I remember the day I became pro-life. Until then I was opposed to abortion but paid little attention to the inherent quality of life that is in creation. It took the death of a premature guinea hen to enlarge my understanding.
My husband, Jackie, and I keep a small farm. Over the years, we have raised poultry, and for a few years, we raised guineas. These grey birds, which were once-standard features on Southern farms, are good at controlling insects. They are also wonderful guardians. When someone drives up or disturbs their habitat, they burst out in loud, hysterical screams.
Our guineas were not wise at building their nests, often laying their eggs where predators could easily destroy them. So we decided to incubate a batch of eggs.
The weeks passed, and our incubated eggs burst open; and much to our dismay, tiny baby guineas flayed about the ground. Horrified at what we had done, we rushed to grab up the guineas and placed them in the incubator. Injured and premature, they began to die, one by one, until one frail guinea remained.
This guinea had an extra will to live. Every few minutes I would raise the lid of the incubator thinking the baby was dead. It looked lifeless, but if I called out to it and stroked its head, the frail hatchling would struggle to move.
During the course of the day, I kept deathwatch over the little guinea. Filled with guilt and shame that I was the cause of its suffering, I prayed for the baby guinea and sang to it as I stroked its tiny head. Toward the end of the day, the baby guinea could fight no longer; and upon its death, I cried tears of grief and penitence.
I, its executioner, had witnessed its struggles to live in the face of death. It was a death that left me with a great deal of questions. How could such a tiny creature have such a strong will to live? What drove this baby guinea to fight against death?
The Commission to Protect the Earth
It has been several years now since that day, labeled by my husband and me as “the slaughter of the innocents,” but its effect is still very much with me. I believe God used the tiny guinea to teach me about the sanctity of life. The God who records the death of every tiny sparrow is the same God who gave humankind stewardship over His created world.
It is a stewardship we have abused. We have taken the directive in Genesis 1:28, giving us “dominion” over the earth, as a license to treat the earth and its creatures as if they belonged to us and not God. We have forgotten the admonition of Genesis 2:15, namely, to tend and guard and protect the earth.
Sometime during late modernity, the earth ceased to be a mystery and a means of revelation of God’s power and glory. It ceased to be the Lord’s world and became instead of mankind’s world. It became a source of unending natural resources for our vision of progress.
The world’s minerals, plants, and animals became something to harness, to conquer and to own. We exploited the world for our own good as if there was no tomorrow … and no God. Simple things, such as animal husbandry, fell to the wayside in favor of mechanized and industrialized breeding of animals.
As a result of this recklessness, the beginning of the 21st century reveals a world in deep ecological crisis. I believe that God’s Holy Spirit, who brooded over God’s creation at the dawn of time, now grieves over its destruction. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life, bringing light to darkness, order to chaos, and beauty to wastelands.
The great festival of Pentecost is actually a celebration of harvest and life. It celebrates the power of God to make the land fruitful and to make wastelands into beautiful places. We who carry the name “Pentecostal” should, of all people, respect the earth. After all, God respects our earthliness by pouring out His Holy Spirit into our “earthen vessels.” Spirit-filled Christians are visible signs of what is to come, namely, the filling of the whole creation with God’s glory.
The Command in Practice
God used the guinea to open my eyes and my heart to His creation. Since that time, He has opened doors for witness of the lessons taught. I have been part of two evangelical creation care initiatives: The “Sandy Cove Covenant” and the “Call to Action by Scientists and Evangelicals to Care for Creation.”
The first initiative brought together evangelical leaders for a two-day retreat in Sandy Cove, Maryland. At that meeting, there was a strong sense of conviction over the lack of evangelical care for creation.
Those who attended the meeting refer to it as “the Sandy Cover miracle.” It was a miracle that we who were so different theologically and politically felt a strong sense of common mission to call our traditions to care for, protect, and serve the earth. That sense of calling led us to draw up a covenant pledging to care for God’s creation.
The second meeting—between scientists and evangelicals—was a most surprising miracle of grace. The differences between evangelicals present at Sandy Cove were also present at this meeting.
In addition, we were meeting with secular scientists, some of whom had no belief in a personal God. I feared that our gathering would become an occasion for a “creation vs. evolution” debate, but nothing of the sort occurred. It quickly became evident to all of us that there is no such thing as a Republican or Democratic, liberal or conservative, religious or secular environment. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water.
At this meeting there was a strong sense of conviction, rivaling that experienced at Sandy Cove. God’s Spirit was at work, compelling us to love His earth. The scientists too felt this drawing, and not knowing what to call it, spoke in terms of “transcendence.”
One scientist stopped me during an afternoon walk and, with tears in his eyes, observed that the meeting had “transformed his life.” He noted that until this meeting he had separated spirituality from the environment. “Now,” he said, “I can no longer do that.”
Consider the following statements written at our joint meeting: “We agree that our home, the Earth, which comes to us as that inexpressibly beautiful and mysterious gift that sustains our very lives, is seriously imperiled by human behavior … We believe that the protection of life on Earth is a profound moral imperative … It requires a new moral awakening to a compelling demand, clearly articulated in Scripture and supported by science, that we must steward the natural world in order to preserve ourselves and future generations a beautiful, rich and healthful environment.
Let us build our beliefs and develop lifestyles that reflect stewardship rather than conspicuous consumption. We can start with simple things like recycling. We can avoid purchasing large, inefficient vehicles in favor of hybrid or more fuel-efficient cars. Bit by bit, we can allow God’s grace to sanctify our lives away from greed toward preservation and care.
The earth is the Lord’s. May our lives reflect an awareness of God’s ownership of our most beautiful world.
Originally published in Encourage Magazine.