Seriously, the headline on Time.com is The Case For Making Earth Day a Religious Holiday. What could go wrong with that? How about, plenty!
The article starts off:
Earth Day is upon us—that forlorn little non-holiday that some years sandwiches itself between Easter and Passover, or other years trails in the wake of those “real” holidays. If the Super Bowl is America’s unofficial national day of celebration, Earth Day is the collective yawn that brings a shrug. No recipes offer Earth Day chips and dips to serve when friends and beloveds gather in celebration of the miracle of a living planet. Because they don’t. Not even ours.
For the two of us environmentalists—one of us nominally Jewish, the other a recovering Catholic—we find the ill-defined nature of the only day honoring the place that makes life itself possible more than a little sacrilegious. So, on this 53rd Earth Day we thought it useful to pose what a real Earth Day should represent and how it could form a central time for a new approach to worship.
Nominally Jewish. Recovering Catholic. Sure, they’re entitled to their point of view.
But for someone who’s really trying to be a Christian, I’d take a really careful look at what they have to say before going with the suggestion to make earth day a religious holiday. It’s such a bad idea, I don’t know if including the word worship even makes it any worse. Of course, it does. But that’s just to give an idea how bad this idea is.
What’s at the center of a religion?
The proposal for an earth day religious holiday says:
To begin with, let’s take a look at what established religions get right and where we might take a cue. Perhaps the first step might be, um, unearthing the nature-centered origins of our existing religious holidays. Most of us know in the back of our minds that Christmas and Hanukkah fall around the time of the winter solstice; that Easter and Passover are celebrated in tandem with the arrival of spring; that Sukkot and Diwali mark harvest and summer’s last warmth, and Eid follows the path of the moon. These holidays have origins in gratitude. Gratitude for the sun returning. Gratitude for the harvest that could avert the starvation winter might bring. Thanks for when it did avert it. We could conceivably reframe these holidays as days of thanks for what the natural world gives and reminders that our responsibility for what remains is an ongoing covenant.
Well, they totally missed the point here.
Judaism is centered on God. You know, the one who tells His people about Himself in what Christians call the Old Testament. Being grateful is certainly part of it. But it’s gratefulness to God, not to any time of year.
Christianity brings the Messiah foretold in Judaism. Sure, Jews don’t consider Jesus to be the Messiah. But the prophecy is present throughout their scripture. We Christians do believe Jesus is the fulfillment of those prophecies. So, again, God is front, center, and throughout our religion. We’re certainly grateful for what God did for us. But our worship is to God.
Is this a new religion?
Are we proposing a whole new religion? We’re not quite sure. Maybe an old one. The core of all religious feeling is the sense that we are part of something much larger in space and deeper in time than ourselves. The world is certainly that. At any rate we do know that spiritual inquiry, just like scientific inquiry, is not static. Likewise a whole new continent of scientific knowledge has been revealed to us since America’s first and second religious Great Awakenings. It seems perfectly reasonable and spiritual to us that in a New Great Awakening this new knowledge-continent be incorporated into a progressive wisdom of life, death, and the universe.
Once again, they get it wrong. The core of both Judaism and Christianity is not just a sense that we’re part of something bigger. We know who that something bigger is. It’s God.
If Christians don’t understand that Jesus, the namesake of Christianity, is at the core of our religion, then we aren’t really Christian.
Who created what?
We’ve got to convey to everyone that the planet whose rotation and revolution creates all 365 days is worthy of a recognition that spans all 365. Recognition of the planet was born in protest. Going forward it must be about reverence, about respect for the living world that makes human life, too, possible. Celebrating the whole world as a living miracle really should be more fun—and more win-win—than even the most-watched football game.
Our planet created nothing. Our planet doesn’t deserve reverence. It’s an object. One we live on. But it’s still an object. Specifically, a created object. Furthermore, an object created by God.
What’s the problem with earth day and worshiping the earth?
There’s a passage in Romans that addresses this. Lots of people don’t like it. Why? Because it gets into the reasons why all of this is wrong. And the consequences of us living like this are things too many people enjoy. And don’t want to give up.
Let’s take a look. I underlined some of the verses to point them out.
Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Ro 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Ro 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Ro 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Ro 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
This was written a couple thousand years ago, And it describes something that was going on for thousands of years before it was written.
We like to think we’re enlightened. Smarter. Know better. Are more intelligent. In every way, better than those who came before us. And yet, as The Teacher wrote in Ecclesiastes, there’s nothing new under the sun. We’re no different.
We come up with old ideas, give them new names, but are still rebelling against the God who created us and everything else. We want to give glory, reverence, and worship to ourselves and every created thing. But not God. What could go wrong there?
Conclusion – Make earth day a religious holiday? What could go wrong?
What could go wrong? Everything Paul wrote has gone wrong. Still goes wrong. And will continue to go wrong.
That is, until we decide t have reverence for and worship our Creator, rather than the things He created.
The sad truth is this. If we really want earth day to be meaningful, it’s not that hard. If we acknowledge God, that He created us, and created our world and everything in it, then we won’t need earth day, Why not? Because out of gratitude to God for everything He gave us, we would take care of His creation because we love Him.
But we don’t. And as long as we entertain this kind of thing, we won’t.
Image by Sergio Cerrato – Italia from Pixabay