“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17 (NIV)
-Some reflections by Anthonia Ogundele, a member of Earthkeepers…
For a long time I thought the environmental movement was a “religious” organization. Much like other religious traditions, I found there were many different sects: the advocate sect whose primary doctrine was “less talk more action”; the professional sect whose primary doctrine was “green is good for business”; and the academic sect, whose primary doctrine was faith in the scientific journals. These sects are not mutually exclusive, but held a true intersectionality that was only recognized by a few. How can an academic who knows the urgency of this issue not also identify as an advocate? I found it all very confusing.
This “religion” of environmentalism deemed me righteous for riding my bike to work, sorting my waste, living a minimal lifestyle and limiting my meat consumption (of no initial motivation of my own). The worship and righteousness of my lifestyle over the content my character perplexed me. I would smile as I pushed off on my bicycle, thinking, “I am doing good for this world”. I found myself internalizing compliments about the righteousness of my works. Is this or was this a bad thing? And what does that mean to me as a Christ follower?
On the other side of the coin, I found myself subject to the “religion” of consumption, in which individuals worship growth and materialism to find themselves righteous. Spiritual growth was replaced by the number of “things” acquired and penance was found in charity to choice organizations that have the capacity to “do good” and absolve me of my actions. How often have I done this?
But all of this did not absolve me before God, as I found myself (and still do) actively engaging in any of these “religious” practices six out of seven days a week, before I seek repentance for my sins in the house of the Lord on Sunday. Often even within the Christian community, I am congratulated for my works and lauded for the evidence of God’s favour in what “things” I have been able to acquire.
So much of what we are called to do in creation care requires us to change our behavior, our actions—our works. Scripture tells us that faith without deeds is “dead”, but how does one navigate through these intersecting areas of our lives without falling into a search for the approval of man, and instead discern right action, rooted in Christ?
These are still things I wrestle with as I navigate through engaging in creation care. As a woman of faith, though, the reconciling factor in this cacophony of what is righteous remains “seeking first the kingdom of God”, where the love of Christ and the love for his creation overshadows my doubts and compels me to action.