I have just spent the weekend at a conference here in Perth. Amazingly I didn’t have to travel anywhere to go to this one! It was entitled “God of Sea and Sky” and focussed on eco theology. This just means it focussed on our faith and the fate of the creation we live in, rely on and are part of.
The guest speaker, there is always a guest speaker, was a guy from NSW called Jason John. He is a Uniting Church minister, but has also written a Phd on “Biocentric Theology” and a book called “Worshiping God’s Evolution”. He has been involved for some time in bridging the two aspects of our lives together, evolution and faith, in our response to the environment and to the environmental crises we find ourselves it.
Jason was great, focussing on an idea that many of us have had, and have had for a very long time. God is not just a 5 minute wonder. The divine presence has been with creation, within creation since the birth of the stars and planets, all those millions of years ago. God has been with us and within us, since the birth of the first microbes, the first mammals the first apes and the first humans. God has been with us and within us as we have explored the universe itself, and now as we edge toward the destruction of the only home we have, the earth.
As Desmond Tutu would say God is not just a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Buddhist or a Jew, God is a God of the whole universe and everything in it. This should ultimately change the way we see the life around us, and what our responsibilities are to it. We do not have dominion over it, as though we were placed here from another plant, or just a steward looking after things until we disappear to somewhere else. We have come from the earth, we belong to the earth, and we will live and die with the earth.
Having said all that, there were many workshops showing how on a personal level we can make change to reflect our connection with creation. There was local church greening, which took in a tour of St Luke’s community garden (where the conference was being held), low cost carbon housing, permaculture, what and how we eat and composting and worm farming, plus some workshops on the joy of wood. All great stuff.
But there were also workshops on making a difference in a wider context. Jesus above all else was working for the wider community, asking people to think about the common good. To be followers of Jesus we have to speak up for not only this generation but for all the generations to come. Not only for humans but for all the species that reside on this planet. Jesus may not have been an environmentalist, he was too busy with the brutal Roman Empire, but his wisdom and his revelation about love and compassion extends to all of life, not just to some parts of it. And we know already that those who will suffer the most will be the poor and marginalised of the world while the richer countries, like ours, continue to avoid their responsibilities.
I went to one workshop on environmental activism lead by Jess Beckerling, who has been actively involved in protesting against the old forest logging in the South West. She pointed out that activism does not necessarily mean we all have to stand in front of a grader or try to board a whaling ship. Instead it can be about peaceful protesting, about lobbying and educating policy makers, engaging local communities to resist actions and policies that affect the environment, supporting others who are engaged in protest, letter writing and becoming aware of the facts ourselves so that we can share with others.
A video presented in the workshop really brought this home to me. It’s about a small town in the USA, called Dryden, population 14,500. The video tracks how this community managed to resist the large oil and gas industry who wanted to start gas fracking in their area (Hydraulic fracturing or fracking — a method of extracting natural gas from underground shale formations). A beautiful pristine part of the country. It shows what can be done at the grass roots level. Since this video came out New York’s highest court ruled in favor of Dryden over the fracking industry in a historic win! Here is the link to the video.
Somehow we have to convince our fellow church goes, and from there the wider community that we are all in this together. We live in an interconnected universe, and without some commitment from us, as individuals and as communities there is no future. God will remain, a spark of life and hope in all things, but we may not be around to see what God will do next!
So where do we start? By worshipping in a way that reflects this greater reality, by educating ourselves on what is really happening, what really are the issues, and by engaging in whatever way we can in making change. As people of faith I believe this is our calling.
As Jason John has said…..
“Our great grandchildren will be far angrier, will suffer far more, if we fail to support groups like 350.org and beyond zero emissions, than if we fail to stop gay marriage”.
Often we sweat the small stuff in churches. It’s time to think of the God of 70,000, million million million stars and countless planets. The God of all the millions of species including each one of us.
John suggests that
“Perhaps we should stick to the fundamentals:
Walk in Christ, the head: the source of our movement. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love yourself. And likewise, love your neighbour “.
And walk the walk of love, not just for some but for everyone and everything.