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Caring for God's Creation: Called to be Stewards
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Theological Reflections
on God's Creation

The writings and traditions of our Christian faith are rich in seasonal and natural reflection.

This page is the continuation of thoughts, reflections, theological insights, and inspiration on our relationship to God's creation.

 

 


People Get Ready:
Faith and the Movement to Save the Earth

By Patrice M. Schexnayder

 
People get ready, there's a train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket you just thank the lord

The People have been trying to "Save the Earth" for decades now! The work began long before the first Earth Day in 1970, and the movement continues to grow. But, attitudes toward the planet are diverse: Is the Earth simply natural resources to be developed? Or is it home, a conglomeration of interdependent ecosystems teeming with diverse life-forms that must fight for survival against resource development? It is the latter that people strive to save.

A notable example of an impetus for the movement to Save the Earth was Rachel Carson's book 'Silent Spring' which documented detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. She accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and public officials of accepting industry claims uncritically. There are parallel conditions today with the mining industries. In the Appalachians the coal industry is blowing up mountains and destroying entire ecosystems, to extract coal. In the Gulf of Mexico the oil industry is drilling in mile-deep water and with the current well blow-out transforming this body of water into a toxic soup, to pump oil. In this new silenced spring, disinformation is presented in commercials such as those lauding Clean Coal. Alleged deals that paved the way for the Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout are being investigated. The procurement of the fossil fuels, the mining and the drilling, is extremely destructive of life.

When people lament the damage done to the ecosystems, or experience a moment of enlightenment and realize our interconnectedness with the Earth, they get on board the environmental movement. It takes a lot of faith to stay on the train because public relations people are paid a lot of money to divert attention from the serious problems.

 
People get ready, there's a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers from coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them
There's hope for all among the loved the most

Images of the Biblical River Jordan as living water suggest that the waters could be dangerous as well as peaceful. Inevitably the Jordan symbolized commitment, whether it was the crossing of troubled waters or immersion and renewal. When Curtis Mayfield wrote the Civil Rights era song, 'People Get Ready,' the words were penned with knowledge that the faith that drove a commitment to justice was not a guarantee that the journey would be easy; still, the journey would not be taken alone.

When we say in the Baptismal Covenant that we will resist evil, and will strive for justice and peace, we are committing ourselves to ancient concepts. Injustice did not begin recently, and confronting it is not something that people are willing to do - unless they are committed. Barbara Brown Taylor succinctly noted when writing about Lent, a season in which repentance is the focus, that "Christians need never fear the commercialization of Ash Wednesday." It is sometimes a tough decision that people make, to acknowledge their shortcomings and to vow to try not to miss the mark in how they live their lives, especially in relation to other lives. Striving for peace and justice for others requires that one carry through with the commitment.

 
There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Whom would hurt all mankind just to save his own
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
Cause there's no hiding place from the kingdoms throne

Disciplined people follow a code of conduct that guides their lives. "O most blessed light, fill the inmost hearts of your faithful people. Without your power nothing is in the light . . ." are words in Veni Sancte Spiritus in St. Benedict's Prayer Book. One's right to do something ends where the right of the other begins; that means do not step on the other, and don't mess around with their right to live. Don't knock them down; don't throw them off balance. If you do, you miss the mark. Such is the nature of a broken relationship that qualifies to be called sin.

Because of a lack of reverence for the earth and all its life, polluters have missed the mark! They have come up against the right of the alive, to live. The air in many parts of the world is toxic to breathe. Many waters bear hidden poisons, and some land has been so overused and over treated with chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, that it is sterile; food grown on it, has lower nutrient value and may contain toxins. Most of the toxins that have polluted the planet are processed in factories and refineries, and are derived from fossil fuels. How many lives - plant, animal, and human - have been shortened or destroyed?

Genetic damage to all forms of life is a fact of life now. There are epidemics of diseases caused by the ingestion and inhalation of toxins. And while this is known and documented, reported in the media and studied in textbooks, still it continues. The noose of dependence on fossil fuels is perpetuated by powers whose only concern is the "bottom line" in the accounting books. Obligations to investors have become paramount. They can't hide.

It is not a problem of the West or of the East, but of the whole world. No matter the religion, philosophy or theology, no matter the aspirations or visions of the people - the greedy and careless have found ways to perpetuate polluting industries. Boundaries are crossed and toxins dumped; government officials are "bought off" and look away and allow mining without restraint, etc. Analysis shows that on some days, a quarter of the pollution that bathes the Los Angeles Basin can be traced to Asia. There is no hiding from the evil that is being wrought.

 
So people get ready for the train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage, just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord


The metaphor about hearing "the diesels hummin'" is ironic now. Hundreds of square miles of the Gulf of Mexico are becoming uninhabitable as the oil disperses and envelopes the life. To those wonderful guys I have known throughout my life who like to stand around a truck and listen to its running engine, hummin' diesels sound good. But not to me! I always smelled the exhaust fumes. But what they loved was the symphony of sounds when it was running right. It was a preference of one sense of observation over another.

This fragile, beautiful Earth and its waters, once all woven through with earthworms and roots, with plankton and sea creatures, and crowned with flowers, is very sick. When we are ready we can leave all our baggage behind, and carry with us our variety of gifts, of services and of activities. They are all manifestations of the spirit, and are all for the common good. It is time to get to work!

How do we ride the train together? In the book 'Common Fire' the displacement of the religious by the secular paradigm is explored. In the stories that are told, across the paradigm spectrum, it was found that faith was the activity that gave meaning. Faith, it was noted, is something that all human beings do in the everyday dialogue between fear and trust, hope and hopelessness, power and powerlessness, alienation and belonging.

And so, what does it mean to Save the Earth? In religious, metaphorical language, what is it to be stewards of the Earth? What's this talk about having been given dominion over the Earth by God? What garden?

Have faith! Take care not to turn away from the train, or there will be no rain and the land will yield no fruit, and we will perish quickly off the good land. That's the way I heard the story.

 

~ Patrice M. Schexnayder, MA, MTS
Diocese of Texas

Eco Epistle #2       June 20, 2010

To Eco-Epistle #1, July 2002.

If you would like to add to these reflections or to comment on them, please send an e-mail to news[@eenonline.org] (Please remove the square brackets from the address before sending).
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The EpEN is a national network of active lay and clergy persons within the Episcopal Church, USA, who share a common concern for the environment and a common belief in the presence of God in all Creation and who work to make these concerns and beliefs known throughout all Provinces and Dioceses within the church. Members come from around the Episcopal Church, USA. The activities of the EpEN are focused on the areas of Reflection, Education, and Action. 

If you would like to contact any of these groups or to find out more about the EpEN, please click on the links on the left.

 

 

last update:  2012-05-07

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