Last night our church
helped sponsor a Faith and the Environment forum. This was the second Faith and Politics forum we have been involved in. The first was about immigration and it's a chance to bring together area churches for a discussion on how our faith relates to these issues. This event was part of the Kendall Environmental Coalition's
series of activities to help heighten environmental awareness in our area. Last night we met at the Yorkville congregational Church (which Emma decided was a castle). There were three "experts" that Mike asked a series of questions and who then accepted questions from the group. The presenters from around the Chicago area included Dr. Jeff Greenberg, a geology professor at Wheaton College; David Radcliff of the New Community Project
; and Sarah Spoonheim from Faith in Place
. They were a fantastic group to speak on the issues of faith and our environment. I want to find out more about their organizations as well.
They spent time discussing why environmentalism is a faith/moral issue. For many of them it went beyond God's command to be good stewards of our earth. They focused on Jesus' command to love and serve the least of these - to help the poor and oppressed. They explained how already the harm being done to our world hurts the poorest in the world the worst. Inuit women whose breastmilk is full of toxins because of the pollution of the rest of the world, the Africans who are starving because of how climate change has destroyed their ecosystem, the farmers who are exposed to toxins so they can grow our food for 8,000 a year, and the poor who live along the world's coasts that will take the brunt of the superstorms and rising oceans. If we are to follow Jesus' command to love others, we have to take care of the world as well.
There was also discussion as to why people (and most Christians) don't care about the environment. Reasons such as a twisted dispensational theology, a separatist theology that sees the "world" as including the physical planet, a conception that it distracts from more important things like getting people to say the Sinner's Prayer, a tendency to avoid associating with people who are different from them (like Al Gore!) and a belief that God will never let us really hurt the world were all reasons that were discussed. But most of the presenters agreed that Christians, like most Westerners, ignore the environment because of laziness, economics, and politics. We are too lazy to change, we are too cheap to change, we are too in the pockets of big business to change, and we care more for a political agenda than we do God's commands to change. These are the hurdles that need to be overcome before we can mobilize churches to follow Christ in this area.
One issue that hit home for me was that of food. The techniques of raising our meat and getting our food to us do a lot to hurt our environment. The mass cattle farms do more to harm the environment than our transportation does. So buying food that comes from places that care for the world and those animals helps reduce that impact. But the issue is held in tension with other harmful practices. If I have to drive an hour (use gas, create CO2) to get to the closest Whole Foods to get organic meat is the impact worth it? Or is creating the demand for healthy, environmentally friendly foods worth it? The idea is of course to buy as locally as possible. We buy a share in a local CSA farm
during the growing season, but haven't done much meatwise. I did get the tip last night to check out Eat Wild
for local organic meat - so does anyone want to go in ($2000) to buy a whole cow?
As a take away from the evening I realized that the issues were a lot bigger and more complex than I had thought. There is a lot more that I need to do to care for God's creation, but that my motivation shouldn't be guilt or fear, but hope for a better world.
Labels: Environment, Politics, Social Justice