Christian Environmentalists: Part I Dominionists
Every Christian environmentalist first recognizes that God gave humans “dominion” over the environment. Biblical support for this view comes from Genesis:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth (Genesis 1:26).
The Bible establishes a key hierarchy: God has dominion over humans and humans have dominion over all God’s Creation. The Hebrew word for dominion in the biblical text is “radah.” Radah means to reign, to prevail, and rule. It can also mean subjugation, to tread down upon, and even crumble.
While Christian environmentalists recognize that these passages establish their connection to the environment, some Christians get stuck at this stage. They are Christian dominionists.
Christian dominionists tend not to be environmentalists for two reasons. First, they view environmentalism as reversing the hierarchical order. If we respect God’s Creation then we are worshiping the environment and not God. It’s a weird argument, but one that was nonetheless made by Mike Huckabee in 1998 (he has since come around) when he called environmentalists, anti-God.
In addition, they interpret our dominion to mean that we can use the Earth in any way we see fit – we can pump all the oil, cut all the trees, and kill all the wildlife we want.
Dr. Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance is an outspoken dominionist. According to Beisner, dominion means exerting forceful rule over the environment. He said in an interview with Bill Moyers “if you are going to mine for precious medals, for fossil fuels, for anything else, you don’t do that with a feather brush.” (It’s worth noting that the Cornwall Alliance is closely linked to the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow an anti-environmental group that is funded by big oil.)
Christian dominionists must challenge themselves to define how God wants them to exercise their dominion. What kind of relationship would Jesus have with the environment?
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