I know Pete Seeger was not referring to environmental concerns when he wrote this refrain to “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” but it certainly is a valid question today. When will we ever learn our responsibility as Christians in the preservation and conservation of all of God’s creation? In Commentary on Genesis, John Calvin wrote:
“Let everyone regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, not corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.”When will we ever learn?
“See my works, how fine and excellent they are! All that I created, I created for you. Reflect on this, and do not corrupt or desolate my world; for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.”
Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13 (sixth-eighth centuries)
“Poor innocent little creatures, if you were reasoning beings and could speak, you would curse us. For we are the cause of your death, and what have you done to deserve it?”
Isaac the Syrian (late seventh century)
“The quality of urban air compared to the air in the deserts and the forests is like thick and turbulent water compared to pure and light water. In the cities with their tall buildings and narrow roads, the pollution that comes from their residents, their waste makes their entire air reeking and thick although no one is aware of it.”
“Men will become poor because they will not have a love for trees….If you don’t love trees, you don’t love God.”
Nikephoros of Chios (1750-1821), A Lack of Trees Brings Poverty
“All abuse and waste of God’s creatures are spoil and robbery on the property of the Creator.”
Adam Clarke (1762-1832)
“When you defile the pleasant streams and the wild bird’s abiding place, you massacre a million dreams and cast your spittle in God’s face.”
John Drinkwater (1882-1937)
“A wrong attitude toward nature implies, somewhere, a wrong attitude toward God.”
T.S. Elliot (1888-1965), The Idea of a Christian Society
These quotes have given me a great deal to consider. Then I noted the dates and truly asked: When will we ever learn?