My travels across Oklahoma this past weekend took us to Stillwater. Honestly, this small town would not be on the map if it were not for a pub run by an Inuit, a university at which I will avoid taking cheap shots, and a church where several people I know and love attend. Okay, well the church has little to do with the fact that the town is on the map. It was a big reason for our stopping. Even if Eskimos do make pretty good cheese fries.
I have a good friend who is a campus pastor at the aforementioned university. I guess you could say that the stars aligned this weekend, as he just so happened to be preaching on a topic that is somewhat important to me. The church is in the midst of a series on how Christians should view the environmental crisis that does (or does not) exist. Needless to say, I had my favorite G2 pen out.
Some might have difficulty connecting this issue to their personal faith. I mean, what does the hole in the ozone layer have to do with the hole in our hearts? I disagree with these questions for several reasons and feel convicted every time I throw away a plastic bottle. Really, I can’t escape the knowledge that even if I recycle a plastic bottle I am actually doing more harm than good. The amount of CO2 produced when it is recycled is worse than tossing the bottle on some ancient Indian burial grounds. Okay, that is a bit of a stretch. Recycling is obviously the lesser of the two evils. And Indian ghosts won’t haunt you either. That is always a plus.
Like I was saying, this is an important issue for my wife and I. There are the obvious connections of stewardship. We also should treat the creation like we believe the Creator gave it to us. I personally believe it also should be affected by our eschatology and pneumatology. These two topics are largely what shape my views on the environment but do not fit where I am going today.
Drew did a good job last Sunday at pointing out some other issues that I often overlook. Specifically, the deeper issues we uncover when we don’t treat the earth well. He spoke about selfish consumption and entitlement. This is the root of this problem. Too often we think that just because we pay for something or are smart enough to use it for our comfort, that it should be ours. It changes the way we brush our teeth. Drive to work. Go to war. The heart of the matter here is greed. We cling to things too tightly and think only of ourselves.
I am as guilty of this as anyone. I like things and consume way too much. A guy named Barber recently wrote a book called Consumed. In this book he addresses consumerism and points out that shopping is a part of every part of our lives. We consume so much that kids are now beginning to recognize branding before they are able to read. Think this is not true? Drive a four-year-old past the golden arches and watch what happens. Again, I want to live simply. But I really want a new i-pod too.
How big is our need to consume? It is so bad that Americans spend nearly 100 billion dollars every year on a product that we can get for free out of a tap. We drink the bottle of water and toss it in an Indian burial ground. More waste. More ghosts. You see the problem here?
Scare tactics don’t work and some of the reports are borderline propaganda. There is no need to go out and buy a generator because the polar icecaps are melting. Rather, we could be pretty comfortable for a long time. Drew reminded me Sunday that since we live in a prosperous part of the world we have all of the resources we need to get clean water when we stink it up. The real issues are found in parts of the globe where, due to a poor economy, access to clean water is not possible. A light bulb went on in my head Sunday as Drew reminded me that, “when we hurt the environment, we hurt the poor.” Our selfish consumption is further crippling the third-world. And that has a lot to do with our faith.
Though I don’t think it is online yet, you really should download Drew’s sermon.