Scot McKnight on Caring for Our Animals and Why Habitat Destruction Destroys God’s Creatures

Image: Photo by Shaun Bell on Unsplash

I no longer see Common Nighthawks in our neighborhood. (Not the bird for the article image, by the way.) One day I made a couple calls to find someone who knew why and he said their nesting habitat – of all things, graveled cover roofs – was no longer as much available. They are in “steep decline” because of pesticides, insecticides, habitat loss and the predatory work of other animals (see here). I loved watching them flit and dive and soar through the air in summer evenings, but I’ve seen them around us only one evening in the last decade. I was hoping they were back when I saw them. Not so.

Decades back we saw them every evening.

We are assigned by God – from creation on – to superintend and care for this world and its animals. Sandra Richter, in Stewards of Eden, examines what the Old Testament says about care for God’s wild creatures and animals.

Those who will pause long enough to look or listen – we are hearing a Common Yellowthroat in our neighborhood daily – will be drawn into worship with Sandra Richter, who says,

Why is my heart moved to worship by the splendor of an eagle on the wind, the staggering realities oflife in all its complex forms ? Why do I sit in front of my television watching “March of the Penguins” with my seven-year-old and find myself in awe of a God who could instill in the heart of a penguin a level of self-sacrificial obedience that puts this believer to shame? The answer is most simply because the cosmos, in all its beauty and complexity, is a reflection of the God who made it. And I am made in the image of that same God.

Which means care for God’s creation. Notice how God’s care and provision is perceived by the psalmist:

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst … the trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys (104:10-11,16-18).

Ask my students who have traveled with us to the Holy Land: Do I watch for the birds? (Hoopoes are my favorite.)

But… Richter reminds us,

… as any environmentalist would tell us, the single greatest cause of the extinction of an animal species is the destruction of its habitat. And in America we are presently devouring nearly two million acres a year in the noble quest for urban sprawl.

2 million acres per year. This destroys habitat and destroys the animals dependent on that habitat. Her example, later in the chapter, is about black bears in the Mississippi delta.

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Source: Christianity Today