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Environmentalism: Introducing Two Strangers

There are two strangers I know. Good people. Kind people. People who love Jesus. I know them well, but they do not know each other. They think they do, but they do not. Please allow me to introduce them to you. Perhaps someday you can help me to introduce these strangers to one another.

My first friend – let us call him Frank – is a fairly conservative fellow. He is very connected to the church, spends much time in ministry, and has a real passion for the gospel.

My other friend – let us call her Sarah – is a fairly liberal gal. She also loves Jesus and is excited about church. Sarah has been to several years of secular college, however, and she thinks differently than Frank does on some issues, especially related to the environment.

It is in this regard that these two are strangers. It is on this issue that I would like for these two people to learn about each other, and to become friends.

In school, Sarah has learned some very troubling things about our planet. She has learned that the major occupation of Western Capitalism is basically to rip resources out of the earth, mix them with toxic chemicals, and cram them back into toxic waste-dumps. She knows that this process is systematically destroying the most beautiful places, killing the most rare creatures, and displacing the most vulnerable people in this world. Sarah has heard convincing evidence which links this materialistic system to many harsh tragedies in our day, and she has heard terrifying predictions for the future. Sarah is only one person, and yet she feels the burdens and sins of many people crushing down in her. She feels the sins of the politicians which she voted into office, who are perpetuating this cycle. She feels the sins of the rich and powerful, who are making the politicians perpetuate the cycle. She feels the sins of the hypothetical: “what if” she joined a protest group against child labor? “What if” she boycotted Walmart, marched on the capitol…would it make a difference? Would anything make a difference? She is troubled, and burdened. Unsure what to do, she does what little she can – recycling when possible, reducing when practical, reusing when feasible. She tries to buy ethically – but she is poor, and she wonders how much of a difference she can really make. Although it always deeply troubles her, she keeps up to date on the current research being done on climate change. What she hears makes her feel increasingly troubled and burdened for her planet, her grandchildren, and the vulnerable people of this world.

Frank is a very different person. As I said, Frank spends much time being involved in church life. His days are filled with sermon preperations, with weddings and funerals, with theological debates. Frank is well educated, but he took no courses in environmentalism. Today, he has very little time to spend listening to the news. When he does listen, he listens with a cynical attitude. Frank has been around a little longer than Sarah has. He knows very well how the media spins things. He also knows that the last century has been dominated by one “apocalypse” after another. First, Hitler was the Antichrist. Then the Nuclear Bomb would end it all. Only a short time ago, scientists were worried about an impending ice-age. And of course, we all remember Y2K, the killer bees, the mad cow disease, wet-nile, etc., etc., etc….Frank feels, deep down, that global warming and all this hullaballoo about the environment is in the same vein as these other “crisies”: although important, it’s not worth the fuss it’s causing. It will blow over and in the end, life will go on as usual.

At this point, I am not so concerned with arbitrating between the two, or saying who is right or wrong. Mostly, I just want the two to get to know one another.

You see, up to this point, Frank and Sarah could bump into one another and not even know they are meeting someone who is 1) a good person and 2) believes totally differently from them.

Frank sees Sarah on a regular basis, but does not really understand her. He thinks he know her: “Everybody wants to be in control,” he thinks, “for some, it’s controlling their weight. For some, it’s controlling how neat their house and private lives are. For Sarah, it’s the environment. Well, that’s fine that she has ‘her thing’ so long as she doesn’t hurt herself or anyone else.” Sarah sees Frank on a regular basis as well. From comments that he makes, she can’t help but wonder what planet Frank is from. She feels like he is out of touch, uneducated, out of the loop, uncaring. Worse, she feels he may actually be a part of the grand conspiracy which is Capitalism.

It is time to lift the masks. No, Frank and Sarah are not real people they are…YOU! I have a general idea of who reads my blog (at least I think I do…) and I am pretty sure that most – if not all – of my readers fall into one of these two categories. Am I right?

Without analogies, then, I propose my message of reconciliation. I feel that there is a deep division brooding under the surface here, and I wish to head off the controversey at the pass, so to speak.

To the “Frank’s” out there: I would encourage you – become educated in the literature of the environmentalists. (For starters, I would recommend Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Bruxy Cavey’s “Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid: Lie #1 – Christmas is For Giving” and “Lie #4 – All You Need is Love“) I am not trying to convert you. However, we need to be aware of how people think. Mark Driscoll recently made a humorous comment about his city’s obsession with recycling. Did he stop to consider what affect this comment will have on the “Sarah’s” in his congregation? Did he really intend to place a “rock of offense” in the way of the gospel, in saying what he did? Become aware, so that you may minister gently to Sarah’s bleeding conscience, and so that your off-hand comments may not throw salt in her wound.

To the “Sarah’s” I say…be patient, and give the benefit of the doubt. Frank is not a bad person. He is also not as out of touch as you may think he is. If anything, his “problem” may be that he has “too large” of a perspective, since he has a broader view of history, and is not as tapped into the media of the day. Perhaps in listening to his perspective, you may learn to see the issue in a new way, and to find new comfort in the Gospel of peace.

I would be interested in whether this post has rung true for readers, and where they find themselves on the “I don’t believe in global warming” vs. “The world is ending in 2012” continuum.

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