Stewardship and Christianity
In this special week of our year, many people feel the joy and love that Christmas is really all about. So I thought it appropriate to explore the role of stewardship in Christianity in today’s blog posting. I enjoyed a personal interview with Bruce Sanguin, minister at one of Vancouver’s most popular churches, Canadian Memorial United Church. Here’s what he told me.
Genesis, the first book of the Bible, tells the story of God creating the universe and Earth, the animals and plants, and human beings. Human beings are then told to be stewards – to care for the plants and animals and our planet. The ideal of stewardship includes the idea that our planet and nature don’t really belong to us. They belong to God our Creator, and we’re trustees of what has been given to us. Being a steward and caring for creation means acting in alignment with the line in Genesis in which God declares His creation to be good. And when we don’t care for any part of our planet, we’re practicing poor stewardship. “Being stewards of the earth is central to our identity as people of God,” Bruce Sanguin added.
However, there is some controversy. One of the creation stories is that God created everything and put human beings in charge of the rest of creation – granted them dominion over creation. Some “critics of Christianity and Judaism say that the word has been interpreted by the church and by believers in a way that gives them license to do whatever we want to do with creation,” Bruce explained. Rather than being stewards, some people interpret having dominion as equalling the right to industrially dominate and even destroy our planet and the plants and animals. The critics claim that “our voices have not been strong enough to be advocates for creation,” Bruce added. In his opinion, however, it’s a weak argument.
Bruce Sanguin feels that the metaphor of stewardship doesn’t go far enough. Science, especially evolutionary science, tells us that we are biologically kin with all of creation and there’s no disconnection. “We need to fall back in love with creation as kin, and to start treating our biosystems and all creatures with the kind of respect we would treat any of our ancestors. We need to realize our deep connection,” he suggested.
It’s A Wrap
A friend of mine emailed me from a cruise ship on the Amazon River with disturbing news. The River is very muddy, much of which is runoff from deforested areas upriver. Even worse – at one stop, the passengers were told that the Amazon Rainforest, the lungs of our planet, is receiving less rain and may begin to dry out. I asked Bruce about it. “We need to realize our deep connection.” With a disconnection, “we can forget that the Amazon is the lungs of our planet. We don’t know where our food comes from,” he replied. “We’re so deeply disassociated from the earth and earth processes that we are enacting all kinds of atrocities ultimately on ourselves.” So, the challenge for all of society is to get back into the right relationship that we have to live with creation.
Memorial Church has a sign with changing sayings beside Burrard Street, one of Vancouver’s busiest streets. Several months ago, the sign read “There is no Planet B”.
You can learn more about Bruce Sanguin’s views and read his blog on his website (www.brucesanguin.com). The site also includes information about the books he has written, which include Darwin, Divinity and the Dance of the Cosmos, with the subtitle An Ecological Christianity.