A Green Christmas

In the midst of visiting family, eating too much, and getting caught in a blizzard, I read a couple great books.  I highly recommend both of them.

Tending to Eden by Scott Sabin gives an overview of the work that Plant With Purpose is doing around the world, and lays out what a holistic engagement with poverty looks like.  He talks repeatedly of ‘upstream’ solutions – exploring and addressing questions of WHY people are poor, WHY the environment is inhospitable and not producing, etc.  If you think helping the poor is as simple as charity, read this book and abandon that assumption.  Sabin does a great job exposing the interconnectedness of poverty, the environment, and spirituality.

The Gospel According to the Earth by J. Matthew Sleeth is his follow up to Serve God, Save the Planet (which you should also read).  I first heard about this guy when he spoke at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids and I was instantly intrigued.  In this book he looks at numerous creation-care concepts and practices, the underlying Scriptural threads, and offers suggestions for how to live differently in a culture pursuing consumption at the expense of the planet.

I know I’m not on the cutting edge with this; there are lots of books and resources available about this topic.  It’s certainly an area that Christianity trails behind in addressing and even considering.  Why is that?  I have two suspicions.

1)   Politics.  Environmentalism has been associated with left-leaning politics and therefore, due to increased polarization of dialogue and the argument culture, become anathema to Evangelicals.  Thankfully that’s beginning to change, but the lengths of time it’s taken is shameful.

2)   Christians consider this to be a secondary issue.  We’ve missed the interconnectedness of poverty and the environment.  That’s what I love about these particular books – they reveal the underlying interrelatedness.  Using less water and electricity is not distinct from loving my neighbor, they are in fact connected.  It’s not a choice between caring for the environment or caring about people.  Caring for the environment IS caring about people, both near and far.

A while back in my small group we talked about local food, and most of us argued for increased involvement and support of our local farmers, for all sorts of reasons (relationships with local farmers, environmental benefits of organic farming, health, etc.)  Someone legitimately pointed out that by choosing to eat locally and organically (and more expensively), they would then have less money to give to charities that they love, specifically referring to child sponsorship with Compassion International.  (Stupid economics…limited resources and whatnot).  It was and is a good question, and there’s no simple answer for what to do in that particular circumstance, but it’s important to note the connections.  It’s possible that by choosing to buy cheaper, non-organic and non-local food that is governmentally subsidized and uses environmentally un-friendly production practices, that we are feeding into the very system that makes the child who needs sponsorship poor in the first place!  That kid might be in poverty because their local market was flooded with cheap US grain, or because the corporate demand for cash crops (like coffee) resulted in unsustainable farming practices that destroyed their local farmland.  Corporations move on and the people are left poor.  In steps Compassion.  Seriously, making a donation to Compassion while drinking coffee that isn’t fair trade and sustainably produced is an exercise in futility.  I am causing the problem I am trying to help alleviate.  Doh!

What does creation-care/environmentalism look like in your area?  Is it even on the radar of your church?  What are people’s responses when you bring these kinds of ideas to the table?

If you haven’t thought about this stuff at all, these two books are a great place to start.  Be forewarned – you can’t keep living the same way after you read them.

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~ by Joe Paparone on December 31, 2010.

One Response to “A Green Christmas”

  1. I have been given both of these books in the past year. I am SO looking forward to looking into them!

    Thanks for the thoughts- this is really challenging.

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