Saturday, July 05, 2008

God and Going Green

Like most British Columbians, I got my Climate Action Dividend Cheque last week. If you don't live in BC, this is a $100 cheque given to every British Columbian to assist in transitioning to a more green approach to living and to off-set the cost of the carbon fuel tax that was added on July 1. The intent is to encourage us to live greener lives and to become more aware of the impact of our actions on the climate. I wish this had happened at at time when world prices weren't hitting record levels, but at the same time, I think it's important to recognize that we have a responsibility to the environment in which we live.

The church has been strangely silent about the green initiative. For the most part our approach has been to hold to the idea that Jesus could return at any time (which He could) and that we needed to give ourselves to evangelism rather than than worrying about social and environmental issues. In most cases those who expressed environmental concerns, were seen as fringe and marginal. I think that is changing and for good reason. It's one thing to be seen as being culturally and socially relevant and so the idea of being seen as being 'green' has become very appealing to churches. I read of one denomination that is going green by changing to LED lighting in their facilities, upgrading windows, furnaces and kitchen equipment in order to reduce their carbon footprint. I'm not sure that going green is going to actually translate into seeing people come to faith in Christ, but that doesn't mean it's a bad idea.

I found an interesting article today about a church conference recently held in Vancouver called 'Faith and the Environment'. Apparently 125 theologians from multiple faith groups came together to talk about God, the Church and the Environment. You can read more about the actual event by clicking here.

I believe that God has given us dominion over everything and made us stewards of creation. For most of North American Evangelical history, we have approached the environment as a resource to be plundered and pillaged. I think we missed the point. Stewards care for resources they are entrusted with. They don't indulge themselves on resources that don't belong to them. We have indulged ourselves to excess and lived without regard for the environment around us. In the process we have fouled lakes, rivers and streams with our pollution. I grew up in Northern Ontario about an hour from a pulp mill. I remember the smell and the pipe dumping murky brown liquid into the river. Years later (after First Nations people began dying from mercury poisoning on reserves downstream), the company was forced to do a massive clean up and had to dredge the river to clean up it's poison. I can still remember the smell of the mud.

We have filled the air with toxins and cancer causing chemicals without thought or regard for the safety of future generations. When it became socially unacceptable to do these things in Canada or America we off-loaded those processes to countries where pollution didn't matter or affect us. I've been to both Mexico City and Beijing, China. On most days the air is murky at best.

At the same time, I believe that God has entrusted us with the resources of the earth for the purpose of sustainable provision and enjoyment. The issue is in what we do to the earth as we use them and in how we obtain them. The church needs to lead in this area and have a credible voice because of our actions that support what we say.

Sallie McFague said it this way. The earth is our home, not a hotel room. That's a new way of thinking about things for most church people, but maybe one that we need to embrace more seriously. What do you think?

1 comment:

Jan said...

I totally agree. If our life is to be a light then everything we do should reflect our respect and stewardship of God's creation. I think the kind of action you describe, having "green" church will speak to nonbelievers in a big way.