Civic Engagement for the Earth
“I’ve Changed My Light Bulbs, Now What?”
The question, “I‘ve changed my light bulbs, now what?” captures some of the discouragement we may feel about environmental issues. “Go green” and “reduce your carbon footprint” are slogans for contemporary concern for the environment, but many of us can remember environmental concern in the 1960s-1970s. So much about our modern world is environmentally unfriendly: the food we eat comes in packaging that turns into trash, our vehicles produce emissions, we need a lot of other kinds of energy (electricity, natural gas, etc.) for daily living, and we use products that are manufactured via still greater use of energy. How do we start embracing the environment within our vision of civic virtue and openness to others?
Ecology and Faith
This video offers a starting point for discussion of how environmental responsibility might be grounded in the experience of the natural beauty of our world—God’s creation.
- Responding to the environment entails a variety of things: changing personal behavior, being aware of our economic choices, avoiding over-consumption if possible, and urging elected representatives to support policy changes. Rightly understood, environmental responsibility is grounded in our worship of the living God. Every Sabbath we are reminded of God’s love of the creation and God’s call to order our lives in solidarity with the earth, its people, and all its creatures.
- In an age of ever increasing speed and technology, opportunities to “be still and know that I am God” will become even more important. In the experience of the natural world, whether at summer camp, at a family picnic, or strolling through an urban botanical garden, the happiness of being entertained might occasionally be replaced by the joy of experiencing beauty. Such experiences challenge us to find God present in all areas of our lives.
Questions for Discussion
- The camp director describes the effect of the summer camp experience on spiritual renewal and environmental responsibility. When and where have you encountered the natural world most directly? How has it affected your sense of responsibility? Has becoming unplugged from the newer technologies (cell phone, laptop, Internet), even momentarily, ever altered your relationship to them?
- The wind is ever present yet invisible in this film clip. “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes,” according to John 3:7. Some ecological theologians suggest that God’s Spirit is present throughout the creation. How might such an understanding affect our stewardship of the environment?
Global Ecology: How Much is Enough?
Sociologist Robert Bellah discusses with Donald W. Shriver our current search for “more and more and more” and its impact on our global ecology.
Questions for Discussion
- New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes that we are “up against a wall” as a world civilization when it comes to our ability to manage the world on the basis of more and more and more. What examples from today’s headlines illustrate the effect of “more and more” on our environmental practices? What innovative environmental practices illustrate our successfully coming to grips with environmental limits?
- According to Bellah, the Bible does not celebrate poverty as such, but supports a sense of limit when it relates to material wealth and consumption. Can you remember a time, in your own life or the life of your parents or grandparents, when limits actually enriched the experience of life and of God?
- Donald Shriver remarks that simplicity and sufficiency much used words, yet there is little agreement about what constitutes sufficiency. How much is enough? When it comes to transportation (car, train, bus, airplane, bicycle), what sort of community planning is required to provide enough for everyone?
Faithful Citizen: Living Responsibly in a Global Society
A six-part study guide designed for use in congregational development. The guide includes in-depth discussion of global issues effecting our faith and our response to the world as well as questions for discussion and where to look for more resources.