Why Christians Don’t Celebrate Earth Day
It’s probably not for the reason you suspect. The reason Christians don’t (or shouldn’t) celebrate Earth Day has nothing to do with Paganism, Pantheism, Wicca, or any other form of worshiping earth spirits or gods. It also has nothing to do with all of those leftist, communist, overly educated, atheistic scientists and their global warming. It has to do with Earth Day being a secular holiday. I would no more expect to hear a sermon on Xmas and Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny in a church than I would to hear about Earth Day. Rogation Tide, or Lammas Day…now those are another story.
For centuries, the Western catholic Church has set aside certain days on which the blessings of the earth are celebrated. Christian holidays are celebrated in conjunction with the seasons: with the rhythm of sowing and reaping. There is some evidence that the reading of the Great Litany on Saint Mark’s Day is a baptizing of a Roman agricultural celebration. I’ve written before on acculturation and Christian tradition. One of the wonderful things about Christianity is its ability to acculturate folk/Pagan customs and imbue them with a certain grace. I do not find it a convincing argument that simply because there may be an older custom, an older tradition or religion, that that tradition or religion is more true than Christianity, or that by using certain relevant aspects of older customs that Christians may be unwittingly worshiping false gods or compromising the gospel. If Christians acknowledge God as the creator of the universe and all that is therein, then it seems obvious that our seasonal celebrations would naturally coincide with the cycles of the natural world.
Likewise the argument that global climate change (some people still like to say global warming) is an invention of scientists that find only what they are looking for and that Earth Day plays into some liberal agenda is irrelevant to a Christianity of traditional values. In the creation story of Genesis it says, “And the LORD God tooke the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dresse it, and to keepe it.” In the Psalms, we can read, “What is man, that thou art mindfull of him? and the sonne of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower then the Angels; and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to haue dominion ouer the workes of thy hands; thou hast put all things vnder his feete. All sheepe and oxen, yea and the beasts of the field. The foule of the aire, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoeuer passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” This keeping of the earth, this dominion over God’s creation, is not permission to waste, exploit or pollute it. Whether the earth is cooling or warming or both or neither is beside the point. The point is that this earth is a gift from God and should be treated as a precious thing. It is not a question of “can we drill for oil; should we build a pipeline; is fracking a good idea,” but rather “what will cause the least harm; what will conserve God’s creation; are we being good stewards.”
Easter Sunday is reckoned by the full moon and the vernal equinox. This determines when the catholic Church will celebrate Earth Day, or Rogation Tide. Rogation Tide isn’t simply a one day celebration, but the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension. These days, and often the Sunday before are days on which one may hear hymns like All Things Bright and Beautiful, contemplate just what kind of stewards we have been and will be, or perhaps participate in the Beating of the Bounds.
The Beating of the Bounds is a tradition with practical (secular) ends as well as spiritual ones. The practical ones are those of surveying the bounds of the parish so that people who live within the parish bounds may be rightly buried in the churchyard. It was a way of marking out property, and it was often the job of children to accompany the priest and parish clerk on these rounds so that those who would live the longest would be able to remember from year to year just where the markers of the parish were located. As the priest was making his rounds he would also be binding with blessings the parish, its fields and crops; asking for God’s blessings on the land from which the community would be supported.
There are still a couple of weeks before we celebrate Rogation Sunday, and you can probably expect to see this post or some version of it again forty days after Easter.
As for Lammas Day: Lammas Day is August first. Along with Saint Michael’s Day, it is a day for celebrating the harvest, baking Lammas bread, and blessing the crops, livestock and fields. It is a time we may sing Harvest Home.