For the next two months we will be exploring Ecological issues during our worship services and the Sunday Seminar Class (at 9am and everyone is welcome). We hear so much in the news and other media about our responsibility to the environment, the impending danger to our abused planet and to ourselves, as well as a dream of civil harmony with nature where everything is set in balance. All of these ideas did not just come into being during the 1970s. They all have deep roots in scripture, they all are reactions against a modern humanist perspective and they all need to be redeemed by a clear picture of what God has to do in them.
An Environmental Group came to the Kirk School to lead an assembly and share information about being respectful to the earth and our oldest daughter came home with a Planet Crusader Pledge Card. The card had little boxes that you could check off if you promised to not use plastic bags during your next shopping trip or if you would remember to turn off the water while you brushed your teeth. Many of the things that they suggested were things that our family already practices. This pledge card not only looked a lot like a Billy Graham Crusade Pledge Card but it also attempted to define my daughter’s relationship with the earth by her daily behavior. While I support engaging in sustainable living, because it is responsible, less costly and community minded, I cringe when connections like these are made. My ‘relationship with the earth is affected by my daily behavior’ can quickly turn to my ‘relationship with God is affected by my daily behavior’. This envelopes the issues of righteousness, purity, work versus faith, and hoards of other theological issues that if not worked out well suck the Good News out of the Gospel. How does our relationship with God relate to our willingness or ability to be ecologically responsible?
Have you heard about the Mega-drought that might be upon us? A meteorologist from Weather Underground (website and app) was recently heard on the radio decrying our lack of foresight in establishing the city of Los Angeles during a century of the wettest weather on record. While his tone remained bright and cheery, he predicted that there would be major climate changes in our area, based on ancient geological records, and that much of the population would need to relocate. This is not to mention the threats of fire, earthquake and other cataclysms that can and will strike us. How do we deal with this sort of information and include what we believe about God? How does God interact with Nature? What does it say about God if horrible natural disasters happen like tsunamis and tidal waves? What does our faith say about living in fears of these impending crises?
When it comes to wilderness conservation I am very biased. I find spending time in the wilderness to be necessary to my well-being, both physical and spiritual. I wish I could somehow accomplish my vocation and live in a wilderness area at the same time. It seems to me that many messages come out of the Environmental discussion with the same sort of dream. Somehow all of us can live in harmony with nature. Our civilization should not exist in such a way as to destroy our environment, but it should maintain it, if not nurture it. Human overpopulation is one of the problems, among many, that needs to be addressed in order to see this dream to fruition. While there are hints that this problem may be fixing itself(as countries get richer and become more urban child-birth rates generally fall), how do we talk about this issue and respect individual freedom, maintain healthy economies and allow everyone life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Above all, how does this relate to the concepts of Shalom found in the Old Testament and the Second Coming found in the New? Is our desire to create civilization (i.e. live life) in such a way as to not harm the ecosystem that we live in and see not only the people around us, but nature itself as part of our community a God given desire? Maybe even a reflection of our desire for Heaven?
For the last few years our family has enjoyed going to YMCA camp in the sequoia woods north of Fresno. Every year the camp staff put on a presentation of the logging of the area. While much of it happened 100 years ago there is still a lot of scars left. Old logging roads, some ancient machinery and many tremendous stumps of felled Sequoia Giganteum trees. At the end of the lecture there is always the tragic ending: Sequoia wood does not make good lumber. It is great for fence posts but not much else. All the effort to cut these huge trees out of the woods was generally wasted and no money was made. The question remains, then why did they do it? Because they could. Because they wanted to see what they could accomplish; to meet the challenge. My answer would be because they lacked a clear vision of God’s position as creator and their position as creation. I believe the current environmental discussion is on the correct side of history(or as correct as you can be), but unless we have a clear idea about who God is and who we are in the light of who God is, we risk missing the point.
That is why we come together in worship, enjoy each other in fellowship and join each other in mission, in order to remember the point. Hope to see you there!