Picking up Trash on the Road to Creation Care

We live in the country, and we got into the business of picking up trash by keeping our own road cleaned up—something we’ve done for many years. Now we’re in our mid seventies and retired, and to keep ourselves active we walk on nearby country roads, and we figure that if we’re going to walk, we may as well take a trash bag or two and a “grabber” (which lets us reach into semi-inaccessible places) and pick up trash along the road.

After we’ve picked up a road, we load up our bags (and sometimes an old battery or motor that we find), take them home, and sort the stuff—recycling most of the plastic, all the glass and aluminum, and disposing of the rest in the orange bags our Monroe County Solid Waste District provides. If we find some trash with an address on it, we’re just ornery enough to mail it back to the offender, with a reminder to dispose of it properly next. On Mondays after one of these collecting binges, we often have a “dump date”, loading the trash and recycle into the car and heading for the collection center.

Frankly, we’re offended by trash along the road. It’s a symptom of the greater trashing of our planet that goes on in so many ways. We encourage our politicians to do the right things for the environment; we try to minimize our carbon footprint. We drive a VW TDI diesel which gets 50 mpg. We have a geothermal heating/cooling system in our house, and try to get by using it as little as possible (in the winter we burn a lot of firewood). We hang out our clothes to dry, and grow tomatoes and corn in our garden in sufficient quantities to preserve a bit each year.

And we keep Sabbath—we’re old-fashioned sabbatarians, observing Sabbath on Saturday, in the Jewish manner (as good Seventh-day Adventists should). We do use our computer on Sabbath—it was on the National Cathedral website that we got acquainted with Matthew Sleeth. But we don’t buy things or do business or work—unless you call it work to pick up an occasional can in the nearby state forest.

Somebody asked us once “what’s the point of caring for this earth if God is going to make all things new?” Our answer was, “why would God give a new earth to people who trashed the original one?”

A big thank you to Blessed Earth for encouraging us in this humble work. There’s a huge contradiction between what Jesus taught and the practices of a lot of people who call themselves Christians. You are making a connection that a lot of people desperately need to make.

Don & Jean Rhoads

Bloomington, IN

Learning and practicing respect for the earth

The book, Serve God Save the Planet, has helped teach me some things. I read the first chapter and set the book aside for over a month. I wasn’t ready to change and I didn’t want to be convicted about my lifestyle. I thought I was living a life with a relatively low carbon footprint. I didn’t think I really needed to change things. When I picked it up again, I read it like a novel until I came across things that hit home — I definitely cannot say I know more types of trees than types of cars! After reading that, my self-righteousness started to dissolve. I knew I had a lot room for improvement. The book was challenging and thought provoking when I really began to dig into it. I had looked into creation care many times before but it is often difficult for me to move past the stage where I say I care about the environment but do nothing different in my daily life. I think the best part of this book was the fact that the author was living it out. He isn’t rattling off things that are wrong with our consumer society, explaining why it is bad, demanding that we change, and then leaving it at that. He makes it very personal by attaching it to Christian faith and explaining how his faith affected him and helped him change. I cannot help but be compelled to change after reading about the way it affected his life. The author visits a woman who is writing about taking care of the environment and yet she is not living the lifestyle that she speaks of. Dr. Sleeth is dead on when he says she cannot possibly expect people to believe what she is writing when she, herself, doesn’t believe what she is writing. Dr. Sleeth is living it out, which makes his writing honest, applicable, and inspiring. It was motivating for me to think about the positive effects of hard work instead of pursuing ever-increasing comfort and

convenience — finding new opportunities to worship God in those little things like hanging laundry. I really appreciated the appendices and intend to continually go through the checklists in order to see how I am doing and how I can improve. Coupling this with a summer in the National Parks is a good idea. Change is a slow process and, for me, living in the parks brings my expectations of creation care to a high level. The longer I live in National Parks, the more respect I have for the earth and more ambition to take care of it. The book offers great insight into ways of doing that. I think I will apply this back home by hanging my clothes to dry inside, turning off the lights unless they need to be on, and learning to worship God through the many seemingly menial tasks that life requires.

Les Kuiper read “Serve God, Save the Planet” during his time with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Save Our Hemlocks

“I go among trees and sit still.” Thus begins Wendell Berry’s cycle of “Sabbath Poems,” conceived and written, according to Berry, in silence, solitude, and often in the outdoors. Berry’s reflection flows naturally from the directive of Psalm 46 to “be still and know that I am God.” On October 22, 2011, a small group of teens and adults from the St. Paul Parish youth group traveled to Kentucky Ridge State Forest in Bell County. There we partnered with the Kentucky Division of Forestry, under the leadership of Alice Mandt, for a day of education about the hemlock, and a service project in partnership with the Division of Forestry as a part of its ongoing “Save the Hemlocks” work. St. Paul Parish gratefully acknowledges the generous support provided by Blessed Earth for this project. The reality and majesty of God are dramatically discernable in the lush woods of the Daniel Boone National Forest, and notably, for countless outdoor enthusiasts, in the Big South Fork and Red River Gorge areas. These areas are famous worldwide for the beautiful vistas, rock formations, and waterfalls, all complimenting the general beauty of the forest itself. It is difficult and painful to imagine these majestic woods without the Eastern Hemlock tree, but the present risk to Kentucky’s 70 to 80 million hemlocks is both real and grave. The Eastern Hemlock, up and down the Appalachian range, is at grave risk due to infestation of the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (HWA), a non-native insect brought to the United States from Asia, and which has no natural predator in the eastern United States. The HWA is having a devastating impact. Large areas of formerly lush forest in North Carolina and Tennessee have turned brown, as the HWA has exacted its toll on the hemlock. The National Park Services has written on its website, describing the situation in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, that “without successful intervention, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is likely to kill most of the Hemlock trees in the park.” The hemlock plays a vital role in our ecosystems. For example, the shade provided by extensive hemlock canopies impacts water temperature in many mountain streams. Absence of this shade, coupled with soil erosion resulting from loss of the many streamside hemlocks, could quite conceivably have such an adverse impact on water clarity and temperature, that a number of these mountain streams that presently support trout populations would no longer be able to do so. Thus, as is often the case in nature, loss of the hemlocks will have a substantial ripple effect far beyond the simple but tragic loss of the millions of beautiful and majestic trees themselves. Our teens and adults were instructed on identification of hemlocks appropriate for marking, and how to mark and measure the trees, which would later receive a chemical treatment to rid the tree of the HWA. Our teens and adults entered into this project enthusiastically, and through the day’s work approximately 350 hemlock trees were identified, marked, and treated, creating a temporary firewall against the ravages of the HWA in at least one small area of Kentucky forest. Perhaps of greater importance than the trees preserved through the day’s work was the awareness created on the part of our teens, and their desire, at the end of the day, to return for at least another day of work in the woods in support of the hemlock. Our youth group does plan to partner with the Division of Forestry again in the Spring for a similar project. Our hope is that the support and number of participants for “round 2? will be substantially greater. If any reader has a desire to be a part of this upcoming project, please contact me. Thomas Merton once wrote that “all creation teaches us some way of prayer.” My involvement with and reflection on the hemlock problem has taught me to pray with a renewed sense of thanksgiving and awe for the great gift of creation itself. It has taught me to pray with sorrow and contrition for humanity’s historically poor performance as stewards of our earth. It has further taught me to pray for a will and a heart resolved to henceforward be a consistently better steward of God’s creation. Even under the most optimistic of scenarios, it appears highly probable that we are going to lose a great majority of our hemlocks. There remains sufficient time to make a difference, so please consider doing something meaningful in support of the hemlock, whether it be advocacy, financial support, or through volunteering some time and labor. Perhaps all of the above? If enough people support this effort, we can preserve substantial pockets of hemlocks where we, our children, and our children’s grandchildren, can “go among trees and sit still,” in the continued presence of the Eastern Hemlock. (Author pictured below, second from the right. picture by Geoff Maddock)

