In an April 22 article in the religion section of the Washington Post writer Matthew Sleeth reminds us that Friday was Arbor Day, an American holiday where people are encouraged to appreciate trees and plant trees. Here in Canada different provinces recognize Arbor Day in a variety of ways. The folks in Ontario sponsor an entire Arbor Week which began on Friday. Here in Winnipeg there will be an Arbor Day celebration on June 1 in St. Vital Park. You can learn more about that here.
No matter when Arbor Day is celebrated the point of Sleeth’s Washington Post piece is that all people of faith, but in particular Christians, should be busy planting and protecting trees world-wide. He says trees are mentioned in the Bible more often than any other living thing.
Revelation 22:2 suggests that the leaves of trees might bring healing to the nations of the world. Could caring for trees and our environment be a cause that unites the world?
In Genesis 21:33 Abraham plants a tree as a symbol for the signing of a peace treaty. Could reforestation projects be a way for countries to come together in peace to replenish the earth’s tree population?
What a different world we might have if everyone acted like “oaks of righteousness” the way good people are described in Isaiah 61:3. Jesus said in the beatitudes that righteous people are gentle peacemakers.
In the comments on Sleeth’s article in the Washington Post people are very derisive of any person of faith who dares to say they want to protect trees or the environment. They claim most religious people believe their god has provided the blessings of the natural world for them to dominate and exploit. One commentator cites the way former American Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt who was given his post by Donald Trump used Bible verses to justify policies he put in place that had potentially devastating consequences for the environment.
And here in Canada we have little reason to be smug about the attitude of our American neighbours. Ironically on the day before Arbor Day the government of Ontario announced it will end a program that aimed to plant 50 million trees in their province.
On the weekend just prior to Arbor Day Christians began their celebration of Easter, a time of new beginnings, new life and new hope. Planting and caring for trees can be a way to celebrate all those things.