A Christian environmentalist comes clean
Righteous indignation. It is difficult to avoid this reaction after Republican Congressional leaders appointed Senator James Inhofe to head the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He will become the nation's most powerful Republican on environmental issues in January, when Senate control swings to the right.
I am uniquely qualified to be upset about this. For many years I leaned conservative on a variety of issues. The only Democrats I've ever voted for are Rep. James Oberstar and Mayor Don Ness. Further, I am a full-on evangelical Christian.
Inhofe, the senior senator from Oklahoma, is the most famous climate-change denier in Congress. He publicly likens the Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo. This guy will be in charge of the committee tasked with providing oversight of the EPA? His stated goal is to reign in the agency.
Often his "reasoning" is couched in a faulty interpretation of Scripture that serves to thinly veil his desire to serve corporate interests. The oil and gas industry are his largest financial donors. His legislative actions smack of corporatism. He, and many others in Congress, are clearly most concerned about heaping further billions of dollars into the coffers of corporations. This is so clearly antithetical to the consistent message of Scripture as to not need further elucidation here.
To be both a Christian and someone who has leaned right his entire adult life seems par for the course. Now add in "committed environmentalist/conservationist" and you've got a real paradox that is becoming impossible to ignore.
This is my first foray out of the environmentalist closet. It is difficult to stay concealed in the weeds. Finding Christians that exude a love for the land, in my experience at least, is like finding a rare diamond.
Of all people, we should be radically committed to caring for creation. Good stewardship of this beautiful garden made by the Lord of the universe falls under the category of common sense. If we love the maker, we should love what he has made. Furthermore, by doing so we are loving our neighbor. Additionally, the poorest of the poor are disproportionately affected by environmental devastation. Once again, another central element of our faith.
We strenuously hold to the essentialness of our Lord entering the world of the material as a baby. He wasn't an apparition, but really did live among us as a human. This means the material world has value. Far too many of us only seem to have our heads up in the clouds, as if matter was of lesser importance.
So. Here I am. What am I to do politically? Thank goodness I am not merely a voter. Even worse is that most offensive description of the populace at large, "consumer." "Citizen" is the appropriate term.
That makes me a member of our nation, of our city and my immediate neighborhood. Together we are members, joined in community together. Thus, our focus should first and foremost be on the happenings of our immediate environs. We must look after one another. Obviously this includes not dumping used motor oil down storm drains, using beautiful parks as daily toilets for our dogs or handling trash disposal at 50 miles per hour along the highway. A solid ethic for the land starts here and extends outward.
After agreeing on these, can this not extend to mountaintop coal removal, making sacrifices for the sake of the world's climate or coming up with solutions to the plastification of our oceans? Do an Internet search on the Pacific garbage patch for an explanation of this last one. How can we not all be concerned about these matters?
Regardless of political persuasion, we care about what happens here. As we sink our roots down deep locally, our lives are invested. This is the power of place. When we simply shuttle around town in cars, holing up in private homes in the evening without a passing concern for our place, spiritual poverty is inevitable.
It grieves me that this terrain is seemingly only explored by self-described liberals. Perhaps the problem is in the labeling. We should simply be concerned with doing what's right.
Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is a freelance writer, father of twins and husband of one. Connect with Eddy at www.eddygilmore.com.