Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Zero waste churches


A parish in Raleigh, NC, where I have at various times served as Priest-in-Charge and Priest Associate has expanded and named its ecological stewardship ministry Zerowastechurch.org.

I commend your engagement with this website and the organization behind it for five theological reasons.

First, God loves all creation. Illustratively, after each step of the creative process outlined in Genesis 1 God saw, “It is good.” Human destruction, particularly wanton destruction of any part of creation, is sinful because the destruction profanes or ruins what God deems good. Remember, Genesis 1 is a theological testament, not a scientific text. To reject the idea that God saw creation as good because of the faulty scientific framework on which the theology is draped is to discard the baby with the bathwater.

Second, God appointed humans as the stewards of creation. Stewards care for that which the owner has entrusted to the stewards’ care; stewards wrongfully usurp the owner’s prerogatives when stewards take that entrusted to their care and use it for the stewards’ exclusive benefit, especially if the use is wasteful and destructive.

Three, stewardship inherently entails action and not simply a passive nod to the value God places on all creation. Paying lip service to creation care is analogous to the affluent person who offers only a verbal blessing to her/his poor, hungry neighbor.

Fourth, time is short. When the earth’s population was much smaller and people lived with less technology, the earth more easily absorbed human excesses and harms. Since, the middle of the twentieth century, awareness of human damage to creation has greatly expanded. Much of the harm may be impossible or at least extremely difficult to reverse. Nonetheless, we have demonstrated an encouraging ability to change our behaviors, laws, and policies; creation has similarly demonstrated a remarkable resilience. For example, rivers once so badly polluted that they could no longer support fish life now support thriving fish populations and are sufficiently clean to permit humans to swim and to consume the fish they catch.

Climate change (global warming!) caused by humans is real. At some point in the near future, the damage to the earth’s ability to maintain a range of temperatures conducive to human thriving will become permanently impaired. If we reach that point (and some pessimists argue we have already passed it), humans will have become the agents of their own destruction.

I’m a perennial optimist. I know that we are near the point of no return that will lead to human extermination, but I hope we have not yet reached that point. If I’m correct, then humans must act now to reduce their carbon footprints and take other steps to reduce, hopefully even to begin to repair, the damage we have caused and continue to cause to the environment.

Both the urgency of the need to change and the hope that humans can alter their behavior for the better are theological concepts deeply rooted in Scripture.

Fifth and finally, the church – the body of Christ – the gathered community of people who intentionally commit themselves to walking the Jesus’ path – rightly models, teaches, and promotes ecological stewardship. Zerowastechurch.org is a prime example of this modeling, teaching, and promotion of ecological stewardship that moves from the theoretical to the practical.


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