Faithful stewardship?

In February a Florida congressman introduced a bill to “terminate the Environmental Protection Agency”; that’s unlikely to happen soon, but slightly subtler minds are pressing for ways to inhibit the work of the EPA and related agencies.

I understand and to some extent sympathize with the impulse to maximize self-reliance and the scope of individual prerogatives, and the corresponding desire to push necessary governmental functions back down as close to the individual as possible: local control rather than statewide control, states’ rights rather than federal oversight. But when the foxes have grown up to be massive multinational monsters controlled, or not even controlled but in some sense mounted and ridden, by transnational billionaires, we have to recognize that we’re living in a global henhouse and that, with well-funded manipulation by the foxes and their riders, the much crowed-about rights of us individual chickens can effectively be reduced to the right to be plucked and tossed en masse into the stewpot (these are high-tech foxes) while still clucking to ourselves that We Showed Those Regulators.

What a stunning and galling spectacle: millions of people who (like me) have no advanced training in pertinent disciplines, and who suffer from defective self-awareness with regard to the limits of their knowledge, have been persuaded by a handful of very highly paid and similarly inexpert AM radio guys that the scientists who warn about the dangers of environmental degradation are—what? stupid? evil? “liberal”? And are also persuaded that in order to preserve the fundamental principles upon which our republic was founded we must dismantle or defund the EPA, NOAA, and other agencies that have at least some little chance of detecting, retarding, or ameliorating the most egregious assaults of the rapacious suprapersonal powers that want free rein to maximize their profits by trashing our children’s and grandchildren’s air, water, and soil? (This is just one of the ways in which a large supposedly conservative but actually plutocratic/oligarchic propaganda machine has been successfully duping the middle class into legislating its own demise.)

And this travesty is carried out with the willing collusion of so many Christians, who should know to interpret “have dominion” in Genesis 1 not according to the agendas of godless, profit-now-maximizing global economic machines but according to the loving command of the One who planted the pleasant, well-watered garden of Genesis 2 to “tend and keep” it without transgressing certain limits, the transgression of which would spiral the whole setup downward and deathward—limits pertaining specifically to failure of self-knowledge (more precisely, refusal to know oneself as God’s creature among God’s creatures). We lust for unlimited, autonomous power to exploit and abuse what is not really our own property—where “our” means our generation, our nation, our social or economic class, our particular industry, or any other reduction or mutation of the human-as-creature family—but God’s property, entrusted to us as stewards. For Christians, there is no question as to whether we are owners or stewards. The only question is whether we will be faithful stewards. And sometimes faithfulness includes the humility to recognize that we (and our favorite radio mouths, and their favorite outlier-dissident scientists) don’t know it all.

Now, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”

So while the question we face here is not, or should not be, a political issue in the sense of our disastrously deteriorated partisan politics (fwiw, I’m old enough to remember the creation of the EPA under a Republican administration), it is a political question in the higher sense of the word “politics”: deliberate thought and wisely governed collective action for the common good. Which means that for Christians it is also a theological question and a spiritual question, because we are not permitted to forget our Creator and Redeemer’s aims and instructions when we turn to our life as citizens and as inhabitants of the Creator’s good world.

And for everyone, Christian or otherwise, it is a moral question.

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