Wednesday, May 09, 2007

You Cannot Save the World

I wrote this for my church paper. I do not incline naturally towards environmentalism (which was the theme for that particular paper) so this is my response to that nudge.


The air I exhale contains almost 100 percent more carbon dioxide than the air I inhale. I cannot avoid my environmental footprint. Even if I were to crawl under a rock and hope that it would all go away I would likely start to hyperventilate increasing my breathing rate thereby producing more carbon dioxide for the atmosphere. This is how I felt about five years ago when my awareness of environmental concerns reached a critical mass and I found myself feeling guilty for breathing. Recently on one of the internet searches gone wrong I across one group’s response to just such a feeling. The Church of Euthanasia stands by one creed, “Thou shalt not procreate.” This group attempts to live out the feeling that our presence on earth is doing more harm than good. And oftentimes it seems hard to argue otherwise.

In Leviticus God offers this warning to the people, “If you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” I can’t help but think that if we want take the environment seriously we will need to move beyond both crushing and guilt inflicting doom-saying as well as na├»ve feel good environmentalism and address the relationship between holiness and the land. In the Garden of Eden holiness represented the right relationships between God, humans and environment. The Tabernacle and the laws of Moses were an attempt to advance against the curse of being outside of Eden. Just ten verses after the one quoted above we find the command in Leviticus to “love your neighbour as yourself” from which Jesus builds his theology. In fact the Tabernacle itself includes significant imagery drawn from the creation account. As Christians we have done a disservice to the Old Testament when pick and choose which laws are still “relevant.” We are coming a long way if we can begin to see that the Old Testament law believed that holiness was a part of everything we do. Like Eden it was concerned with the relationships of God, humans and environment.

Fine, so what does this mean for us? First, we can relate and take heed from the Old Testament in its warning that our actions have consequences. It appears that the land may already be gagging if it is not already starting to blow chunks. Second, we cannot compartmentalize the issue of the environment. Policy and legislation will help only as much as it did for the law did for the Israelites if hearts are not changed. Our relationship to our neighbour will likely reflect our relationship to the environment and vice versa. Finally, the Church of Euthanasia is right (but for all the wrong reasons). If left to ourselves we would likely be as effective at saving our souls as we would saving our environment. The Church of Euthanasia actually almost gets it even more right by its focus on death. In Leviticus it says that after the land vomits the people out and become desolate “then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.” As we are caught up in the mystery of death and resurrection so too is the land. We cannot save the world any more than we can save our souls. However, we are no less called to participate in redeeming the world as we are in redeeming ourselves and our neighbour. The issue of the environment becomes a matter of loving the Lord my God, loving my neighbour as myself and of “dying daily” to myself. And so we may also say that to love God and neighbour the environment becomes a matter of utmost importance.

Perhaps it would be helpful to reflect on how our view of the salvation of the soul affects our view of the salvation of the environment?

The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"If the Bible is right the world will explode."

- Dylan