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TEXAS FAITH 59: Are humans to serve the Earth? Or is the Earth to serve humans?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

This week's question comes from a suggestion by panelist Daniel Kanter and it follows up on remarks that Rick Santorum made recently in speeches and on TV about the environment. Here is an excerpt from Santorum's February 19 appearance on CBS' Face the Nation:

"Man is here ...to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth. But we're not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And-I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down."

Previously, Santorum made similar comments in Colorado, where he reportedly said:

"We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth's benefit."

Santorum followed up his observations in Colorado with comments about climate change. But I'm not interested in a debate about the pros-and-cons of that subject for this week. Rather, I would like to hear your answer to this philosophical and theological question:

Is man here to serve the Earth? Or is the Earth here to serve man?

Read on to hear what our panelists think about this issue, which goes to the heart of the religion-and-politics nexus.

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

Man and the Earth are here to serve God. Man is not meant to be an exploiter of the Earth, nor is man meant to be solely devoted to the Earth.

However, when humans are acting in God Consciousness, Krishna Consciousness, the fruits of their actions are not only free from the effects of harming the Earth but also those fruits create healing and benefit for the planet.

In the Vedas, nature is said to be a servant of God. Nature provides abundantly to a society who follows the natural spiritual laws, and those break them will find themselves deprived of nature's gifts. It is called karma, the planet reciprocates with our pious and impious deeds.

For example, if we ever want to stop the progression of wars then our slaughterhouses must be closed down. Nature's reciprocation with the large scale unnecessary and cruel slaughterhouse industry is that she arranges us, the humans, to carelessly and cruelly slaughter each other in a similar massive fashion. And, as a side note, the slaughterhouse industry is the most polluting industry for our environment, yet most politicians fear to speak openly about it due to the political influence those industries hold.

Our very disease that distances us from God is our envy of Him. Our desires to lord over and exploit, our desires to be adored, loved and served above others, desires for fame and prestige, our desires by which we see others as objects of our enjoyment, all pull us away from the happiness of serving truly God.

However, this unnatural desire of the soul cannot satisfy the soul. When the soul works according to his natural desire not only does his heart become pleased but he also becomes a healing gift for the planet.