Monday, February 18, 2008

Saving The Life Of The World

God said he wouldn’t ever flood the world again. He said he wouldn’t destroy it and all the life in it, except for what Noah saved. Again. But we didn’t. We didn’t promise that. And so that’s what we’re doing now. Read the papers. Listen to the news. Read the news on the Internet. Read the many books. The sixth great extinction in the history of the world.

We’re in the middle of that now. The sixth great extinction in the history of the world. Thousands of species winking out. Whole segments of God’s creation ceasing. Turning to dust in our hands. To nothing in our hands. And it’s because of us. We humans are doing this. Not some meteor. Not some massive change in the oceans’ currents brought about by continental drift. Not aliens. Not the evil one.

Pastors, ministers, and clergy aren’t talking about this. Or some are, but not many. A catastrophe of Biblical proportions here in the real world outside of the Bible. In contemporary life. Global warming that will annihilate millions, maybe tens of millions of human beings. In the foreseeable future. Not in millennia. Not in centuries. In tens of years. In my lifetime, perhaps. My children’s certainly.

According to climatologists. According to climate modelers. And demographers. Because of greed. Selfishness. Because there are too many of us. Because people have lost God. He is no longer in their hearts. They have closed him out.

This morning I heard an interview with a young Asian woman. Singaporean, I think. On NPR. Owns 100 pairs of shoes. One hundred pairs of shoes! All for herself. All for her own use. Think of the impact on the world’s resources. Imagine if this is multiplied by six and a half billion. Imagine if everyone owned 100 pairs of shoes.

She’s just a random young Asian woman. She isn’t particularly wealthy. No Imelda Marcos. She’s just your average avid consumer. Your average person who likes to shop. Who likes to buy and to own things. Who likes to fill her life with stuff. With merchandise. With toys. With debris. With junk.

What is it? Thirty-two times, I think is what I read somewhere. The average American uses 32 times what the average Kenyan uses in resources. The earth’s resources. Creation’s resources. America consumes 45% or so of the world’s resources with only 5% or so of the world’s population. Something like that.

And this is God’s country? This is a Christian nation? You’ve got to be kidding!

This country is the destroyer. The destroyer of Creation. With its culture of consumption. Its culture of possessions. Its culture of flagrant wealth displays. Its culture of habitat destruction. Its culture of exploitation. Its culture of waste. Of greed. Of self-aggrandizement.
And it’s exporting this culture all over the world. Has been for. Oh. A century or so. A good century or so.

But don’t get me wrong. Singapore is responsible. China is responsible. India is responsible. Europe is responsible. Also. We aren’t the only ones broadcasting pollution everywhere we go. Laying waste to Creation everywhere we go.

In the story we are now writing—the story of our particular lives—we are playing the role of God the destroyer. An angry God committed to destroying the world. So if we are imitating any God. Any aspect of God. It is this version of God we are most like.

But we can choose a different role. We can choose to play the role of Noah and his family. We can choose to conserve rather than destroy the life of the world. We can choose not to buy 100 pairs of shoes. We can choose not to buy wasteful vehicles. Wasteful homes. Wasteful appliances. Wasteful light bulbs. We can choose not to take wasteful vacations. We can choose not to live wasteful, wanton, destructive lives.

We can choose to be frugal again. We can choose to be deliberate and careful again. We can choose to be respectful again.

I remember my grandparents. My father’s parents in particular. Waste not, want not, they said. They lived in a trailer in Florida in their latter years.

A little small when there’s company, Grandmother said. But we make do.

They didn’t have much, but they didn’t want much. They didn’t need much.

They lived simply. My grandfather had a couple pair of shoes. One for good, as he said. And one for work in my parents’ vegetable and flower gardens, when he and Grandmother came to visit us in the summer. A few pairs of pants. A few shirts. A jacket. A jaunty hat. A few dresses. My grandmother had. A few flowery dresses.

Grandmother sewed in the summer afternoons, when the light was good. Mended hers and Grandfather’s socks and other clothes. And mine, my brothers’, and my sister’s clothes. When my mother let her.

They enjoyed the cool of the evening and the sounds of the cicadas and the hum of the June bugs as they flew into the screens outside on the screened-in porch, their complex wings beating strenuously in the dark. They would just sit there looking out at the cherry tree and the pine trees and the quince tree and the pear trees out back as the day’s breezes quieted. Grandfather with his Crooks cigar. Grandmother with her mending.

Watched the light roll down the sky and redden through the apple orchard to the west. Watched the night gather in. As we children would ask them questions. And they would answer. As the noise from the TV came to us faint from an interior room in the house.

They were with us then. Staying with us children in the summer evening out there. Not saying much. Quiet with us. Listening. In the dark night air. Talking about their former lives. Their lives now. Things they knew.

Murmuring about how they didn’t understand what was happening in the world. What they saw on the TV. In the papers. Talking about a different way. A quiet way. A saving way. The only way they knew. To live.

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