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Betsy Kneepkens: On Earth Day, heed God’s master plan for creation

A couple of weeks back, my daughter heard at a presentation that if we don’t drastically change the way humans treat the environment, this planet will not be here in 10 years. My daughter seemed sincerely concerned. I told her that we could not be sure that the earth will be here tomorrow, let alone 10 years from now.

Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

I also shared that when I was her age, there were threats that the world would be extremely overpopulated. It was prophesied, by some scientists, that we would be scooping people up with front loaders at the turn of the century. In my high school science classes, they also predicted we were on the verge of another ice age.

I told my daughter that one thing I am confident about is that there has always been climate change, because the temperature has never been consistent. For instance, many believe Lake Superior exists because of a region-wide ice sheet that melted tens of thousands of years ago.

Earth has been here a very long time, and science has only tracked temperatures for a minuscule amount of this planet’s history. Perhaps any change will appear dramatic, and therefore I told my 16-year-old that she could remain skeptical about claims of the end being just a few years away. The logic of what I was telling my daughter seemed to ease her concerns a bit.

Society adapting behaviors because of scientific research often improves the human condition, but not always. The annual observance of Earth Daythis year is the Monday after Easter. I think the providential placement of these two dates together could not be more revealing. Admittedly, I don’t understand all of the science behind the current concerns about the environment and how humans are negatively impacting our planet, but I think this matter is much more complicated than what is widely reported. I caution my children that changing our behavior solely because of science is void of the belief and understanding of God, Christ, and his death and resurrection.

Some believers think that if God created the earth, God would determine its life span, and human beings have no power over this planet’s demise. Unquestionably, God can decide if his creation continues. However, his love has seen fit to give us the ability to be co-creators with him, meaning he has called us, his rational creatures, to have dominion over his environment. Our behavior acts either in accord with the natural harmony of the universe or does not.

When we ruthlessly ignore God’s intentions, we have the potential to raise havoc throughout the rest of creation, both living and non-living. I believe science and scientific research is an excellent tool that either affirms God’s plan or gives us evidence that we redirected or reversed God’s intentions.

I tell my children, and a few of them debate me, that following science alone has some severe consequences, since research has been wrong almost as much as it has been right. Furthermore, if you focus on God’s master plan for the universe, an accurate analysis will always support that design. I have told my children over and over again that they shouldn’t be stewards of this planet because researchers are proclaiming its demise. Instead, we are obliged to take care of the creation because, from the beginning, God called us to be stewards of his lands, his seas, and all of his living beings.

Being made in God’s image and likeness, with the ability to reason, to use our free will, and to love, ideally positions us to humbly and reverently provide for the harmony necessary for creation to continue in its ordered and beloved way. I would go even further to say we can instinctively and intellectually know when we are abusing what God has so generously provided for our pleasure and fulfillment. Most science — itself a gift from God — when done well is most beneficial as a wake-up call to remind us to act on our role as caretakers of God’s universe.

Honestly, I am not the best steward of creation, although I try. I need to get better. But I am not ignorant of what I ought to be doing. I don’t think our Creator ever expected us to be consumed by our role as a caretaker or to function solely out of fear. We can’t hoard resources, but we also can’t completely stifle the use of the assets God gives us. We must live in harmony with creation, but we musthumble ourselves to nudge creation back in order when it has been kicked out of whack. Without a doubt, God made his universe pretty resilient, so extreme measures seem unnecessary. We should love creation as we love our children, do all that we can to see that it thrives, and use tough love when absolutely necessary.

I don’t want my children becoming environmental obsessives simply because some scientists are predicting Armageddon. Instead, I want my children to act responsibly and reverently to their God-given role as caretaker to the universe. If another wave of scientists discover that research findings were wrong about climate change, my children and hopefully all people of God will know that their duty to take care of creation is a forever obligation.

May the Easter celebration and its pairing with Earth Day remind us who is the Creator of our creation. Let our response to his willingness to die and rise for us be given back to him with our ardent respect and charity for the entire creation God had gifted to us. Let the good works of scientists be understood in light of God’s love or us and the harmonious plan our ather masterfully conceived from the beginning.

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.