Sustainable/Faithful Living, by Ron Rude 

 Ron Rude

I serve as Lutheran Campus Pastor (ELCA) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and have written 2 books on Christianity and Sustainability ( .

While leading workshops/conferences recently in Racine, WI and Fort Collins, CO on “Sustainable/Faithful Living,” I was struck by two things. First, contrary to popular perceptions, many Christians are desperately surprised and appreciative of a pastor/theologian of the church who integrates Christian faith and the natural sciences, especially evolutionary biology, astronomy, geology, and paleoanthropology. They apparently are not hearing much of this in our congregations.

ELCA folks are more savvy about both science and Bible interpretation than we give them credit for. They read books, work in sophisticated careers, and take classes. Though I may shock a listener or reader occasionally when I say the universe is 13.7 billion years old and the Flood story in Genesis 6-9 is likely a parable, many, many others have already been thinking such things for years. This is cause for encouragement.

The second thing that strikes me at these workshops is the depth of dismay about sustainable and green living. Grandmas and grandpas, as well as laborers and college students, are so saddened that 10% of the human population is causing 90% of the damage to God’s creation, and that our American culture is at least ½ of that 10%. The reality of human caused climate change, atypical rising of sea levels, unnatural species extinction, and frightening soil and water contamination, can make followers of Jesus feel terribly unfaithful.

The “where’s the hope?” question is the burning subject at these workshops and in my books. We probably won’t find hope in our politicians, the News media, our economic system, or even academia. These powers and principalities, of which we Christians (including me) are an integral part, are tooled to benefit from our current course of unsustainable/unfaithful living for decades to come. But there just may be hope in our Christian faith—hope that God is longing for us to rediscover. But it requires that we understand some things differently. I’m talking about fundamentals like the age of the Earth, evolution, dominion, original sin, our place as humans, the reign of God, atonement theories, heaven and hell, and eschatology (end times).

A new narrative is required, one that delights in the interplay of Christian faith and science. This new narrative no longer positions the mammal Homo sapiens at the center of the universe, the head of the class, and the top of the top-pest. If we set aside such “diva” theology, the Christian story gets reframed and recast in surprising, and yes, hopeful, ways. At least this is what I am discovering.  

For cultures unpracticed in sustainable living the challenges can seem great. But more and more I’m seeing that if we Christians can be converted to following the risen Christ into restored and respectful relationship not only with our human neighbor, our inner spirits/souls/selves, and with God, but also with the ecosystems and 20 million species of God’s beloved creation, we just may have the potential to become a transformational force for good within our culture and species. In fact, a Christian community practicing faithful/sustainable living may be part of our species’ thin thread of hope.  What do you think?

Peter Bakken,
Jun 13, 2013, 8:03 PM