Stewards…or masters?

Like many, I have been horrified by the pictures I’ve seen of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Watching the oil spewing constantly–the black, oily “stuff”–just makes me sick.

And then, to see the innocent animals caught up in it and struggle to survive…

Not to mention the people whose livelihoods have been ruined–perhaps forever…and the wetlands that are being destroyed…

It’s easy to point fingers at British Petroleum…to blame them. And there are legitimate reasons to call them to accountability, reasons that indicate that at times they cut corners to improve profits, that they ignored some industry standards.

But they are not the only ones to blame.

We have to look at ourselves. And those of us who call ourselves Christians cannot escape our own culpability. Far too often–and for far too many years–we have (I believe) misinterpreted the statement in Genesis at the end of the creation story:

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 NRSV)

We have definitely multiplied! Past wisdom… For many years we refused (and in some cases still do refuse) to see birth control as an acceptable human responsibility. And the result of that is that we have overcrowded the earth past what it can adequately bear.

Our greed, our insistence on having our living standard remain high when much of the rest of the world struggles for daily survival, has helped create this disaster.

And we have seen the instruction to “have dominion” as ruling…in many ways, doing what we want to with the animals God created. If that meant hunting them to extinction, so be it. If it meant taking over their habitat, so be it. If it meant not worrying about the consequences of our actions on them, so be it.

But having dominion doesn’t mean that. Yes, it may in today’s language lexicon, but language constantly changes–and a more appropriate translation for our day is to “take responsibility”…to be stewards, rather than masters. That we have not done…not really.

And now we are all paying the cost.

In his address to the United States, President Obama said that he would do whatever it takes to make certain that something like this never happens again. He cannot do it by himself. It will take all of us…and it will take a renewed understanding of our human responsibility to be responsible for the world God created and in which we live.

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