Chuck McQueen is the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. Paul Parish in downtown Lexington, KY. Blessed Earth partnered with Chuck and the St Paul youth by helping fund this day of service with the Kentucky Division of Forestry. He can be contacted at abmqueen@wspmlaw.com.

Blessing the Animals as They Bless Us

Living in central Texas these days means heat, drought, and wildfires. The last month was particularly devastating as fires ravaged areas around Austin where we have lived years. As a person deeply involved in dog rescue, considering the plight of pets in homes threatened by wildfires is agonizing. Sometimes the fires come so quickly there is no opportunity to get back home; roads are blocked before you can make it back to save your pets from what could end up being an inferno. Images of cats with singed ears and whiskers, of dogs with burned paws and tails, and of wildlife running or flying or crawling as quickly as they could to escape the coming flames are embedded in my mind – and they covered the media reports. The wildfires reminded me yet again that animals share with us the joys and the tragedies of life and death. As the book of Genesis states clearly, animals are filled with the breath of life and God proclaims that they are indeed good! Throughout the Bible, God declares joy in relationship with animals; I think particularly of passages in Job where God praises the strength of the horse and tends to animals in labor. Yet, too often these powerful relationships with other animals are dismissed or marginalized. Still, I am hopeful that we humans are reconsidering other animals now and including them more directly in our circles of compassion and love. Why? What’s going on? First, in times of disaster animals are taken into account. Following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, a plan must be in place for companion animals to evacuate during a natural disaster in the U.S. Now shelters open with a place for pets to find safety until they can return home. Second, serious studies indicate how significant it is to human well-being to have animals in our midst. From dogs who work with children in amazingly successful literacy programs to horses who partner in physical therapy for individuals with challenges to cats who offer companionship to Alzheimer’s patients, the myriad ways companion animals enrich the lives of humans are countless. In October, congregations have an opportunity to bless animals. The Feast of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology, is October 4. This day has been adopted by many Christian communities as the time to ask for God’s blessing on animals – from pets to farm animals to wildlife. It can be a celebration of the many ways they enrich our lives. But I suggest such a blessing should also be a confession of sin and a request for forgiveness. Humans have so often ignored (at best) and horribly abused (at worst) the other creatures in our midst. Blessing, confession, and forgiveness must lead to transformation of relationships–to embracing the others in our midst. This is as true for animals as it is for other humans. So in communal and individual ways, reach out and bless those life-giving and life-affirming animals who bring such joy to our lives. You will receive countless blessings in return.

Laura Hobgood-Oster is Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies and holds the Paden Chair in Religion at Southwestern University. Featured in the documentary Eating Mercifully, produced by the Humane Society of the United States, and frequently interviewed by national print and broadcast media, she is the author of The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity’s Compassion for Animals and Holy Dogs and Asses: Animals in the Christian Tradition and executive editor of the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. She lives in Georgetown, Texas.

Reaching out in the Namibian Desert

First of all, let me please thank Blessed Earth for the incredible work that you are allowing our precious Creator to do through you!!

Ever since I was a child, God has called me to see Him in his Creation and to make a difference in the world. I have been living permanently outside the USA since 2005, with the last 4 years being in Namibia.

In Namibia, much of God’s Creation is still wild and natural as He designed it. His invisible hand is at work in nature every day. It is deeply touching and inspiring to walk in the oldest desert in the world, to see flowers survive the harshest conditions, and to observe wildlife living in peace with each other and humans. It is what He intended for us in the spectacular gift of Creation.

Yet, people fail to honor Him. Unfortunately, destructive mass industrialization is finally hitting Namibia, and we have a massive problem with uranium mining. A wasteful, materialistic agenda is being pushed, and some even use misinterpretations of the Bible to feed lies. This is especially dangerous as approximately 85% of Namibians are Christian and many people do not read the Bible for themselves. Most do not understand how the Bible relates to environmental concerns.

I have often struggled to ‘fit-in’ with the Christian community as environmental issues are frequently ignored. I finally reached the breaking point in Namibia where I decided to re-evaluate myself. Perhaps it was my understanding of God that was wrong. I prayed about it and God asked me to read the Bible again with a fresh perspective. In turning back to the great book, I saw just how many important truths in the Bible are being disregarded in today’s society.

