On Dec. 28, our nation marked the one-year anniversary of the establishment of Gold Butte National Monument.
The timing was sublime, coming on the fourth day of Christmas — a season of joy for many Christians, and a celebration of God’s choice to dwell among us in the person of Jesus.
The national monument permanently conserves some of the most wondrous works of the Lord, and the heritage of our nation. From petroglyphs to wildlife habitats, this is a truly special place.
But while the holiday season gave us reason to celebrate, we must also enlighten ourselves and stay watchful during these times. Our Gold Butte national monument is on a list of public lands U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended for diminished conservation protections.
Thankfully, President Donald Trump does not need to heed Secretary Zinke’s flawed recommendations. He has an opportunity to honor God’s good creation, and preserve Gold Butte as well as other national monuments for future generations to enjoy.
Downgrading protections for Gold Butte and other national monuments across the country, and allowing commercial activities therein, would spiritually diminish our nation. Some places are special, and need to be set aside for those who seek peace.
During his lifetime, Jesus did not only set an example of how to live in right relationship with each other. He would also commune with God’s creation: lands and waters. He would seek time with God in wild places, showing us the value of vast and peaceful parts of the natural world. He sought clarity and wisdom from God among desert landscapes.
Peace does not come easily to most people. I am particularly aware of survivors of trauma, who are in special need of public lands as places of retreat and healing. During my time as a chaplain in the United States Air Force, I came to appreciate how public lands help ensure that the military community will always be able to find places in God’s natural world to connect to the homeland they risk their lives to defend. We must ensure men and women of the armed forces do not risk everything when they deploy, only to come home and see our national treasures allowed to be desecrated by irresponsible policy-makers at home.
We also need to care for God’s creation for future generations. Today, I have the honor of pastoring the oldest historically black church in the state of Nevada. We are a resilient people, and a healthy creation is vital to our community’s endurance for generations to come. When I look into the faces of the children in my congregation, I want to assure them that the world God so loved — and sent his only son to redeem — is in responsible hands.
Let us resolve to use our voices and our actions to make it so.
D.. Edward Chaney is pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Las Vegas.