By most accounts, the term “eco-anxiety” entered the public conversation in 2017 by way of a report from the American Psychological Association. That report described eco-anxiety as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” In this essay I want to offer some reflections on what Christian teaching might have to say about such a fear. In the ecological crisis many Christians experience a theological collision between a belief in God’s ongoing provision for the earth, with us earthlings in the mix, and the catastrophic repercussions of a way of life wildly out of alignment with the biophysical limitations of that same earth. The significance of this collision comes from the fact that a fear of serious environmental disruption—whether or not it rises to the level of doom—is in line with the unfolding facts.
The theological conversation surrounding the ecological crisis is wide-ranging. For instance, many pastoral voices have encouraged us to recognize God as “Creator” in our prayers as a way of connecting faith and worship with environmental realities. Christian ethicists have asked us to evaluate our carbon footprint in light of God’s love for creation. Sallie McFague, if I may highlight just one voice, encourages Christians to see consumerism as a affront to a biblical portrait of God, especially the kenotic descriptions of God like the one in in Philippians 2. God’s self-emptying love, she argues, should lead us to practice the radical love of self-restraint. Christian teachers have found that there is much to draw on and much to critique in both the Bible and the tradition.
Given the breadth of the conversation and the propellent anxiety, it is curious that more is not said about God’s providence. . . .
–These are the opening paragraphs of an essay I recently wrote for Vision: A Journal of Church and Theology. The full essay, which begins on page 6 of the issue, is available online. There’s lots of other good stuff in this issue, so take a look at the entire table of contents.
 Susan Clayton, et al. “Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance,” American Psychological Association, March 2017. Available online at https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/03/mental-health-climate.pdf
 McFague, Sally. Blessed are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013).
2 thoughts on “As Long as the Earth Endures: Looking for Providence in the Ecological Crisis”
Thanks for the essay Anthony. I don’t know if it decreased my anxiety, but it certainly helped me to think about Providence in a different way. It’s a great piece.
Hope you and your family are doing well.
Take care my friend, Eric