In my own life, God has used my struggles as a means to reach out to people on the topic of creation care. He has called on me to defend those that don’t have a voice. He continuously uses Biblical passages to remind me that I am fighting for His cause. There is nothing that will stop me from standing up for my best friend- my Father- my Creator and for all of His Creation that He loves.

While I often feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, God has made it clear to me that I am not alone and that I share this mission with many other good people. THANK YOU for being some of those people and for allowing Him to do incredible work through you! The fact is that our Father is the Great Conservationist. Together and united we are His hands and feet and His voice is being heard! I thank you once again for all of Blessed Earth’s work on behalf of our amazing Creator!

Marcia Stanton serves as the Legal Assistant to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and several NGOs in Namibia and is in the process of founding the Earth Organization: Namibia where she will start a project on Creation Care education. Marcia has fourteen years of domestic and international experience dealing with an array of social and environmental issues and holds degrees in Environmental Studies, Desert Studies, and Law (with Environmental and International Law Certificates).

Carpool Prayers

Recently I organized a United Methodist Women’s Retreat on the theme of creation care. Nancy Sleeth was our retreat leader, and through discussion of the Blessed Earth Hope for Creation film series, we had time to swap stories and share ideas. I told the group about how living green through carpooling allowed me to pray with a new colleague who had lost touch with God. At the time of the retreat, I relayed how ride sharing opened a wonderful opportunity to do morning devotions together. Since then, the story has taken a dramatic turn that has revealed more clearly the greater purpose for our carpooling. Last fall the hospice team I work with hired a new supervisor named Denise. Denise and I discovered that we live only three miles from each other and decided to carpool to work. We realized very quickly that we had many things in common—love of fishing, family, and friends. We talked about many things in our lives, including our families. Our daily commute turned into morning devotionals when Denise noticed a new devotional in my car that had been given to me by a friend. The prayers naturally followed. During one of our conversations, Denise commented, “I think we are in this car for a reason.” Her husband lost his job a few years ago; since then, there has been much hurt as well as anxiety about losing their home. Denise had God in her heart, but their relationship had changed for awhile. The ministry in the car has been wonderful, and God works in us every time we ride together. A few weeks ago, Denise went to the hospital in great pain, and wound up having an appendectomy. The appendix turned out to be cancerous (with a rare form of cancer), and she needed follow up surgery to remove part of her colon. Since then, God has been with us in so many ways. We have talked and cried and prayed. Every devotion reminds us that He is there, holding her up as she goes. Even with faith, Denise and I are scared. We trust God, but we also live in the fear of what is going on. I have grown very close to this woman, and our relationship with God continues to grow every day. We knew God put us in this car together for a reason, and now we know what it is. I would like to ask friends of Blessed Earth to add Denise to their prayer lists. Pray for complete and miraculous healing. She also needs financial prayer as her husband is still out of work, house payments are overdue, and she is out of vacation time from work. She is now on leave without pay, and no there is no short-term disability. Carpooling opened a new opportunity for me to love God and love my neighbor. I pray that God will open new and unexpected “green” pathways for you, as well. Sherry Wagenknecht, UMC creation care retreat leader

Sharing the Stuff We Have

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Texas in the spring of 2008, and proceeded directly into graduate school in Asian Cultures and Languages. As I was finishing up school that May, I had been helping my college ministry put on some different events when a somewhat regular experience launched me onto a slightly different road than I had planned.

Going by a friend’s house to put up, of all things, a dry erase board, I noticed five movies sitting underneath his TV that I had rented that semester from a local store. I proceeded to make a joke that he should have been a friend and let me borrow them instead of me going out to spend money on them. “Well, you are a friend,” Josh said. “You should have asked me. I would have let you borrow them.” It was a Catch-22 moment. He had what I was looking for, and would have let me borrow the films, but I wasn’t aware that he had them. Had I known, I might have saved $30, been a more sustainable consumer, and probably had some good conversations about the movies with Josh as well.

I continued thinking about the idea throughout the summer, wondering how best to establish a network that would be an access point for friends to see what was available to them before deciding to purchase something. I was blessed to come across a course called Social Entrepreneurship. This course allowed me to flesh out an idea for a social venture as though I were presenting it for start-up capital. I was encouraged by my professors to make ActsofSharing.com a reality, and instead of going back to India for another summer studying Urdu, I decided to take my plan to investors.

I was able to raise the initial seed money to create Acts of Sharing, which had a soft launch on Earth Day last year, right as I was finishing my Masters degree. Recently, Acts of Sharing was named an SXSW Interactive Finalist, and we were able to participate at SXSW in the Trade Show and received publicity and accolades from companies and individuals who want to bring AOS to their communities.

As of Earth Day 2011, we have launched our Acts of Sharing iPhone app, with the Android app in the works. The App allows people to share on the go, and even scan/search for items they are shopping for to see if a friend has them before they buy them.

We really do have more together, and if we leverage the resources we already have, we can recreate the culture of the first church described in Acts 4:32 “All the believers were one in heart and mind, no one considered anything to be his own, but they shared everything they had.”

Like Blessed Earth, Acts of Sharing helps people care for God’s creation by encouraging them to share the things they have (from gardening tools to books to camping equipment to DVDs) in order to bless others, rather than continually buying things we only use a few times. Most of what we’re looking for, a friend already has locally. By sharing together we live in deeper community and live in a more sustainable way, both environmentally and financially.

Brian Boitmann

Brian Boitmann is the founder and chief sharer of ActsofSharing.com. Originally from Southlake, Texas, he attended the University of Texas at Austin graduating with an M.A. in South Asian History. Brian leads Singles and College ministry at Lake Hills Church in Austin, TX, where he resides.

Practical Ways to be a Christian Each Day

God started tugging on my heart two and a half years ago when I read Dr. Sleeth’s book Serve God, Save the Planet. It was one of the quarterly books assigned to the Sierra Pacific Conference (the Free Methodist conference of Northern California), and I had never been really interested in any of the books they assigned until this one popped up. When I asked my husband Jaymes what this one was about, he quite truthfully said that he didn’t know because he hadn’t read it yet, but maybe I would be interested.

