“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” - Genesis 1:26

“A Psalm of David. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” - Psalm 24:1

I try not to be a pessimist, but I’m not having much luck lately. Maybe some of that comes with getting old, I dunno. Telling jokes can help. But when I consider the stark political and social division today, that doesn’t help my sense of humor.

The human species is now close to eight billion — projected to rise to over 11 billion by the end of this century. That’s three billion more people in less than a hundred years. Eighty years ago, when I arrived there were fewer than 2 billion humans — getting along some times. Often not.

Yeah, humans are pretty special. When there are too many deer or too many garter snakes that’s a different deal. Running over a snake is no big deal, but hitting a deer can cost big money. Deer should practice birth control ..or avoid sex. Abortion is a no-no. (Just kidding, of course.) We can always extend deer season and improve bag limits. Venison is pretty good, if you cook it right. Garter snakes are so-so.

Come to think of it, I see a lot of road-kill raccoons these days, but I have no opinion there. I have heard they’re low on bad cholesterol, and their skins can make clever hats. Help yourself.

As far as human over-population, don’t worry. There’s always war. Or deadly epidemics.

I live in oil country, and this is the Bible Belt. As as per Genesis, if you can make good money selling oil, then global warming is no big deal. More likely, it’s a witch-hunt by sold-out scientists and academics. All puffed up by mainstream media fake news — except for FOX and Breitbart and Koch Industries...and think-tank social media.

Climate change? From what I’ve heard, animals passing methane gas are a bigger problem. Can you smell that? Well, whatever... You do know that more CO2 from fossil fuel burning makes trees grow more and bigger leaves. That will solve the problem. And, you know, the climate is always changing. Don’t fret.. God makes the calls there.

Now to get a little more serious.

As for how religion plays into it, much of the current political-economic-social division can be understood by considering Genesis 1 versus Psalm 24.

As justified by Genesis, some consider their earthly property to be the gift of God to themselves — inherited individually or corporately, bought with good money, or won in battle. They can do with it whatever they want. Usually to profit financially as desired. The philosophy is called dominion-ism: “We own it. We’ll do what we want. You buncha people or yer gummit got no business messing in our business or our property. No regulatin’. It’s called Freedom, with a capital F.”

I’d say the religious right and the corporate right are too much in agreement there. Could be wrong, of course.

But there’s another point of view, as expressed in Psalm 24. The earth and the “fullness thereof” is not private property but God’s. Humans are called to be stewards — to act not only individually but collectively toward stewardship, not ownership, of God’s earth.

In the New Testament, there’s not much specifically about environmentalism. But we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. put it this way “Our rights end where the other man’s nose begins.” To me, that involves clean air and water, decent wages, public education, equality before the law, and social justice in general — and at least some respect for miraculous creatures other than our arrogant selves. Real freedom comes, or should come, with responsibility and accountability. Religion can help there. But sometimes it doesn’t, depending on the variety.

If you’re churchy, ask your preacher to give a sermon on whose earth it is. Or isn’t.

Bob Hooper is a fourth generation Western Kansan who writes from his home in Bogue.