by Ken Rolheiser
Redeeming the earth and pets in heaven

Theologian Father Ron Rolheiser shares this story: “Some years ago at a religious conference a man … asked this: ‘I love my dog. When he dies will he go to heaven? Do animals have eternal life?’”

Ron’s answer: “Yes, his dog can go to heaven. It’s one of the meanings of Christmas. God came into the world to save the world, not just the people living in it. The incarnation has meaning for humanity, but also for the cosmos itself. … because of the incarnation, dogs too can go to heaven.”

Jesus was born to save the world; the whole world. This has implications for the debates about climate change; global warming; land, sea and air pollution, and our carbon footprint. Discussion of these topics in an article of this length can not be anything but simplistic and general.

Bruce Y. Lee in “‘Save The Planet’ Really Should Be ‘Save Humans’” says, “The planet doesn't need saving. Even if we had an all-out nuclear war that wiped out all living organisms … the planet would still survive … What anti-pollution efforts really are trying to do is save humans.”

Global warming is not a myth, but it is to be viewed in perspective. Since the Industrial Revolution 1760 – 1840, the earth has warmed approximately one degree Celsius. There have been greater temperature fluctuations over time. In 4,000 B.C. earth’s temperature was warmer than today.

The .08 Celsius rise in the last three decades has some alarmed. This is believed to be caused by the release of C02 into the atmosphere – Greenhouse effect. This happens when we burn fossil fuels and destroy forests that absorb C02 and release oxygen.

The Global Warming alarm sounds when we see the recent devastating fires in Australia. Tom Morland in “Climate change doesn’t cause fires” explains that we cause fire hazards by creating huge national parks where thick eucalypt forests thrive, untouched by fire breaks, and cool buffer zones (regularly burnt every year).

The fuel load of these fires can be reduced by cattle grazing in grasslands and forest parklands, and by creating buffer zones. Some of these fires are started by humans.

If we want everyone to pay more attention to the environment, we should emphasize the health connection. Alleviating the suffering and death of people will lead to greater concerns for the planet.

Redeeming the earth is also connected to the mysteries of the incarnation and the redemption of mankind. Christ came to save not only us, but to save the earth itself. The question is not if but when this will come about.

“God’s saving activity in Christ reaches so deeply that it saves creation itself – the oceans, the mountains, the soil that grows our food, the desert sands, and the earth itself,” says theologian Ron Rolheiser. 

Creation longs for freedom from the bondage of decay. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22), eagerly awaiting our adoption as sons and daughters of God.

What will it be like when that time of redemption comes? “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the Lord (Isaiah 65:25).

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