As I read, I felt God confirming in me thoughts and ideas that had been going through my head in recent months. I practically forced the book on my husband and our good friend, reading them quotes and facts whenever I got the chance. I didn’t know the term “creation care” and just how Biblical it is!

I have currently read all of the Sleeth’s books, and have given out multiple copies of Go Green, Save Green to church friends and a co-worker. I probably sound like an awestruck fan–but the truth is that I am SO overjoyed that God is using the Blessed Earth staff for this ministry! Jaymes and I are praying and working on trying to get my family and our church as fired up as we are. We still have a LOT of planks we are trying to remove from our own eyes, but we pray that by doing so we can be an example and a light to those around us.

I have gone to church since I was three and have been a “Christian” for as long as I can remember, but, like many Christians, I always had a hard time sharing my faith. When talking in groups about “how to share your faith,” we would come up with answers like “we need to be nice to people,” or “we need to help the poor when they need help,” or “we need to be a light in the darkness.” But what does this look like on a daily basis? How does this apply to my life NOW? This is what I love most about the Sleeth family’s ministry; they have brought to attention practical ways to be a Christian each day! What better way to go against the grain of this world, and to live like Jesus did, than to start with creation care? The topic of creation care has started more conversations about my faith these past two years than ever before.

We have recently partnered with our youth group to help raise funds to plant trees through Eden Reforestation Projects. We challenge our youth to pick up change they find on the ground or to give up one soda a week and bring it on Wednesday nights. We have raised over $400 so far! A neat story about ERP is that I was casually mentioning Eden to my non-churched co-worker. She often gets funny looks at work because she is very much into conserving and caring for the environment. When she heard about ERP, she wrote a check for $2,000, and has donated more since. She has also started coming to church and we have conversations about God and creation every time we work together. She has even said to me that she didn’t think many Christians cared for environmental issues, and I told her that we are a growing breed.

My husband and I are so excited, and encouraged as we read more and more about creation care and its impact on the Church. We are so grateful to Blessed Earth for providing us with resources that we can share with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. May God continue to pour His blessings on this ministry!

All for the Kingdom,
Erin Lackey

Erin resides in Northern California where she lives with her husband and one-year-old son, Titus. She is a youth leader at Foothill Community Church, and works part-time as a Radiologic Technologist at the local hospital.

Falling in Love with Our Green God

I fell in love with our green God in an unlikely place: theology class. Seminary was an unlikely place because it’s not typically where people fall in love–fall asleep, maybe, but not in love. But history and theology were an invitation to me. I heard Martin Luther pounding the nail into the Wittenberg Church door, I smelled the fragrant sacrifices burning on ancient altars, and I sat in horror with Mary at the foot of the cross. I developed an ever-deepening love for God during those years, but nowhere was this truer than in my theology classes.
One of my favorite professors was undoubtedly Dr. John Hammett. He was humble and fair. He was brilliant. Each class seemed to trim the hedge of my mind so that I left a bit raw and more refined. One class trumped them all.

Dr. Hammett was talking about the ways that God communicates with humans. “There are two forms of divine revelation: the special revelation in scripture that is able to lead us to salvation and the general revelation we receive through nature. Both are from God,” he declared over a scarred oak lectern. “So when we destroy creation, which is God’s revelation, it’s similar to tearing a page out of the Bible.”

Wham! Wap! Bang! Like an action sequence from the old Batman show, I took one straight on the chin. Up until that moment, I hadn’t been a friend of creation. I often describe myself as a recovering anti-environmentalist. I never recycled, and energy conservation was inconsequential. Though I never vocalized it, I believed that it was okay for others to struggle a little so long as I prospered. Prior to my classroom jolt, I remember tossing crumpled fast food bags out of the windows of my speeding, blue Pontiac. When people in my car called me out for being destructive, I laughed.

As I sat in that theology class, God changed me. He vaporized my perspective and replaced it with His own. He stretched out His hand and grabbed a hold of my heart. My mind returned to those destructive moments, and I felt God convict me of the sins of pride and selfishness.

I’ve started searching for God’s heartbeat on this issue, and His surprising opinions about creation have leapt off my Bible’s pages from Genesis to Revelation. His voice has nudged me to make personal lifestyle changes, and He’s given me a passion for sharing His heart for creation-not as an “environmentalist” but as a “regular Joe” struggling to live out the whole Christian thing in a broken world.

I’ve never handcuffed myself to a tree, and you probably won’t catch me wearing hemp any time soon. You’d find some eco-hypocrisy in my life if you looked for it. I won’t attempt to make you feel guilty for having multiple children or eating meat or try to shock you with pictures of smokestacks and demolished rainforests. But I can’t deny the new spark in my heart to love the Creator by caring for His creation.

The article above is excerpted from Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet. It is used with permission.

Jonathan Merritt
is a faith and culture writer who has published over 200 articles in respected outlets such as USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, BeliefNet, Christianity Today, The Huffington Post, and CNN.com. He is author of Green Like God: Unlocking the Diving Plan for Our Planet, which Publisher’s Weekly called “a must-read for churchgoers,” and the editor for Qideas.org.

The Great Omission

I was born and raised in wild and wonderful Hedgesville, West Virginia. We had plenty of greenery, a creek in the backyard, and plenty of old dirt roads; it was a country boy’s heaven. Yet even with all that natural beauty around me, I thought it wasn’t for me. See, I thought living out in the “sticks” was boring. Nowadays, though, I’ve changed my mind; it’s like the old saying–you never know what you have until you lose it.

One year ago, only days before celebrating this planet we call home, the gulf coast was paralyzed as its natural beauty began to be poisoned. That was one of the things that served as a wake-up call for my family. It caused me to really question why I didn’t do my part for the environment. Although my words said I cared about creation, my actions didn’t.

The Bible talks about the Great Commandment (Matthew 28:16-20) and the Great Commission (Matthew 22:36-40), but the oil spill caused me to realize that, as a believer, I was committing what I call the “great omission.” I was so wrapped up in other seemingly more spiritual things that I ignored the very Garden we’ve been blessed to live in.

