Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Different Sort of Challenge

Grant's comments yesterday got me thinking about some other green bloggers that I have been reading. They seem to be mostly American ones, and I think they are not particularly interested in religious matters as a group, although I could be wrong about that. The buzz word is "challenge". They are banding to together to challenge each other to live better lives. It's really very exciting to read about.

There are a significant group of people networking to encourage each other to reduce their consumption of "stuff". The book "Affluenza" has been an influence here, as well as the well publicized year of personal environmental discipline detailed by Colin Bevan in his blog "No Impact Man" where he tries to live in New York City without making a negative impact on the environment. There is a group who are involved with "The Compact", where, among other things, they agree to buy nothing new; another group called "Riot for Austerity" also pledges to make lifestyle changes for the greater good. They often list personal rules for how they will go about disciplining themselves to spend less, reduce their environmental impact, and completely re-think the way they do everything. Austerity is a virtue.

There is also, in the last month or two, a group that have challenged each other to take a day off each week from all media/electronics. This seems to be less about going green and more about recognizing the way media, particularly the internet, has become too consuming in their lives, taking them away from rest, family, and the natural world. If you are involved in this challenge you can choose any day of the week to do this. Just pick one and try to stick with it.

When you step back to look at these discussions, it becomes pretty clear that human beings continue to wrestle with all the same issues that have always been there: How can we keep our lives in balance? What is "enough" and what is "too much"? How can we balance the need to work with the need to rest? What is real community, and how can we nurture it? Why save the environment if we never get a chance to walk in the woods or dig in the dirt? When is there a danger of important work becoming an unhealthy obsession?

These deeply felt yearnings are built into our very nature, I believe by God Himself. He ordained a Sabbath for us to rest. He provided an awe-inspiring Creation for us to revel in. He gives His blessing to family life, creating helpmates and deeming children a"blessing and reward". He encourages us to gather together regularly to think about Him and encourage each other. He prompts us to act in a unified way, as His body on earth.

The old-fashioned, mundane Sunday, devoted to church and family, is still appropriate today. Maybe Christians should revisit it, rethinking everything the way the bloggers are doing. Maybe, without becoming too judgemental of others, we should "challenge" each other to make that day one where we turn off the media, buy nothing new, leave the briefcase in the trunk of the car, and just have a Sabbath. Go to church. Have family and friends over for lunch. Take a walk. Talk over the fence with your neighbor.

Anybody with me?


Shannon Hodgins said...

Excellent post! I think that we are all from a diversity of backgrounds and faith but uniting out of respect for the Earth and the world we leave behind for our children.

You may enjoy the "Live Lightly" Tour site and then check the blog.

They are "crunchy Christians" touring around the nation in an RV powered by veggie oil. They stop at various places to talk about sustainable living and our role.

She has a bumper sticker on the back that says "God is Green." Isn't that a powerful statement?

You can translate much of what's going on into a simple stewardship issue. We haven't been good stewards of the Earth.

I spoke at my church recently about the use of plastics at all the food events, non-recyling, etc. That isn't good stewardship of the earth, and therefore God's creation. I don't think our convenience should leave behind a legacy of trash.....and that plastic fork will be here when my grandchildren are here. Was my pancake worth it? I felt very ashamed when I realize how many hundreds of us at Church have chosen convenience over respect in our active acts of workshop and fellowship.

I've been Presbyterian all my life, but now looking into Unitarian churches because there is more of a focus on respect for the earth, our role, and respect for and appreciation of a diversity of viewpoints. We'll see where it takes me.........I LOVE my church right now.....but the church actually seems notoriously slow in responding to the environmental situations in our world. To me it isn't theory-- - it's proven.

And, at the very minimum, if you don't believe that it's proven.......aren't the traits of respect for earth, appreciation for our resources, sharing and helping with others, giving back to community, living simply to appreciate family and life- - - traits that we really, really need to see? sorry for the long comment! Your post just so touched on a few feelings that I've had lately. Even in our Church there are lots of us "crunchy" sorts....but the Church as a unit isn't really giving it much attention.

I'd love to hear your further perspectives. What's happening with the Baptists? Shannon

Joyce said...

Thanks so much for your thoughts, Shannon!
We're slow too, and I'm trying to be patient. However, at a recent church dinner I sat with some people who really want to see us get away from all the plastic and styrofoam, and at least go to something compostable, even if it is still disposable. I have to admit, I wouldn't be the first to volunteer for the wash-up for 200 people! I also have had someone comment on the fact that I always use my own coffee mug in the fellowship center on Sunday mornings-she thought she would start bringing one with her, too. I don't initiate these conversations, so I guess there is some awareness bubbling out there. But it's slow.
I just recently heard that the Southern Baptist Convention has developed a paper on Christian environmentalism, which seems to me to be a big paradigm shift. We are American Baptists, not Southern Baptists, but I think some biggies like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels are leading discussions in their mega-churches about this topic as well. I know my 29-year-old pastor son certainly is thinking about earth stewardship, too. So, it's probably a generational thing, and only a matter of time.
I suppose the big fear for evangelicals is the fact that somehow environmentalism has gotten enmeshed with some other social issues that we really struggle with. I'm just choosing to follow God's lead on this. I don't think it has to go with a particular political party or anything. I just figure it's my job to fix my own actions first, and then see where that goes.

Triona Trog said...

Hey, interesting entry, and the blog looks like something I might revisit. I am finally getting around to reading it after seeing the comment you left on one of my posts. I am a long-time environmentalist; I loved nature from my earliest years; the notion that it had intrinsic value that should be preserved came natually).

Now that the environmental movement has gone mainstream, however, I have misgivings about it and I see flaws in some of the thinking and assumptions. I find that at this point in life (finally finished with university life and now dealing with real responsibilities) I'm re-evaluating my beliefs in this area, and in other ones, and looking to keep the good and get rid of the superficial.

So I might come back and read more of your blog entries.

Joyce said...

Thanks for stopping by, Triona! I love a good conversation, so join in the fun whenever you can. Your blog is full of interesting and well written obsevations!

Matt said...

Cool stuff!

Donna said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. It's always great to meet other Christians in the blogosphere! Especially green ones! I'm a pretty new blogger and have found the same "challenge" sites as you've been visiting. I think people are looking for meaning in life and also some are really scared about what the future holds for our planet. There's a lot of opportunity to be salt and light.

Joyce said...

Thanks, Donna. Nice to know you're out there!

grant said...

You might be interested in this article about the "greening" of the Vatican under the last two Popes:
Also, I have a link to a blog by "The Simple Way", a "new monastic" community that is very involved with social justice issues and the environment:

Joyce said...

Hey, Grant,
Is the Potter Street community related at all to Tony Campolo? I think I've read about them through his writing, but I'm not sure I'm remembering him correctly.
Anyway, thanks for the link. Interesting stuff.