Keynote speech emphasizes environmental stewardship

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Thurston Johnson | The Falcon | Dr. A.J. Swoboda addresses SPU during Day of Common Learning Keynote address

Kate Parsons Proctor

Dr. A.J. Swoboda made a splash as he gave the keynote address during this year’s Day of Common Learning at Seattle Pacific University. His speech, “Green Jesus: Embracing a Sustainable Faith,” highlighted the importance of caring for our planet and how Christians can do their part to be environmental stewards.

Swoboda is a professor, author, and pastor from Portland, Oregon. He has a wife, son and four chickens. He considers himself an “undercover environmentalist” who advocates for “creation care issues.”

Swoboda was welcomed in the opening session by President Daniel J. Martin and Dr. J.J. Johnson Leese, an assistant professor of Christian Scripture at SPU.

Swoboda did not grow up in a Christian household. He noted that he “grew up in a quasi-spiritual home and was raised in a family that cared about the environment.”

He talked about the fact that he found Christianity at the age of 16, as he went through a time of uncertainty and confusion about where he was headed in his life.

Though a new and excited member, he found one problem with his new church: he felt he “was thrown into a community of faith willing to talk about God, but not the environment.”

It was the combination between his non-Christian household and his newfound spirituality that has lead to the work that Swoboda does today, advocating for the environment and Christianity coming together as one force for good.

 

Swoboda’s speech touched on controversial topics such as pro-life vs. pro-choice, immigration, poverty in America and climate change.

“I believe climate change is real and we are at fault for it. Climate change is the result of human depravity,” Swoboda said.

“What does it mean to be a Christian and care for this planet? And does being a Christian mean that I do not care about the planet?” Swoboda asked the audience. This was an overarching theme of his speech.

Swoboda carried on discussing major societal issues in relation to the topic of his speech. “The dump is never in a rich white neighborhood. It’s always among the poor. The people that pay the biggest price are the poor,” Swoboda noted.

This point was met with claps and positive response from the audience, as students felt empowered by Swoboda’s words.

Swoboda structured the key points in his speech around four topics; “creation is good,” “creation is groaning,” “ the creator loves the creation” and “creation is being reconciled.” Each of the points highlighted a new concept and allowed Swoboda to integrate Christianity with environmental stewardship.

“I learned a profound lesson, that what you believe matters. In our belief in God’s reconciliation of the world, we have interpreted that as a hall pass of not having to work hard to care for the planet. But belief matters. My belief in God should not be a hall pass for not having to care,” Swoboda said.

His point was a stark reminder for students that we cannot ignore the problems happening around us.

Marina Shcherbinina, a senior at Seattle Pacific University, said “his speech is a good reminder about how we forget about taking care of the earth. I learned that taking care of the planet shows God that we care about creation.”

Swoboda ended his speech with a prayer and the final thought that “creation is a love letter from God.”

It is up to people, religious and not, to do their part to actively care for the planet. Just because you recycle does not mean you are doing enough to help the planet.

Swoboda hoped students would take away from his speech that one must truly care about the planet and take active steps to be an environmental steward.