For the poor and people of color suffering from environmental injustice, every day is Earth Day, and this painful cycle of destruction is exacerbated by white Christian Supremacy. While the visual representation of Earth Day is often dominated by images of white women wearing overpriced organic yoga pants and appropriated hairstyles, those of us who are most impacted by the degradation of the earth are over being inundated with “reduce, reuse, recycle.” white Christian Supremacy erases Indigenous people who are fighting for oil not to flow through sacred lands; it ignores the people of Flint, MI who still can only drink water through a filter. And let’s not forget the millions of water pipes tainted with lead.
white Christian Supremacy hinges on manipulating Christian theology and scripture to elevate the power and privilege of white people above everything, including nature. European imperialism framed white people as being more righteous and therefore closer to God and fulfilling God’s purpose. As a result, one of the most important tenets of white Christian Supremacy is conquest and control, meaning that a “chosen people” possess a divine right to use people and places at their disposal. This attitude of human dominion, particularly white Christian dominion, is what has carried our civilizations through industrialization and ultimately toward ecological demise.
white Christian Supremacy has justified and reinforced this hierarchical system that places white men at the top, then white women, all people of color, animals, water and the rest of creation all on the bottom. This top-down worldview is responsible for not only the immense damage to the Earth but has also resulted in the detriment of anyone not at the head of the hierarchy.
The “dominion” in Genesis 1:26-28 has been interpreted as God’s permission to human beings to exploit the earth, control its natural resources, and exterminate the creatures in it; this translation does not make sense in the narrative. The word that is used—radah—also means “to take responsibility for something.” It is preposterous to think that after spending six days fashioning every piece of Creation, blessing it, and finding it to be “very good” that God gave the beloved Creation to humankind to greedily pillage and use up for our own material gain.
Rather, God entrusted this cherished Creation to human beings. As the creatures formed in the Imago Dei, we have the most power of all the creatures to create and destroy. And as those who are made in the reflection of the Creator, we should also have the most respect for God’s Creation and our duty to continue the sacred work of tending and caring for the earth and the treasured beings in it.
However, even for those who interpret Genesis 1 of the Bible as a responsibility for stewardship and not dominion over creation, there is still a hierarchical view of humans on top and the rest of creation below. Contrary to this viewpoint were the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi which called humans to live with plants and animals, thee sun, the wind, the rain, etc. not as masters or adversaries but as sisters and brothers created by God. Following this Franciscan ethic of fraternal love and reconciliation will go a long way in remedying our climate crisis.
It is also most imperative that we recognize that racism, spiritual violence and the climate crisis are completely intertwined. To fight racism and spiritual violence, we must fight the climate crisis. And to fight the climate crisis, we must dismantle white Christian supremacy and its arrogance towards humanity and nature. If we want to survive, we must start prioritizing being in good relations with the Earth all 365 days of the year.
This blog post is part of a series called How white Christian Supremacy Stole…Everything, where we’ll unpack some of the sticky feelings so many of us have around some of the US’s major holidays. The series aims to give a voice to us buzzkills who devote our lives to social justice and have a hard time not feeling like a grinch during every. Single. Holiday. You’re not alone in your grinchiness! Understanding what is harmful about a cultural phenomenon, or what doesn’t sit right with us, can help us identify how we want to reclaim our agency and observe those holidays (or not) in alignment with our ethics and beliefs. In that way, we hope this blog post feels like spiritual accompaniment.