Written by Catherine Rolling
June - July 2009
These days, North Americans are all about green and sustainable and stewardship of Creation. Hallelujah for that! Many of us have waited a long time for the U.S government to take climate change and its effects seriously.
Bill McKibben, an environmental advocate, offers some very important points for our consideration in "Deep Economy" (2007). He says that, using the writings of economic leaders from the distant past, we have followed a pattern of growth beyond a time when it was a good idea into a time where growth is not necessarily useful.
We have followed this pattern from a time of fairly close-knit community setting into a time of "hyper-individuality" and, in our efforts to get ahead and have more and better, have found ourselves isolated from our families and neighbors. McKibben suggests the pursuit of more is no longer a source of happiness (past a certain point) and lack of meaning has come from paying so much attention to our individual selves.
Sallie McFague, a writer, seminary professor and environmental theologian, has given the other key piece for my commentary. She says, in "The Body of God":
To feel that we belong to the earth and to accept our place within it is the beginning of a natural piety … It is the sense that we and all others belong together in a cosmos, related in an orderly fashion, one to the other. It is the sense that each and every being is valuable in and for itself, and that the whole forms a unity in which each being, including oneself, has a place. It involves an ethical response, for the sense of belonging, of being at home, only comes when we accept our proper place and live in a fitting, appropriate way with all other beings.
Sounds like God's world. I think we are yearning to recognize our sacred place in the universe. As some of us seek belonging by taking, using, or buying more than our fair share, those who do not have the power to even get a small share suffer most.
As Christians, we are invited to reconsider who is our neighbor and whether we are willing to share. We are offered the chance to turn our thinking from "I" worked hard and "I" deserve everything "I" can get. Some of our neighbors on this planet are not as fortunate or powerful as we are and they deserve our consideration. A lack of opportunity does not make a person less of a child of God. It is counter-cultural to be counter-productive. In this century reasoning that more is better is counter-productive.
We have seen the harm that has come from greed — the current recession is the best example. We have seen the harm that has come from pretending that some of us are not neighbors or are invisible, shunned as the "other" — Hurricane Katrina a poignant example.
Christian discipleship involves turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Being counter-cultural, embracing each neighbor, that's what Jesus did. We should, too. This is how we will find our sacred place, our oneness with God, our balance in an unbalanced situation — by acting in solidarity with each inhabitant of this Creation.
Let us actually do the seemingly little things that make a big difference — from changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs, eating local food, and downsizing our stuff-load, to noticing when a toxic dump site is placed in the part of our town or state where our neighbors with less power abide, and speaking out about it.
The Rev. Catherine Rolling is the environmental justice program assistant at the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries http://www.ucc.org/environmental-ministries.