“You can print money to bail out a bank, but you can’t print life to bail out a planet.” – Paul Hawken
The way we see anything tends to reflect the way we see everything. We must be careful of our inner assumptions regarding our place in creation. The Biblical concept of dominion means responsibility and stewardship, never carelessness and cruelty. The responsibility to care for one another, our fellow creatures, and our earthly home calls for wisdom, humility, compassion, grace, and restraint. The final question for all of us will be: what did you do with what you were given?
Human life matters due to endowments from our creator, among them the mandate to be caretakers and co-creators. We are tenants, not the landlord, and human life is not the only life that matters to God. Every living thing is known and counted by God. Not even a sparrow falls without God knowing. God’s care and concern extend to everything, but we are endowed with a share in the creator’s inner life, and so we have a special responsibility. To those who are given much, much is required.
If we see our fellow creatures and the earth solely as objects placed here by God only for our own personal needs and whims, we will eventually tend to see one another in the same way. This is a dangerous road to go down. If we believe people, places, and things are nothing more than resources and commodities, we (and they) are in big trouble. This is a perversion of our freedom and theirs.
“Everything both wild and tame has its purpose. All that is created has a spark of the divine in it. Everything flows from the infinite.” – Sr. Marcina Wiederkehr, OSB
Regarding our fellow creatures: animals are not human beings, and in some cases that is a blessing, but they are also not simply objects or commodities. No aspect of God’s creation is a commodity, although they are gifts that can, at times, aid in our survival and spiritual growth. However, we must be careful not to degrade any aspect of creation to a strictly utilitarian value and function. When we do this, we degrade ourselves and the one who created all things. Neither strictly utilitarian nor sentimental views of animals offer due respect to them, to us, or to the creator.
In Biblical accounts of the garden of Eden, and in accounts of the future peaceable kingdom, there is no competition, killing, or death. God provides. Obviously, these accounts are symbolic of an order of reality that transcends nature as we know it. Just as the Eucharistic meal is a prefiguration of a heavenly communion yet to come, yet we practice it here and now, so the visions of a peaceable kingdom can also be enacted to some degree here and now. Our choices then become a sign and a contradiction to indicate the higher reality already present in the world that is. This is not unreality, it is deeper reality. It is faith, hope, reason, and love. It is caring for creation.
God established created things to sustain us in our frailty so that they might become for us sacramental signs of God’s love. What we do with what we’ve been given reflects directly on what we truly believe about the world and its maker. Dominion does not mean diminishment and desecration, it means responsible and compassionate stewardship, showing the same mercy that has been shown to us. There is no excuse for cruelty and mismanagement. Caring for creation is our covenant agreement. How are we doing with that?