Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's Our Responsibility?

Yesterday I raised the question:

What if the way we live is killing us and destroying the future of our planet?

I asked this question of myself in light of watching the film Plastic Planet and reading the book Silent Spring. These two media items address two specific areas of how our lifestyle and behaviour affects our environment and ultimately ourselves. I know that there are many more perspectives from which my question could be addressed. The whole issue of climate change comes to mind. Quite some time ago I shared some thoughts on that specific topic after watching the film An Inconvenient Truth. I wrote:

"Some argue that God has given us dominion over creation and interpret this to mean that we can do whatever we want with it. I don’t think that is sound biblical theology. God has given us responsibility to be good stewards of creation. Precisely because we are made uniquely in God’s image we bear the burden of making wise and responsible decisions about how we will live, especially as it impacts other humans and the rest of the natural world. The inconvenient and uncomfortable truth is that we, particularly as Americans, have chosen a lifestyle that is making the continuation of life increasingly difficult and which deprives a large portion of the inhabitants of this planet of the opportunity to meet even the basic needs of life. Why are we as believers so resistant to altering our lifestyle in order to be both better stewards of God’s creation and to be better servants towards those in the world whose situation is far worse than our own?"

When I listen to the conversations going on around me at my church, on Facebook and in other venues, I hear two basic responses. The first is apathy and ignorance. People don't know about the impact of their lifestyles and do not want to know. I can understand this because it takes time and effort to become an informed consumer and, worse still, it takes a willingness to make changes based on what one learns. 

I am troubled still more by the other basic response, the one that denies that our lifestyle has such a negative impact and that I am responsible to change my behavior to mitigate that impact. As I mentioned in that earlier post, I think this response comes from a faulty or inadequate theology, one that equates dominion with the right to exploit and destroy the earth in pursuit of our own perceived well-being. The theology behind this views this earth as a temporary place, a way-station on the way to heaven. Our goal is not to shepherd this earth with a view toward the future, but to make use of it to sustain us until we can get out of here and move on to heaven. I used to have a similar view, but as I shared in Monday's post, I'm beginning to see things from a different perspective, one that desires and works for the fulfillment of God's Kingdom on this earth, working toward the time when earth and heaven shall be one and the created order shall be restored and redeemed to the full beauty that God intended it to have. When we take this perspective, then we become not users and dominators of the earth, but care-takers and shepherds.

Kathy Escobar's post, which I commented on in my Tuesday post, points out another flaw with treating our environment as disposable. When we act this way, we do so because we want to keep what we have. We want to protect our power and privilege, regardless of the impact it may have on others on our planet, either in the present or the future. When I dump chemicals on my lawn so it can be beautiful I'm doing it for my present, temporary pleasure. When I choose to buy disposable products because they are cheaper or more convenient to me, I am thinking of myself and my convenience. I'm not taking into account the impact my actions will have on my own self down the road, or on my children, or their children, or on the people across the globe who are also impacted by my decisions.

What if we began to think about our lifestyle from a different perspective; from a perspective that doesn't look primarily at the short-term cost-benefit to myself, but at the long-term impact on not only myself but on others? Would that fit better with a Jesus-centered life?

Tomorrow I will share a few changes I along with my family have made to live differently in light of what we're learning.

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