Saturday, January 30, 2010

Is being green a religion? Or part of it?

Going Green Mama probably needs a good confession but will save it for another day...

Confession is good for the soul. Whether it's coming clean to a person you've wronged or admitting your wrongdoings in a faith-based situation, admitting your wrongdoings is the first step towards self-forgiveness and moving on.

A number of bloggers have waxed and worried about their "transgressions" lately. Sometimes it's as simple as replacing a broken product with something new, other times, it's a self-proclaimed binge.

And then, buried in the comments yesterday, is this charge:

Sounds like living green is becoming a religion.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But for me, it's part of living out my faith. You see, I look at being green as fulfilling a couple of things:
  • caring for God's creatures.
  • being wise with your resources you've been entrusted with.

You see, if you waste what you have, buying tons of junk, you've squandered money and surrounded yourself with stuff - keeping yourself from the joy of just living. On top of that, often we buy more than we need, and that money spent on stuff could have been used to help others in need.

I'm not alone in seeing greener living as part of living out your faith. Several Protestant churches, including Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, have signed The Genesis Covenant, which calls for its churches and its members to advocate for a reduction of greenhouse gases.

Episcopal Bishops last year wrote:

God entrusted the Earth to human care, and as faithful stewards of God’s
Creation, we need to understand the devastating impacts that global climate
change will have and is already having on human communities around the world.

Interestingly, being green was part of the Pope's New Year's Day message (on what's called the "World Day of Peace") this year. According to the St. Louis Review:

The degradation of the environment is a pressing moral problem that threatens
peace and human life itself, Pope Benedict XVI said.
"We cannot remain
indifferent to what is happening around us, for the deterioration of any one
part of the planet affects us all."

What do you think? Do you think being green is a kind of religion in itself, part of living out your faith, or do you do it for other reasons?


Anonymous said...

This is a great post! I see it as a part of living out my faith. A lot of more fundamentalist denominations overlook our responsibility to be stewards of Creation. My Christianity is also the reason I don't eat meat. Thanks for posting this!

The Raven said...

The majority of my posts at GPB have had something to do with my "religion" (Judaism)--even though I am a nonbeliever. (In other words, my own personal view of the world does not include a Creator.)

I wonder if it is that our cultural and religious beliefs shape our commitments to the environment, or if we tend to fit all of our moral thinking into our religious commitments? I'm sure the answer might be different for believers. I've been trying to figure out why I seem to connect the two all the time--and I'm not sure. Perhaps it is just where we have the easiest vocabulary to approach the issue?

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

My faith has definitely shaped how and why I'm green. I think it's great that many religions are stepping up to spread the green message. Especially the Pope, who has so much influence.

DramaMama said...

I believe 'going green' is just part of Creation Care. According to the Bible, which my faith is entirely based on, God made the world and everything in it. I believe it is my/our family's job to utilize the resources we are given in the most respectful way possible. I could probably say a lot more about this, but you get the idea =) I enjoy websites like and books like Serve God, Save the Planet. If you are interested, check them out!

Farmer's Daughter said...

My family is Christian, so I celebrate the holidays with them. I, however, am an atheist, so I don't know if I'm even qualified to talk about religion... but anyway lack of qualification never stopped me from talking before!

To me, being "green" is a lifestyle that reflects our values. However, I look at it as a back to our roots type of lifestyle, and I've been less interested in new green technology and more interested in living simply, as my grandmas and great-grandmas did. I do it because it makes me happy, and I enjoy it. I know there are a lot of reasons that people practice religion, acting out of a fear of eternal damnation, or for community, or for salvation. I don't think that really goes along with why I choose to live "green."

But I certainly could understand those going green out of fear of peak oil, etc., in relationship to people practicing religion out of fear of going to hell.

hekatesgal said...

The 7th Principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association is "Respect for the interdependent web of life, of which we all are a part." And, just as a point of interest, Unitarian Universalism doesn't have a prescribed god/diety view. Lots are athiests, lots are pagan, lots are jewish, christian, buddhist expression. So, even athiests can have a religion. Our minister is an athiest.

Jenni @ My Web of Life said...

Someone can certainly be green without being spiritual, but I don't think someone who is religious or spiritual can refuse to be green. Caring for our Earth is certainly a stewardship of creation as someone already mentioned. Looking back in history, monks and priests were often also caretakers of the land and some of the first scientific researchers. My great-great grandfather was both a pastor and a naturalist. I love that.

whereshelives said...

Personally, I think that it has the potential for becoming a type of religion to the point that what becomes your core values (not all people are there yet) when preached at friends or family members, turns them away from you.
I am a believer so I do connect the "earth as the Lord's and everything in it"
So, as part of the relationship, we care.
That is, we care for one another as part of a community of people and since we all live and share this community we do well to look after it and one another.
Sadly, it not just just the earth we stomp on.
My faith is a definite prompter to respond and care for what has been given to me.
I didn't always have a faith but my father always taught us as children to be responsible and take care of what has been given to us whether the earth or my neighbor.

