Christians and the Environment
Until the 1967 thesis of Lynn White Jr (1907-1987), claiming that Christianity was to blame for our present ecological crisis, most Christian apologists and theologians had little to say about ecology. Since then however, much has been written on the topic, and Pope Francis published as his first encyclical the document ‘Laudato Si’, or ‘Praise be to You’, with the subtitle ‘on care of our common home’ in May 2015. This indicates that the topic is now taken more seriously, and Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) has been identified as the patron saint of ecology.
In the past, western Christians tended to use the Creation Stories of Genesis chapters 1 and 2 to highlight the unique position of humans as made in the image of God, and to use this as justification for humans to have ‘dominion’ over the resources of the natural world, including the animal kingdom. Today, that is usually understood as our special responsibility rather than as humankind’s special privilege. As a result, attitudes to animal rights and the environment feature large in the writing and actions of most church leaders, although there are still some Christians who argue that it is the human soul/spirit that that should be the focus of attention, not the environment.