Monday, July 21, 2008

on the other side by gilad

         part one

Earth Day came but once a year. At least it used to in elementary school. The older classes would put on a play about becoming more earth friendly and more than once we were all subjected to earth propaganda films starring Candace Bergren and some other maybe known actors to emphasize to children the dire need to care about the ozone layer and global warming. For our generation reduce, reuse, recycle replaced the rhymes taught to our parents of reading writing and arithmetic. While we still learned to dot our i's and the multiplication table we were also taught to separate the reusable materials and the food waste from the 'garbage'. At home on tv the muppets taught us that we should turn the lights off when we're not using them with government sponsored commercials. And as the children from the beginning days of these earth-forming ideals grow into free thinking adulthood they're thinking they can take it a step further.
Growing green has grown bigger than recycling what you use, it's grown bigger than public television commercials and a single day of kids dressed up as globes and hunks of trash. We have television networks devoted to earth friendly shows, trash cans on the sidewalk are now divvied up into the appropriate recycling bins, and consumers are urged to do away with disposable plastic bags. Turning the light off is ok, but a light with the energy saving light bulbs is better. And energy saving light bulbs are the least that you can do; why save money on your electricity bill by screwing those twisted light tubes into your fixtures when you could make money by installing solar panels on your property.
As becoming one with earth replaces just being nice to it, we as Christians seemed to be faced with whether or not this is a concern that we should take a stand on. Although it is satisfyingly easy to take a stand on something that is not only politically popular (a politically correct belief that is fadishly popular- it's not just something "most" people believe but also makes you look cooler if you're carrying a Lulu Lemon recycled, reusable bag), it is beginning to be discussed as to what kind of priority should being earth friendly take.
A few years ago I read a book called the Velvet Elvis.... well most of it.... ok at least half of it with a young adults group at a church I was going to. Velvet Elvis, written by Rob Bell, from what I remember is a book Bell wrote to look beyond past conceptions of what Christianity meant when living it out in real life.
(I'm going to pause here to tell you that I didn't read the whole book because I didn't like it. Rob Bell seems like a cool guy and he's a good writer, but since much of what he wrote wasn't new to me I usually ended up skipping through most of the chapters. And now I'll pause here to tell you that I'm not being cocky, my education just happened to cover those kinds of topics, most of you know more about calculus than I do because I never took it.) In case anyone has never read a book with a group of Christians, where as "book clubs" will read an entire book and discuss, a bible study group will take it chapter by chapter. One week came upon a chapter that broached Environmentalism and it seemed from the discussion that some of the group were surprised by its inclusion.
Environmentalism is a word which has in the past been reserved for hippies and extremists. It's a word for green peace, for people who tie themselves to trees, sit in front of bulldozers and eat tofu. And while many of these people have been admired for their efforts of making the world a better place they are also regarded as oddities and upholders of issues that lacked any relevance to real life. Like so many things that began with those who were willing to live out on a limb Environmentalism has shed away it's original connotations and like Rob Bell decided to repaint the picture of Christianity it has also been repainted. And while many people in that young adult group had grown up with the same earth friendly manner I had it was still surprising to some to conceive the word Environmentalism in the same topic of discussion as Christianity. Christianity has (and perhaps this is an evangelical viewpoint or maybe just that missionary mindset that pulses through Briercrest education) two main concerns. You know what they are. The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. Evangelicals have for the most part focused on the person or more specifically on their soul. It is only in recent history that we have widened our scopes; we realized that caring for the person is not divided up neatly, the human is a whole package of distressed spirit and waning body. If the rich in spirit can care for the soul why cannot the rich in resources care for the stomach? So we fill the hungry tummies, send them our doctors and nurses and build them proper homes. To our own and to others we share in a old testament type way until someone finally steps back and says 'what are we sadists? We give them what they need and then either leave them in self loathing for not being able to support themselves or leave them suffering because we can't afford to support us both'. And we begin to think about giving them the means to do for themselves what had been doing for them.
And now that environmentalism has shed away its old tye-dyed shirt and it's hemp pants.... and now that cool people like David Suzuki are willing to make commercials (apparantly Murphy Brown's earth-friendly school video wasn't enough for us) Christians are starting to say... wait didn't God tell us to take care of the earth?...