Robbie said...

OK, I figured I'd push some buttons with this one... :-)

@Raven, I think there's some of both - Lots of people I know elect to do the "cafeteria" method of their faith - I'll believe in this, but not this.

@Jenni, I should bring up your point to a neighbor friend, whom I have to tolerate his "green is a bunch of" (insert colorful noun here). :-)

Wendy said...

I'm not religious, but we're lowering our footprint little-by-little, and part of it has to do with my desire to be a good steward of the earth, which I feel is an integrated, living being, and of which I am only a small part.

The other part of it has to do with the fact that I feel like I need to be prepared for a future in which I will have very few alternatives to live otherwise. I think it's best to learn as much as I can about how to live without the "stuff", and to teach my children to live without dependence on the "stuff." In short, I suppose my biggest motivation to "live green" is selfish and a desire to ensure my own survival.

But it's certainly not about religion, because I don't ascribe to any particular religious philosophy.

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

I am not religious. I live a green lifestyle for my family and for the next generations who will suffer due to our laziness and selfishness. If we dont teach our children, who will teach their children?
I have my own beliefs but I do not in any way incorporate them into my blog. I think people go way too far sometimes with this and thats a big turn off button for me. Yes you can have your beliefs but I dont like them pushed onto me.

This may push some buttons but it has to be said. There are some people out there that just want to find ways to be earth friendly, and save a little money.

But we all need to be adults here and stick together in this huge blog world. Even though we all have our differences, we should all have one thing in common. Helping others. Isnt that the point of it? Helping the earth and helping others? Am I wrong? Thats what makes this world so amazing, so many different people, different beliefs, and yet we are all on this one planet living our lives.

Wonder-ful said...

I am religious. No, sorry, I should say I'm spiritual (religious still envokes negative images for me) I don't see my efforts as an act of faith, but it's just as important to me as the local food bank (we got upgraded from pantry to bank) or my time spent at the schools teaching or encouraging. It's a positive, practical expression of my values. They (my faith and my actions) are interconnected, but not the same.

However, I do admit to getting "religious" about certain things in my green life. Doesn't make going green a religious, just means that I can be extremely, um... how do I put this... obsessive? Insistant? Persistant perhaps.

I don't worship green, I'm just trying to live a greener life.

Wonder-ful said...

Ok, let me rephrase...

I agree with what you are saying and you have put into words what I fumble to explain to others.



Donna said...

Great post. For me, being green is an extension of my faith, but not all in my faith community see it that way. I think we have a long ways to go in understanding what it really means to be good stewards and not everyone is on board, yet.

This blog probably preaches to the choir, but it's a valuable resource and I really appreciate the view I see voiced here.

Daisy said...

Many faiths welcome those who care about the earth we live in. Green itself is not a religion; rather, it's a way of life.

suzannah said...

great post. my desire to be "green" is inextricably wrapped in my faith: i believe we honor God as Creator by caring for creation. it's sad that far too few Christians see it that way, but i think the Church is slowly beginning to change.

i wrote more about this here:
God's green earth

of course, it doesn't matter if you come to a green lifestyle via faith or some other conviction--we're on the same team:)

Simply Authentic said...

For me, I do see it as part of my faith. I believe that it is my duty as a Christian to care for the earth that God gave us. Its one of the greatest gifts He provided. I also feel that when I'm promoting social justice or helping others in need that I'm living out my faith as well. So much of the simplicity/green movement corresponds to the principles of what Jesus taught..

utahlawyer said...

I think that being green is like a religion in and of itself because it is a central belief system on which we determine right from wrong. We want the people closest to us believe and live the way we do. Personal relationship can break down over differences of green beliefs just like religious differences.

It is also like a religion in that greenies try to be missionaries to the world converting others to our belief system and lifestyle.

I think it is great that many peoples green beliefs are rooted in their faith. But, there are plenty of secular people who believe deeply in being green. There are also many faithful people who believe that being green is against religious teachings. Green lifestyle is something different in and of itself.

Lisa Sharp said...

I was raised in a Presbyterian church so I was taught at least somewhat from the start in church that the earth is important and we should take care of it. The Presbyterian church as a whole is trying to get the churches to care more for our environment and last year my mom, another church member and I started what we call the "Green Team" for the church. We have been busy and haven't gotten much done yet but we will.

I have also become a Quaker not that long ago and Quakers are almost always environmental (at least the liberal ones).

I have family/friends that think me being environmental is "evil" or that I'm a "socialist." I feel I'm doing what God called us to do and the bible does back me up.

What I often tell Christians that tell me it's evil or whatever is- if your earthly father give you a special gift and you treat it like crap it would hurt and disrespect your father, so don't you think our heavenly Father is sad that humans are destroying the wonderful gift of this planet?


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