Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Plastic Theology or Practical Stewardship

Maybe there are still three or four of you out there who think Al Gore is nuts, that global warming is some mythical plot by the Trilateral Commission to move us towards a one world government and usher in the reign of the anti-Christ. Maybe, in other words, you think the entire environmental movement is a colossal waste of time because the earth is going to be burned with intense heat someday anyway, so why bother preserving it now. "Maybe", some of you are thinking, "the intense heat with which the world will burn is caused by global warming, in which case the faithful thing to do in order to hasten the end times is to drive your hummer two blocks to rent a video, and fill your shopping cart at the grocery store with as many petroleum based packages as possible, along with foods that have been produced through petrol based fertilizers, the soil of which has been tilled, hydrated, and harvested by petrol based machines. Then finally, when you get to the checkout stand and the hospitality clerk says "paper or plastic", you smile and say, "Why plastic of course! Jesus is coming soon."

That way you can contribute to the 100 BILLION plastic bags Americans consume each year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to produce, and which have a hard time biodegrading themselves bag into the earth, thus contributing to toxic landfills scattered around the country. Oh, and I get to keep my country dependent on foreign oil as a bonus, something even the staunchest conservative recoils at. Try to think about 100 BILLION - Jesus was walking in this earth about 1 billion minutes ago. 100 BILLION?? That would be:

100 BILLION choices of convenience over environmental responsibility
100 BILLION choices to further entrench our nation in its addiction to oil
100 BILLION opportunities to do a small thing to care for both the earth and our country, and to begin to behave with an environmental conscience like most of the rest of the world - opportunities which we collectively have failed to take because a tiny increase in convenience is more important.

For those of us do believe that environmental stewardship is part of our responsibility as followers of Jesus, the indictment is perhaps even more scathing. After all, what could be easier than bringing your own bag with you when you shop? And yet even this one small event eludes many of us, myself included (though the reading of this NY Times article might have finally brought enough conviction my way).

I read Deep Economy. I take the bus downtown 95% of the time. I quote Wendell Barry a lot. I talk a good game. And yet I leave my reusable bag at home or in the car when I go in to buy some bulk oatmeal. Old habits die hard. I share this as a reminder to myself that, if I'm not willing to do the little things, how will I ever rise to the occasion when the big thing is asked of me. And of course, it applies to all matters of stewardship, not just baggies. The difference between talking about Christianity and actually living it is a vital distinction in this information age, where it's cool to be informed and to discuss things - but monumentally difficult to make even the smallest changes. Maybe the place to begin is with our buying habits. Maybe, for some of us, the cost of discipleship includes carrying our own grocery bags. Is that too much to ask?


At 17/10/07 23:22, Blogger david said...

wow. that is a lot of bags. i'm told we can recycle ours...

regardless, good post.

At 18/10/07 10:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is a reason that "it's the little things. . ." is such a well known phrase. The "little things" display intention. One can so easily use the smallness of a thing to discount its importance or one can practice discipline in the same area. You're right, this concept applies to all areas of stewardship. I know that a "what good would it do?" attitude is what holds many of us back (myself included) from stepping out into our calling be it discipleship, feeding the hungry, evangelism, even getting into the word. let us not become a "product" of our fast food/all of nothing society but rather embassadors of the kingdom! "Practice makes perfect" from glory to glory.

At 18/10/07 11:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just had a random idea -- next time you forget and have to take another plastic bag from the store -- fold it up and stuff it in your wallet! They fold up pretty small, and then it's always with you!

At 18/10/07 15:02, Anonymous Greg Fields said...

I simply could not resonate more with your post, Richard. "Environmental issues" have seemingly been marginalized by the moder, western, Christian, evangelical culture, and I am bewildered. Could we not, as those who are living in the way of Jesus, take the lead and set the pace in caring (read: stewardship) for his creation? The Psalmist declares "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." And in Genesis, the Lord made the earth, and declared it good! What has caused us to think that the earth is something from which to escape and subsequently, neglect and ignore? Did Jesus himself not declare that he would someday THIS earth?

Thank you Richard for posting your thoughts, and for the candor in which you expressed them. You are right - easy to talk about...more difficult to act. I am a much better talker than activist - thanks for humbly nudging me toward true faith (belief PLUS action).


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