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OPED: God bless America and her public lands

Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox
New Freedom

It’s time to celebrate the wonder God has given us. Honoring national treasures is one way we evangelicals honor God. As one of our most beloved anthems is “God Bless America;” we know how true it is in both hope and affirmation. God has blessed our country beyond measure, “from the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam.” And one of the ways we can continue our blessings is by protecting those mountains, prairies, and oceans for generations to come.

Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox

Christians understand that God calls us to be good stewards of the bounty upon with all life depends — that’s why one reason so many of us identify as “pro-life.” For us pro-life cares for all life from the “womb to the tomb,” and as Genesis teaches, 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).

For in protecting and cherishing our land and water, we defend our children’s health and the rights of future generations to meet God in His creation and enjoy its wonder.

As good stewards, we must do everything to protect our national treasures and all our public lands., We must be ever vigilant to protect what belongs to God against attempts to sell them, transfer them, or weaken their protections, or to weaken the laws that make our public lands possible.

That is why I led 14,020 pro-life Christians in Pennsylvania in signing a petition affirming that “our public lands are essential to our quality of life; they are national treasures” and calling on Congress to “reject selling off America's public lands and permanently reauthorize the Land Water Conservation Fund.”

As a child, my playgrounds were unreclaimed coal strip surface mines, only 100 miles from my home in Blandburg, PA. With my upbringing, it was a joy and wonder to visit National Historic Sites such as Gettysburg and Valley Forge. I was in absolute awe when trips were taken to explore the Delaware Water Gap or Pennsylvania’s own grand canyon, Pine Creek Gorge.

As I grew older, I passionately visited many of our National Parks, Monuments, and Forests where my soul found renewal and my spirit refreshed. Most Christian have encountered God in Creation as Romans 1:20 declares and that is why I am so passionate in protecting these God given gifts.

In total, more than 225,000 petitions were delivered to legislators in all 50 states this month in support of policies that defend and preserve America’s public lands. The petitions ask members of Congress to heed our call and take encouragement from our support to do what’s right when it comes to our national heritage and God’s creation.

Across America, videos are airing to highlight the century-long fight to protect lands and waters from Maine to Oregon, current efforts to eliminate existing national monuments, and congressional efforts to prevent presidents from designating new monuments. I pray this campaign is a wake-up call to anyone who is not aware of the imminent threats our monuments face today from politicians in Washington.

That means upholding national monument designations — land that already stewarded  by the federal government, but is now given special protection thanks to the Antiquities Act of 1906. We believe that such designations answer the Christian call as caretakers for God’s Creation. It also means supporting funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of our nation’s more effective conservation policies.

Let us remember the verses of “God Bless America”: “Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, as we raise our voices in solemn prayer: God bless America, land that I love.”

We call on Congress to heed our prayers, and commit to standing beside our country, and guiding our country, with a grateful nation behind them.

—The Rev. Mitch Hescox is President of the Evangelical Environmental Network and lives in New Freedom, PA.