Since last April my family and I have begun taking steps, be it baby steps, toward a more environmentally conscious life. We contacted our local waste management company and signed up for their recycling programs. We’ve taken the step to change all of the light bulbs in the house from the standard bulb to the compact florescent bulbs. When we are able, we do our best to purchase “greener” foods (i.e., eggs from free range chickens, etc.). Additionally, in the summer we’ve turned the thermostat up a few degrees and have turned it down a few in the winter… much to our initial discomfort.

One commitment my family and I have made besides furthering our own pursuit of a creation care oriented lifestyle is that we’ve also began supporting a nonprofit to bring clean water to people who lack it. I say all this not to boast in my family’s tiny progress but to say that anyone and everyone is capable of doing something to better this world, not just for our families but for the future generations.

Creation care is a journey that you must be willing to walk. Much like anything worthwhile in life, you can’t get to where you want to be overnight; with creation care you have to allow the chance to learn, grow, and experience the impact it is making.

As believers, we must grasp the reality that our faith, our message, isn’t just about the afterlife but also the present life.

Jason Hess

Jason Hess is a minister, blogger (eckSermonator) and pest management professional. He currently resides in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia with his wife, Myra, and their three children.

Genetically Modified or God’s Perfect Organism?

That’s a question that I now ponder on a daily basis, but for most of my life prior to this year, I never thought about what I ate. What changed in between then and now is that I am relying on food for my livelihood. Last year, my husband and I moved back to his family farm to raise grass-fed beef and grow vegetables, and we are striving to do this in a way that is pleasing to God. Daily, this requires us to choose to say no to the genetically modified seeds and food slowly taking over our farms and grocery stores.

Joel Salatin writes in The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, “The creation record in Genesis starts with the imperative for each biological life form to reproduce after its kind.” Although he goes on to further describe the failings of GMO crops, his basis is in God’s Word. Salatin states that there were two imperatives put forth in that record–reproduction and uniqueness (after its kind). That means that tomato seeds are supposed to grow tomatoes and cows are supposed to have baby cows. Although GMO products look like what they are supposed to be, they are genetically very different.

After much thought and discussion, that is where my husband and I stand as well. We have been through all of the arguments for GM food as well as the numerous arguments against it, and have decided that we believe that God has created the plants and animals to work the way that they do and we do not need to change them.

And why does this matter? Well, in starting our farm, it is our hope to glorify God and work as if we are working for him. That means trusting in his creation and doing our part to preserve it. It also means acknowledging that God knew what he was doing when He created life on earth. He gave us seeds that grow just the way they should and animals that reproduce as they should–-with offspring that are genetically the same.

Becoming farmers was a big leap for our family. We left the financial and emotional security that a regular paycheck provides. Although that was hard, it has allowed us to see God working in our lives. We have seen God’s blessings in many ways–financially, emotionally, relationally–that we might have missed by staying in our comfortable life. And, maybe those blessings didn’t happen because we have chosen to farm in a way that is harmonious with God’s natural plan, but we think that might have something to do with it.

Like Blessed Earth, we take our mandate to steward creation seriously, and for us, that means working with the things that God created instead of trying to change them to suit our needs.

Carrie L. Chandler is a farmer’s wife and freelance writer living on her husband’s family farm in northwest Georgia. Along with her husband, Alan, she is raising two children to be Godly stewards of the land. After getting married, the Chandlers knew they would end up on the farm, but thought it would be later. It seems God had other plans, and now they are happily raising grass-fed beef and naturally grown vegetables. Although writing and raising babies is what she spends most of her time doing, Carrie does meander out into the garden on occasion

Eating Mercifully

Christians today find it easier to perceive the bread and wine in Holy Communion as the body of Christ than as food. Yet, Holy Communion is based on an actual meal Jesus ate with His disciples. While the liturgical elements of Holy Communion are surely important, we should not forget its humble beginnings as a repast. It is also significant that sharing a meal of thanks was among the first things Jesus’ followers did together, and therefore one of the first Christian practices. Eucharist, another term for Holy Communion, comes from the Latin term, Eucharista, or to give thanks. With food playing such a central part in Christian history and practice, it seems we ought to be more thoughtful and deliberate about it. Isn’t it inconsistent to place food on the church altar without considering where it came from or how it was produced? What if the wheat in the Holy Communion bread was grown on a farm that used methods harmful to its laborers and the ecosystem? We would be right to be troubled by this. Similar concern caused me to become a vegetarian several years ago while in graduate school. After being exposed to images and films of industrial animal agribusiness, I couldn’t knowingly continue to support a system with so much cruelty. Pregnant pigs and veal calves are confined in cages and crates so small they can’t turn around. Hens are crammed into tiny wire cages unable to spread their wings. Pregnant cows are forced to produce so much milk that they suffer from high rates of a painful utter infection known as mastitis. “Factory farming,” Matthew Scully wrote in a passage that spoke loudly to me, “has no traditions, no rules, no codes of honor, no little decencies to spare for a fellow creature. The whole thing is an abandonment of rural values and a betrayal of honorable animal husbandry.” And spiritual values, too. The United States consumes more meat than almost any place on earth. According to the USDA, the average person consumed 222 pounds of meat in 2007. That’s an increase of 78 pounds in less than 60 years! Factory farmers meet this demand by slaughtering animals at a rate of a million an hour around the clock, even as the environmental costs of animal agriculture continue to take their toll in a world in which food, energy, clean air and water, and other resources are being squandered. Everyone can do something to help change this terrible system. Whether you choose to be a vegetarian some or all of the time, switch to animal products from farms that don’t use factory farming methods, or screen our film, Eating Mercifully, your efforts will make a difference. We make food choices all day long, every day. What an opportunity to honor a tradition that places significant value on food and shared meals and to align our diet with faith in a compassionate God who created all things. For more, visit humanesociety.org/faith.

