But what’s the problem?
Now, I’ve been speaking of how good God’s world is, but that’s only part of the picture. Things have also gone dreadfully, tragically wrong, as we can see with climate change, if we hadn’t already noticed it elsewhere. Instead of humanity caring for God’s world, receiving his gifts with thanks and sharing them with others, all too often our experience is of a me-first world, both in our attitudes and in how we have set up our societies. Many of us presume that we deserve our standard of living, or vote for politicians who will maintain and increase our affluence before all other considerations. We are often greedy and envious, wanting to hoard and consume more things than our neighbour. Or we might be apathetic about the suffering of others. Or just unthinkingly wasteful. And so often we are simply thankless.
Jesus said that our life is more than the abundance of possessions (Luke 12.15), that loving God and our neighbour are more important than financial security or chasing our dreams or the perfect romance or the pursuit of happiness (Mark 12.28-33). Yet our society often assumes that bigger is better, that everything must be sacrificed to economic growth, that the creation is merely a pile of ‘natural resources’ to be exploited for increasing our material comfort and affluence.
In fact the climate crisis that we face today is a classic symptom of what the Bible calls ‘sin’. Sin is a bigger problem than simply the actions of any one individual. It is an addiction, a deadly habit, found in each of us and woven into our social fabric. Climate change is a classic symptom because like many of the world’s problems, it is not simple. There is no single cause and no magic bullet solution. Instead, we’re faced with a complex series of related problems arising out of many causes, such as the small actions and inaction of millions, habits based on ignorance, pig-headed short-sightedness, greed or fear that refuses to see size of the problem, the desire to maximise our short-term gain without regard for the future. Or simply false beliefs: that the planet’s resources and ability to adapt is effectively infinite, that human actions don’t add to much, that the problem and its solution lie elsewhere. All these contribute to a mega-problem.
Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, has said ‘Sin is not just a restricted list of moral mistakes. It is living a life turned in on itself where people ignore the consequences of their actions.’ Abuse of the natural environment is a consequence and symptom of human sinfulness. It is a symptom of disobedience to God’s command to care for his world. This is both a personal and a collective failure. It is something to which we all contribute and yet something from which we all suffer, into which we were born and raised without being consulted. We are all both perpetrators and victims. And we are not the only victims. Creation itself is groaning in intense pain like a woman giving birth because of its bondage to decay (Romans 8.19-22).
Photo by ALS.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; IX(b); X; XI; XII; XIII; XIV; XV.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
But what’s the problem?