By Jim Jordal

 God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in his own image. In God's image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them. God said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

Genesis 1:26-28 WEB

"Why must we destroy the earth?" The simple answer is that we can.

Much destruction of the earth and its flora and fauna is traditionally---but wrongfully--- justified by the above passage in Genesis. These three verses entailing the human equation in God’s Creation appear to bestow God’s approval for what has become a cruelly destructive process. Humans are created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth and its creatures. God tells them to multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it as they dominate every living thing. Sounds like a virtual license to violate nature and the earth, doesn’t it?

Whatever God’s intent that’s what we’ve done—violate the earth and its life. Extinction of plants and animals continues almost unabated as giant machines, poisonous chemicals, and just plain ignorance decimate the planet. No one, no matter how isolated or remote, escapes as greed for gold, oil, timber and other resources drives an unending and unimpeded search for new ways to profit from the pillaging of the earth.

Note the key words: dominion and subdue. To have dominion means to possess the power to rule. To subdue means to have power to suppress any force--including people---daring to resist. These terms reinforce one another: You can’t have one without the other!

But the same section of Scripture has the antidote, or balance, to the seemingly uncontrolled concepts of dominate and subdue. In Gen. 2:15 God offers his answer to future extremes under the hubris of humankind: "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it." The terms "tend" and "keep" act as modifiers to the extremes possible under "dominate" and "subdue."

Unfortunately we seldom hear the latter verse. Too often the generic church has been suborned by the power structure into giving assent to destructive and even deadly attempts to exploit people and nature. In the U.S. we have only to look back to the institution of slavery to see this model in operation. Conservative church bodies tended to justify slavery through application of the "watercarriers and hewers of wood" roles assigned by ancient conquering Israel to the cultures subdued in their conquest of Canaan.

But God says we should tend and keep his creation. Yes, we have power to dominate and subdue, but because of justice, mercy, and kindness we should use these powers only when they become the only alternative to egregious evil. A case in point was our use of every power in our possessions to end Nazi tyranny in Europe.

But now we use our vast financial, technological, and military power to dominate and subdue the earth in the interests of Big Business and its never satisfied search for profits. We’ve gone so far as to structure various trade agreements so that any attempt by a sovereign government to protect its people against damaging exploitative acts by Big Business can be construed as a "restraint of trade." Special courts can then assess damages against the country being exploited.

We’ve gone a long way from God’s will for his creation. But you can do something: You can begin to insist that we hear about some of these abuses in our churches, and that we organize in support of those groups being exploited and destroyed. That’s God’s way!