Christine Gutleben is the senior director of the Faith Outreach program of The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization. The program seeks to engage religious leaders and communities in critical issues related to animal protection. Ms. Gutleben received her master”s degree from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. where she studied theology and the connections between food and faith. During this time, she also farmed in the Central Valley of California.

The Glorious Demise of Squealy the Pig

It was a cruel thing, perhaps, to do to Liam, our six-year-old son. His whole life to that point had been urban, as in the inner-city of Washington, D.C. Living in the broken places of the world and the city had been Tara’s and my past for a long time, and we expected it to be our lifetime. Then unexpected but not unwelcome, God surprised us with an invitation to move to a small farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. And we said, “Yes.”

Just a few days after we moved, the county fair began, with its greased pig contest for boys and girls. We signed Liam up, and dropped him in a ring with about 25 other kids and 10 piglets. The other kids were wearing John Deere t-shirts and boots, with serious eyes focused on the task. I’m not sure if Liam had ever seen a pig before, let alone tried to catch a slick one or even knew how to catch one (by the back legs). It was happy madness, and of course Liam got no pig, but he did get a strong dose of determination to catch one the next year. We’d practice. He’d grab my wrist with both hands; I’d shake him and drag him around and he wouldn’t let go. I was tempted to grease his little sisters and let him have a go, for the sake of the cause. Tara prevailed.

When the next county fair rolled around, Liam was ready. This time he had his own John Deere t-shirt and his own resolve. He knew what to expect, and I prayed. It wasn’t long before Liam got his pig, about 45 pounds of muscle and squeal. He dragged it across the ring and into a pen, and we all erupted in cheers. Almost immediately our excitement and pride in Liam’s new-found skill turned into a pressing question: What in the world are we going to do with this pig? Tara’s a vegetarian, and I’m not a big fan of pork. Pigs grow fast and they grow big; within just a few months, this one would be pushing 250 pounds.

All of sudden we had an animal. What do we do with any animal that comes our way? We take care of him, because somehow he matters as another one of God’s beautiful acts of creation.

Squealy got a name, a nice little place in our barn to live, good meals every day, lots of straw for bedding, and a little boy with two littler sisters to treat him more like a pet than a product.

We all learned a lot about pigs and some about life. Liam learned more about responsibility and taking care of living things. We learned there are good reasons for all the idioms, like “Eats like a pig” or “Smells like a pig” or “Looks like a pig-sty.” We learned about their intelligence and ingenuity and strength, and that if there’s a hint of weakness in your fence, a pig will find it and exploit it. And I learned a new term–-“market weight.”

When we took God up on his offer to move from the city to the country, packed up the truck with all our belongings, and set out on a very new adventure, we took a deep question with us, too. So much of our life had been focused on living in the city and caring for God’s poor: how’s that supposed to look living on a farm in the country?

Squealy gave us a way.

Hunters for the Hungry, an organization with state chapters around the country, offers a beautifully simple idea. Each year, many folks want to hunt deer but don’t want the venison, so they donate their deer to local meat processing plants. Hunters for the Hungry pays the processing fees and ensures that the venison finds its way to local food banks, churches, and feeding programs to be distributed for free to those who have a hard time affording food.

I called the Virginia chapter and asked, “I know you guys deal in deer, but have you ever done something like Hogs for the Hungry?” They had not, but were delighted someone was asking. On the phone we pondered how great it would be if folks who had livestock to offer would be able to donate it throughout the year, so the fresh meat given around could include options that weren’t so, well, gamey.

It didn’t take long to connect with Gore’s Processing, a local butchery, and set the date when we’d deliver Squealy. Hunters for the Hungry would then pick up the meat and take it not too far to a food bank, which had already expressed their excitement for this new sort of donation.

Knowing where Squealy was ultimately going–-into the stomachs of people who didn’t have enough food–-made it a lot easier for Liam and our daughters to deal with saying goodbye on the day of his glorious demise. Each of them got to ride Squealy one more time, and each of them gave him big hugs and even kisses. We thanked God together for the gift that Squealy had been to us for the few months we’d had him, and the gift he’d be to others. It was strange, beautiful, deep, and graced.

When the county fair rolls around again in just a few months, Liam will be in the ring again, this time with Iona and Karis, and eventually with Maira, too. They’ll all be ready; they’ll know what to expect; they’ll all have practiced; and Mom and Dad will have prayed! Squealy’s legacy will likely include more piglets caught and raised with a spirit of glad stewardship, many more hungry folks getting fed, and a lot lessons learned along the way.

Bill and Tara Haley live in Corhaven, their farm and retreat house in Virginia. Bill is an Anglican priest and spiritual director, serving as associate rector at The Falls Church, and Senior Fellow with The Washington Institute. Tara is a nurse practitioner working with homeless folks in Harrisonburg. They’re glad to be raising four “free-range kids.”

Green Jesus, the Meaning of Easter

Last month, I was fortunate to hear Dr. Matthew Sleeth speak at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, I spoke with his wife, Nancy, and she encouraged me to share this reflection on the meaning of Easter. The essay, originally written for the young people in a friend’s mixed Christian-Jewish congregation, appeared in the April 2010 issue of Friends Journal. I hope you enjoy it, too:

In the fall of every year, as each day grows shorter and darkness deepens, the leaves and flowers dry up and are released back down to the Earth by the trees and plants that grew them.

But deep underground, in a place even darker, life goes on, bundled in the roots that reach into the warm heart of the Earth, and hidden under the fallen leaves covering ground that will soon be frozen. There lie the seeds the once-green world has scattered, awaiting their time to germinate. Inside their shells, life survives the biting cold of winter.

At the tips of the tree branches life also crouches, coiled in the buds that thrust out to take in the sun’s warmth and energy. The silent humming of these buds survives the wind and the ice.

In springtime, the leaves and flowers of trees and plants throw off the coats that constrained them and open their eyes to the light to grow anew. Humble seeds germinate and send up sprouts shouting their names in quiet joy towards the sun in the heavens. They thrive not only in lush forest and meadow, but in desert and tundra in even stranger, more beautiful forms. And their greenness provides oxygen for our lungs, shade for our skins, fruit for our stomachs, and beauty for our eyes.

