Tuesday, March 06, 2007,11:19 AM
Faith and the Environment Forum
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.

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posted by Julie at 11:19 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 3/07/2007 10:19:00 AM, Blogger Amy

    It is a complex issue. We are now living in an area that takes more pride and ownership in the environemt. The thing that I am impressed with is how easy it is to recycle here. There are recycling centers everywhere--less than a mile from our house. We go there at least every other week. Everyone does it--recycling everything. Not just pop cans, but magazines, plastic bottles, newspapers, any kind of paper, any kind of glass, cardboard (like cereal boxes or whatever food comes in) etc. We didn't do this as much in Michigan (just recycled cans because youg et 10 cents for them) mostly because it wasn't encouraged and we had no idea where to go to recycle some of these items. Kind of poor excuse, but I think Oregon does a good job of encouraging it.

  • At 3/07/2007 10:36:00 AM, Blogger Searching For a Meaning

    It is indeed a thought provoking issue which is both disturbing and attaches the responsibility of we who inhabit God's earth.

    Scotland has perhaps focused on recycling issues and it is encouraging to see more attention and responsibility by young and old with all kinds of materials.

    We do have a responsibility to future generations and if we focus more on the environment in our every-day lives, it may encourage even more in society to do same.

    A really interesting and stimulating blogg.

    Thank you

  • At 3/07/2007 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    We recycle as much as we can. But one interesting comment one of the presenters made the other night was - if you recycle and think then that we are doing your part - stop. The products we have in our hand to recycle represent 5% of all the stuff that went into making that product - 95% is already waste. We need to put our efforts into changing the system... interesting thoughts

  • At 3/07/2007 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Yeah Amy, I remember up in Cadillac the only place to recycle were these big bins in the WalMart parking lot, but nobody ever used them.

    Funny, but I think the Chicago 'burbs are even one step ahead of Salem. We have curbside recycling. We just put out our cans and glass and paper products with the trash and the recycling company takes it away for us.

    But then, like Julie mentioned, recycling just scratches the surface of what's really needed to make a difference. The real challenge is to reduce our consumption. Personally I think this is important not just for ecological reasons, but for social justice and spiritual reasons as well. How can we justify consuming so many resources here in America, when so many others have so little? And beyond that, I tend to view consumerism as a disease of the soul. For our own spiritual health we need to disentangle ourselves from our enslavement to possessions.

    (Not that I've done a great job of this in my own life yet... but I'm working on it.) :)

  • At 3/09/2007 10:53:00 AM, Anonymous tatiana

    One idea you (Mike and Julie at least) may want to look into is starting a co-op. If you can get congregational support from area churches, perhaps it would not be too difficult to find a space that you could fill with bins of dried goods and various products to order in bulk. Reba Place has a food co-op that is open every Saturday morning. A lot of the stuff comes from distributors that are probably not MUCH better than Whole Foods, but the good thing about it is that packaging is significantly decreased, it encourages us to cook more whole and natural foods, AND we do grocery shopping in the company of friends, neighbors, and community-mates.

    I don't know a whole lot about how our co-op first got started, but I'm sure there are people here who know and could give you some tips if you are interested. It also might be a good way to get enough buying power to buy directly from farmers or other places that require large orders (like buying a whole cow!).

    The other little whisper that I'll make is that an easy answer to the great difficulty of finding ethical meat would be... to become vegetarians. I know it is a scary thought to most, but I have so many friends who have become vegetarians in recent years and I think most of them would say it was far easier than they expected. There are so many yummy veggie foods, rather than "missing out" on meat I think you end up trying and eating whole new types of food that are quite delicious.

    Okay, that is my piece. I don't want to come off as forcing a vegetarian agenda or anything. Peace to you...

  • At 3/09/2007 06:06:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    thanks for the suggestions Tatiana. The coop thing is something I've thought about. I first need to find people out here that would want to do it too! Generally people I know just make fun of me or push the "cheapness is next to godliness so I don't have to be ethical if I'm saving a buck" agenda. So I'm working on baby steps at the moment.


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