Some 3,000 world leaders gathered at the 50th annual World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland this January to examine challenges facing the global economy. As they met, one theme rose above all others — the environment, and the role businesses and governments must play to address what many call a climate crisis.
This is not a new conversation. But what might be new is the level of serious interest among the business community, even as some believe businesses are more concerned with optics than real commitments.
Amidst all the voices providing perspective inside and outside Davos, one is noticeably absent: that of religious leaders, especially from a Christian perspective. This is more than a little unfortunate. As leaders across the world have become increasingly aware of our environmental responsibility, the Christian tradition offers vital paradigms to wield that responsibility.
Consider that God creates a world teeming with life, full of beauty and diversity, and he repeatedly calls it good. He then commissions humans to exercise dominion over creation, not domination. His first mandate to humans (the cultural mandate) is to both cultivate and guard creation. Humans were to bring out new potential from the ground while also protecting it. When salvation comes in Christ, it begins a persistent metamorphosis toward our original human vocation, a call back to God’s original intent in Genesis.
What do these realities have to do with Davos? Far from supporting a particular partisan agenda, these truths are pre-political.
They instruct the scientist to pursue what is true about the natural world, learning and helping us all learn what helps and what hurts. They guide the business owner to create products and services that cultivate new ways to create value for people, without harming the long term health of the system. They compel the economist to give us insight into how we might efficiently pursue the greatest good. They call the politician to put away self-serving agendas and seek transpartisan moral commitments. And they admonish all people to be wise stewards in the economy, shunning products that exploit God’s good world and using ones that align with his design.
We will continue to debate which actions are best. Reasonable people disagree about solutions. But as pastors and churches seek to form people who embrace their unique areas of work and participation in the economy, the Christian view brings a compelling toolkit to reason about the best way to cultivate and keep God’s good world. And you don’t need a ticket to Davos to do that.