Friday, September 26, 2014

God's Good Green Earth: Doing Unto Others, part 4: Humble Stumble

For me the easiest thing about caring for the earth is the how. The why is harder at times. Well, if not harder, than more complex. While I can search the scriptures for words about why I should care for the earth, some of them seem a bit of a stretch. I mean to read about Jesus’ ruling the wind and the waves doesn’t really tell me that I need to! And, yes, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters." (Psalm 24:1-2; cf. Psalm 89:11; 1 Corinthians 10:26), but if it’s the Lord’s do I need to care for it? Besides other Bible verses are used by people (especially in the King James version) to justify using up all the resources – “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

Of course, "You must keep my decrees and my laws.... And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you." (Leviticus 18:26, 28) seems a pretty clear (and graphic) justification for taking care of this planet.

For me, in all my badness, there is an even greater reason – it’s the connection between earth care, peace, looking for that of God in others rooted in Jesus’ own life and example. Jesus ministry reflected a commitment to the poor and oppressed. Much of his work consisted of caring for the poor and oppressed in the society of his day. He fed, healed, and cared for the less fortunate – and confronted the privileged and their resources for not doing so. He more than hinted that we, as his followers, were to participate in the kin-dom of God – the interrelationship of all creation that brings universal shalom. Taking care of the earth is part of that participation.

How? Well, that may not be apparent on the surface. But when you stop to think that we in the so-called “developed” countries on this planet use and misuse resources, it’s obvious we have to be causing real harm to those unfortunate enough to have been born in less developed places. Remember earlier when I talked about the seeds of war in our possession? Especially as it relates to the Congo? One report says that thirty percent of kids in the Congo drop out of school so they can go work in the mines. The minerals mined are used mostly used to produce goods consumed in the western world. In the United States. In Indiana. In my home. My “need” of coltan dragged from the earth by the extreme methods they use means their lack of education.

That’s in addition to the huge disparity of my resource use compared to a person in Zambia. The United States, for example, has only five percent of the world population but uses twenty percent of the world’s energy. ( So let’s say that a family in India has seven children. That family still uses a lower percentage of the world’s energy than an American family with one child! I’m not certain that was what Jesus had in mind for us in ushering in the Kingdom of God.

This is not about blame. Or guilt. It is about being aware of how our actions impact those whom we will never see – and rarely think about. It’s about being the Friends of Jesus in a way that is possible now that wasn’t when he walked the shores of Galilee.

Think of it. We now know that what we do impacts others around the world in a way that generations before us could not. A smart bomb dropped in Syria while we’re watching “The Voice” on television is witnessed shortly after it happens – though we rarely count innocent dead that are collateral damage. And rarely count the resource costs – natural and economic resources – that it took to make that bomb “smart”, flying it around the world, and drop it on the people below. All of this resource “use” takes food from the mouths of poor children. Including the poor children in our own neighborhoods.

And while it’s easy to decry government spending on such things, what about our own need to have inexpensive clothes, food, and cars? How do we care for the poor and oppressed while simultaneously taking their labor and natural resources?


Wow. That was preachy, wasn’t it? Sorry. I get that way sometimes – mostly about what I need to be preached at about. Guess you’re just sort of collateral damage.

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