We have trust that this rebirth will happen every year, in fulfillment of a long-cherished promise, the knowledge of which has kept us hopeful and alive throughout the harsh, drawn-out winter. In this way, the trees and plants quietly teach us about faith and perseverance.

This revitalization is why Easter comes in the springtime. We know that Jesus, too, is not dead and gone; we feel his spirit moving, rooted deep in our living hearts.

We know that he, his love, and his message of peace and compassion and forgiveness do not die, but ride the breath of the words we speak. They fill our hope and faith with lessons of how to grow and blossom and to live our lives, even as we weather bleak times. In his example we see how to be good and just and loving to all living beings whose paths we cross on our journey toward the Light. How, as we grow and thrive, we must watch over all of Earth’s creatures—in accord with God’s covenant to provide for us just as we fulfill our obligation to care for the Earth.

So, Easter in the springtime reminds us of life’s unending circle—that whatever withers and fades in turn feeds the promise of regeneration of the sprouts and buds and spreading petals. These are the small ones that arrive to take their turn singing out in praise beneath the sun as they prepare for those to follow.

And, yes, there is one more thing to tell you, and it lies at the heart of this message: remember always that you are a sprouting seed, a budding flower, an opening leaf. And know that you give color and beauty to life and to your families. In the awakening of your hearts and souls, you are our Easter. You are like flowers pushing through the snow and leaves uncurling their fingers to reach yearning hands to the sky. And it gives us great joy to love and celebrate you.

Jesus taught that those who followed him should be like children because a child who touches wonder walks hand in hand with God. In that wonder we are all youthful.

Know that Jesus lives in you—at Easter, and all year round!

Charles David Kleymeyer, a member of Langley Hill Friends Meeting (Quakers) in McLean, Va., is an author, performing storyteller, and international grassroots-development sociologist. He is currently finishing the manuscript of an inter-generational novel, YESHU, about a boy and girl who grow up next door to Jesus, visiting him frequently in his carpentry workshop.

Where Faith Meets Fair Trade

“One soy-latte decaf Irish cream coming right up.” It’s my second time into Come Together Trading and already barista/owner Terry Marshall remembers my order. Easing into a comfortable chair, I sip coffee from the Ecotainer compostable cup and soak in my surroundings. Students cluster at one table; writers use free Wi-Fi at another. Piles of hand-woven beads and baskets and racks of colorful apparel line the shelves. It’s like some place out of Boulder, Colorado–not Canton, Texas.

The location isn’t the only surprise. Alongside health magazines are copies of Relevant magazine. Handmade merchandise is labeled with moving stories about those who made each item. This “hippie urban” boutique is a coffee house that acts like a ministry. “We are fueled by a desire to minister and educate about Fair Trade,” explain owners Tammy and Terry Marshall. “By building the market for anti-slavery and anti-child labor goods, we help people help themselves and the environment also.”

The Marshalls still marvel at the miracle their lives have become. Their transformational journey began in 2004 when the sponsored their first child through Compassion international (they now sponsor 12 children). “Our hearts were truly broken for the poor in 2005 after the words of Jesus were made more clear through our discovery and reading of Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution,” recalls Tammy. In 2006, they met Shane Claiborne at the PAPA Festival, who offered a fresh perspective on the Christian’s role in alleviating human suffering. An interview they heard with Matthew Sleeth and Rob Bell was also pivotal. Changed, but still unsure of what else to do, the Marshalls continued searching.

“In 2009, we took our first trip out of this country with Compassion International. We traveled to Kenya and visited Kibera, the world’s second largest slum. There is no infrastructure, water, electricity or plumbing,” explains Tammy. “But in the midst of heartbreaking conditions, sights and smells, the people were so joyful. God revealed that these are our brothers and sisters. They may be resource poor, but they are spiritually rich. We have never seen a faith like that.” Upon returning home, they knew they had to do something. “We felt God revealing more to us each day. Kenya changed everything for us; there was no going back.“

“We prayed and prayed,” explain the Marshalls. “Then, on a short trip to Estes Park, Colorado, we walked into a fair trade store. Immediately we saw things we had seen in Kenya. We looked at each other and said, ‘This is it.’”

Wanting to do a Christ-centered version of the store, the Marshalls considered moving to Colorado, believing this couldn’t be done in a Texas town of 5,000 people. “We fought this all the way,” recalls Tammy. “I didn’t know I had God in a box. It’s like he was telling me, ‘Don’t limit me. Don’t limit the people of Canton.’” Within two months they sold their RV business (in tough economic times a miracle in itself) and bought $5,000 in inventory. Then a storefront in the historic district that had been occupied for years suddenly came up for rent. “When I walked in, this was the space I knew I had seen in dreams,” recalls Tammy. They took possession of the building in October 2010. “God has made this possible. We’ll be here as long as He wants us to be.”

The upper room is a prayer and community room, available for free. They’ve even held a send-off party for a young lady leaving for Thailand to teach jewelry-making to women who have been rescued from sex trafficking. “Church youth groups have also begun to meet here,” says Tammy. “With less money available, churches wondered how to pay for a youth minister, but they realize that by sharing one and holding the meetings here, everyone wins.”

“Every day God humbles us more,” says Tammy. “The people here have such a heart for helping others. Canton people, Colorado people, all people – different denominations, backgrounds, and journeys. We’re all God’s people. The common denominator here is love.”

Anna Clark is the author of Green, American Style. She lives in Dallas in one of the first houses to earn a Platinum LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. For more on all things green, visit www.annamclark.com.

From the Third World to the Corporate Office

My workplace has changed in the last eight years from a very hot, open-air room of my house in the Dominican Republic to an old repurposed furniture warehouse that became the first LEED Platinum office in North Carolina. I transitioned from working with poor teenagers in both countries on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) to running a foundation focused on brownfield remediation as a means of promoting environmental sustainability and funding poverty alleviation. Both experiences, along with help from colleagues and strong writers such as Matthew and Nancy Sleeth, have defined sustainability for me.

