We have solemn duty to protect national parks, monuments
It's time for our leaders in Congress to do the will of the people and defend our national parks and national monuments.
I'm one of more than 250,000 evangelical Christians who value every aspect of human life, and who have taken action in the past year to stand up to those who would deal away our public lands to special interests -- benefiting only a few instead of all Americans -- and we're not alone.
Last summer, 98 percent of the almost 3 million comments received by the Department of Interior supported keeping national monuments as they currently stand. Eighty percent of citizens from Western states supported keeping national monuments as designated, and over 60 percent of President Donald Trump voters from nearby states supported keeping national monuments intact. Yet, instead of listening to America, President Trump announced plans to cut Bears Ears by 90 percent, Grand Staircase-Escalante by 60 percent, and to reduce other monuments yet to be identified.
Currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, there are three bills that take this radical agenda even further by attempting to codify these legally tenuous acts of the Trump administration into law.
As a Christian who values every aspect of human life, I know our public lands are essential to our quality of life. They make available to everyone what was created by God. They reflect our highest ideals as a nation: that everyone is welcome to enjoy our common resources because all individuals are created equal, endowed with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To step into a national monument or national park and enjoy the beauty of God's creation is to experience freedom and the richness of life as persons made in the image of God. As the Bible states: "How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all"; and "In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him;" and "The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof." (Psalms 104:24, 95:4 and 24:1).
Federal lands, including those designated as national monuments, are for all the people. It has been this way since before our Constitution was adopted. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, later codified as The Enabling Act of 1802, specifically insured that all lands belonging to the U.S. Government are for the benefit of all and not just a few.
We are reminded of God's intent for all people to benefit from our public lands when we sing or hear the great patriotic song, America the Beautiful. The lyrics help us to remember how grateful we are for our beautiful country. It tells the story that "God shed His grace" on our nation, and it's our duty to protect our great American heritage and to preserve its beauty for future generations. That's why it's so important that we support policies that defend and preserve America's "purple mountain majesties." Our national parks and public lands -- from Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante to public baseball fields and playgrounds -- are a gift from God that must be cherished, nurtured and preserved.
For those of us who are Christians, we understand ourselves to be called by God to be good stewards of the bounty upon which all life depends, to protect and defend the beauty and purity of the land and water, and to have clean skies and fresh air for our children and their children to enjoy. As the Bible teaches us, we were created in God's image and entrusted with the proper care of His creation; to "tend and keep it" (Gen. 1:26, 2:15).
Many others share these values. As America the Beautiful reminds us, they are in fact American values. Our public lands are essential to our quality of life; they are national treasures that belong to all of us.
At its most basic mission, protecting our national treasures means preserving them for all. That is why I am so disheartened by the three bills moving through the House of Representatives. They propose to take away needed protections from all of us to benefit only a few. I hope and pray that our congressmen will stand up for all of us and reject these selfish, ill-conceived pieces of legislation.
Thomas R. Roose, Ph.D., is associate professor of physics and science education at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights.