian theologians today are beginning to understand more and more that the words subdue and dominion in Genesis 1:28 would actually mean responsible stewardship. This means that we do not own the world. God our Creator owns it and entrusted it to us to care for.
Caring for the earth does not mean to exploit its resources to satisfy our human greed. Caring for the earth would mean to make use of the resources of the earth to sustain life and its fullness. The resources of the earth are meant to be shared for everyone to enjoy.
Unless we understand the world in this manner, no amount of protocols could ever stop the destruction of planet earth. We just hope and pray that God will tame the unruly powers so that the political and natural climate of the world will be cooler in the years to come.
Happy New Year! #