Tuesday, May 20, 2014

If I Had A Million Dollars...

(No sermon from this past Sunday, as I was on a plane back from Boston celebrating my younger sister's graduation from Boston University.  The "I Say To You: Arise" series continues anew this upcoming Sunday!)

When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher gave our class a writing assignment: a multipage essay on how we would best use one million dollars if we suddenly were, you know, millionaires.  As I recall, my classmates wrote perfectly lovely essays largely about the homes they would buy or build, the investments they would make, and the personally enriching travel they would undergo.

Me?  I wrote mine about how I would found a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Even at age 10, I was a bloody treehugger.  And a thorough one, at that: I called airlines for airfare quotes to Brazil, I researched the travel costs of hotel, transportation, food, and a translator (since I know about as much about speaking and understanding Portuguese as I do about performing brain surgery, which is to say none), and I researched the costs of hiring a Washington lobbyist and buying ad time on network television to push what Fox News would probably term my "radical environmentalist agenda."

Given the chance to write the same essay again today, almost twenty years later, I honestly probably wouldn't change a whole lot.  I might choose something slightly different than the rainforest, but I would hope that I would still have the idealism and integrity to decide to save SOMETHING with my newfound (and, knowing me, surely ill gotten) lucre.

Why?  Because "creation care" as many of us Christians have taken to calling environmentalism, isn't just about fulfilling the Biblical mandate to keep and till the earth (which, after all, was created by God).  It's also about fulfilling the many Biblical mandates to feed the hungry.

TIME just posted an article today quoting experts from Oxfam saying that climate change (aka global warming, aka ManBearPig) and its effects on the weather (floods, draughts, and rising temperatures) will cause the prices of commodities such as corn and rice to double over the next fifteen years.  Now, I would also add to this list of reasons the increasing popularity of biofuels...after all, if corn is being refined into ethanol, it isn't going to someone's dinner plate, and the refining process is so expensive and energy intensive that it would also contribute to an increase in price for corn.

How does this all play out?  TIME explains: Well, for us Americans, Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes, Kixx (and similar cereals) all will likely experience price increases of 20 to 30 percent.  Me, that hits my wallet in a big way, because (and I realize I am risking massive judgment from some of you!) breakfast cereal is one of my major food groups, alongside with sushi, pizza, and single malt scotch.

But for the global poor, for whom, like us, corn and rice are staple foods but in different forms, even a 20 percent price hike could be ruinous.  It could be the difference between dinner and entering food insecurity.

A lot of this was already on my mind thanks to a climate change segment from John Oliver's new show, "Last Week Tonight."  But news reports such as this should seal the deal for any Christian still on the fence about climate change (even though the scientific consensus behind it is pretty overwhelming).  Don't care about the spotted owl?  Okay, fair enough.  But surely a Christian must care about feeding the hungry because Christ and His Gospel commands us to do so.

Which means that we continue to stick our heads in the (rapidly warming) sand at the risk of not only our neighbors and potentially our own livelihood, but also at the risk of our own spiritual lives as well.  Micro level works like giving to food banks and volunteering for soup kitchens is all fantastic, but more is required of us, and of our faith.

If we are to entirely fulfill the Biblical commands to care for the hungry and the starving, we have to do so on a massive, civilization and societal level.  No more making excuses for ignoring the science behind climate change or for not bothering to act on it.

Solomon writes in Proverbs (a verse we studied last night in our evening Bible study at FCC, in fact, which is another reason this issue is presently weighing on my heart), "The lazy person says, 'There is a lion outside!  I shall be killed in the streets!'"  What I (and many commentators) interpret this to mean is that we are capable of coming up with even the most outlandish of excuses to keep ourselves from acting.

The lies we have told ourselves about climate change are the lion outside.  We are not going to be killed in the streets by it.

Live for God's creation, y'all.

Yours in Christ,

Update: According to Pat Sajak, I'm an unpatriotic racist for acknowledging climate change.  To which I simply say this.  Also, I'd like to buy Pat a "Shut up" square for the price of a vowel.

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