The first creation story in the book of Genesis tells of God creating human beings in God’s image, male and female God created them. (Gen. 1:27)

In the process, God gives humanity charge over the life of the Earth. The English translation of the Hebrew word telling of God’s charge is most often “dominion,” which can be misunderstood as implying ownership. A more accurate understanding of the word is stewardship as a gardener is given charge over a community garden.

This passage comes to my mind frequently these days.

I’ve been checking in with what has been going on in Washington, D.C., these past months. Like you, I’m keeping an eye on the most bizarre and dangerous president I’ve known in my lifetime.

But healthier than that, I’ve been checking in on since early April. Two adult eagles built a nest in a high tree in D.C.’s National Arboretum this past winter. Nest level and overview video cameras broadcasting 24/7 were installed.

On Feb. 10, the female laid her first egg. A second egg followed on Feb. 11. The first hatched a male on March 29. The second, a female, on March 30. Video watchers were invited to choose names. “Honor” and “Glory” topped the choices.

I joined the observations in early April when the two were unsightly, scrawny bags of skin, beak and bulging eyes. They huddled for warmth near one another and mom or dad who in turn kept watch, found food, and posed majestically staring over D.C., watching whatever eagles watch with their astounding eyesight.

Both chicks survived, although early on Honor got her leg stuck in the side wall of the nest, to be rescued by an intrepid arborist. Of late, fully feathered, seldom in the nest, they stand on different limbs taking in the world beyond the nest on the brink of instinct’s launching.

I and others have been fortunate to be watching this natural wonder. A significant decline in the numbers of bald eagles has been reversed since the EPA, established in 1970, responded to environmentalists’ appeals and banned the use of DDT in 1972. Scientific studies agree that not all bird eggs are thinned by ingesting DDT, but the eggs of raptors are.

Last December, our bizarre and dangerous president appointed Scott Pruitt as director of the EPA. Pruitt, as attorney general of Oklahoma, was closely related to the oil, gas and coal industries and filed numerous lawsuits to reject President Obama’s efforts to curtail fossil fuel emissions. He may turn out to be an environmentalist’s nightmare, or he may not follow the path our president seems to have set for crippling environmental protection policies. Trump says climate change is a hoax. Pruitt says it might be real. Still Pruitt’s early instructions to delete mention of global warming from the EPA web site still stand.

What are we to do in these bizarre and dangerous days to protect future eaglets and other life forms from the disasters yet to be unpacked from global warming’s bag of death? What does stewardship ask of us in these days?

It turns out that it is much like good citizenship.

Timothy Snyder, Yale historian, has been writing books for 25 years on how democracies perished in eastern and central Europe in the 1930s. His latest book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” offers some suggestions summarized by Gary Dorrien, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary, in the June 21 issue of The Christian Century.

“Take responsibility for the face of the world” is about hate symbols, and “Be kind to our language” regarding hate speech is a plea to think and speak for oneself.

Some lessons focus on personal habits that turn out to be crucially important, because institutions – that bulwark education, our justice system, our religious communities, etc. – survive only when individuals do the little things that make them work.

“Establish a private life, stand out, listen for dangerous words, contribute to good causes.” One lesson, “Remember professional ethics,” is a reminder to lawyers, physicians and bureaucrats that their obligation to a professional code of ethics outranks civil obedience as a virtue.

Lessons 1, 2, 5, 19 and 20 are especially important: “Do not obey in advance,” “Defend institutions.” “Believe in truth.” “Be a patriot,” and “Be as courageous as you can be.”

Tyranny mangles truth and robs us, individuals and community, of our integrity, compassion and courage. Tyrants sacrifice the common good which is founded on protection of the well-being of the vulnerable for their personal power and gains.

Resistance to tyranny stands on the foundation of love of one another, the creation and the Creator. Its work is called stewardship. Stewardship has to do with the way one fosters the life of lakes, streams, rivers, bays and oceans. It has to do with how we garden, recycle, diminish our uses of fossil fuels. It includes protest, petition and voting. Stewardship develops conversations with our elected representatives that identify our concerns and demonstrate appreciation of our mutual humanity. It has much to do with standing for life and not on others who don’t see things our way. Finally stewardship is learning to see the image of our Creator in all people and the whole creation and loving and serving it.

The eaglets of the future as well as our own newborn call us to Earth stewardship now.

Bill Gregory is a writer and retired UCC minister. He can be contacted at

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