Sustainability is a word taking on depth in our workplaces. It is an idea that assigns responsibility to us for the resources we use, it defines what true profitability is, and it provides solutions that result in health and abundance. It is an idea that reveals the character of Jesus, the creator of a wonderful system capable of maintaining unfathomable biological diversity and productivity.

My journey into an environmentally conscious workplace has led me to see that sustainability is a bigger concept than I initially considered it to be. Certainly it includes being environmentally responsible, as most people understand this idea. In our offices we do things that establish good habits. We make recycling easy by placing recycling bins in strategic places. We carefully choose the materials we purchase, from pens and paper to the kind of drinking cups we will use. We also pay attention to what food we allow to be served to our guests. We keep our printing to a minimum and we conscientiously choose the best materials we know of when producing annual reports or Christmas cards.

We also make more complex, practical decisions. Our company has a staff member evaluate our environmental responsibilities and we attributed these as costs in our business. For example, we calculate the annual carbon footprint of our team traveling to work and we donate offsets for this expense. Several years ago the founders of our company relocated our offices to downtown Raleigh, NC. Repurposing property saves the green spaces in our communities and can economically revitalize local areas. Our offices now have a large checklist of advantageous features including waterless urinals, a plethora of recycled materials that were used structurally and decoratively in the design, energy efficient lighting and a careful workplace floorplan to increase worker efficiency and enjoyment in the office.

Finally, I have been surprised to find a similarity in my past tropical workplace and my new one in Raleigh. All humans need vision, and we thrive when there is a depth of purpose in what we do. Mentoring teenagers who are our future leaders and remediating contaminated land both equally contribute to a true, sustained global existence. Organizations that strive for more than perpetuating their own existence cultivate a positive influence and a spirit of giving back.

Scott Steele is the Executive Director of the Cherokee Gives Back Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on transforming real estate liabilities into assets to advance global responsiveness to poverty and the environment. Prior to taking this position he and his wife Jennifer lived and worked for eleven years in the Dominican Republic and Haiti for the ministry of Young Life.

Call Me a Beginner

Call me a beginner.

Having been raised in the densely populated city of Manila, I grew up with a vivid awareness of the myriad of human need, urgent and seemingly eclipsing of environmental concerns. As with triage, crises that called for immediate help rightfully take priority. I couldn’t help wondering if passionate concern for the environment might be the luxurious (and somewhat indulgent) outgrowth of a society largely unencumbered by disease, starvation, and squalor. Perhaps the sheer magnitude of the problem—including the black left in my own lungs from years of breathing in and out some of the filthiest air in the world—had me also feeling overwhelmed by the environmentalist’s task.

This is not to say that I had a disregard for God’s good earth. I would rather go for a run in sub-freezing weather any day to be out in the crisp freshness of morning than the rank warmth of the gym. And, as with most of us, my heart aches in delight at the piercing beauty of nature like nothing else.

Yet the call to actively care for our world only became particularly meaningful to me as I read Go Green, Save Green and began to observe friends embody what seemed to me a healthful and honest way of living: being green while also consciously choosing to live simply. I say honest because there seems to be a collective pat on the back in American culture to legitimize a buy, use and throw away mentality. Sex in the City’s mantra that if you want it, you should get it (after all, you deserve it and it will make you feel happy) reinforces the false notion that our choices are ours alone and affect no one else.

But hasn’t the very essence of the Green movement exposed the childishness of such a conception? Our small, everyday choices very much affect the world around us. Thus we feel significance in starting a compost pile, growing our own tomatoes or turning down the thermostat in wintertime. We are caring for the earth. If the Philippines faces the particular environmental challenge of improving air quality in its capitol city, then one of America’s unique tasks must be to address excessive consumerism and its inevitable byproduct, wastefulness.

My family may not be able to downsize our trash production by nine-tenths as the Sleeths did. But I find appealing the thought that as I free myself from the allure of ‘having,’ I genuinely participate in bettering our world.

Realizing that our daily lives could use a mild makeover in regard to environmental consciousness, my husband, Jedd, and I have begun to make small changes. I will never again, for instance, turn the flame on my stove higher than can be absorbed by the circumference of my pot. I am much more conscious about water usage, and our house temperature is farther from the perfect 72 degrees than it ever has been. We aim to recycle as best we can.

Nancy Sleeth has become a household name. If Jedd or I find a recyclable item in the regular trashcan we are quick to ‘call’ Nancy and report the incident: “Uh, Nancy? Yeah, I just found the newspaper thrown in the regular trash. Um-hmm. I know. It’s disappointing. Well, just wanted to let you know. Hopefully, this won’t happen again. Alright, bye-bye.” And with a grin, the item is gingerly picked up and tossed in the other can.

Rachel Medefind has worked in Taiwan with immigrant mail-order brides and as a counselor at crisis pregnancy centers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.  Today, Rachel lives with her husband, Jedd, in central California–nurturing her four small children, developing a new book project and aiming to complete her first triathlon this summer.

An Earth Day Connection

I’m not a big Facebooker, but I think I understand the psychology of why 500 million people have a Facebook account. It comes down to one word: Connection. Even if a Facebook friend isn’t necessarily a real friend, in an age of technology, people want to feel connected.

Last year’s Blessed Earth Simulcast created a connection for Christians to be united all over the globe for a common cause. My church was one of the 2,200 groups around the globe that helped “Make Earth Day a Church Day.” Many great things emerged from this event. First, it served to identify people within my church who shared a heart for creation care. It personally brought me great relief to know there were others right here in my faith family who were sympathetic to the same cause. Additionally, because of this gathering, we garnered the momentum to launch the Blessed Earth film series as a small group and study the scriptural call to care for God’s creation.

Furthermore, several people used the event as an evangelistic opportunity to invite non-Christians who were sympathetic to the environment into our church home. We used the Simulcast as a reason to reach out of our comfort zone and into the world of those with whom we otherwise may not have had the courage to invite to church. Thus, the Blessed Earth Simulcast served not just as an educational event for our church, but as an outreach and worship event, as well.

I spent years of my life feeling like an environmental island in my church, as if I was the only one who cared about God’s creation. No longer. All over the world, God is gathering like-minded believers to unite around the idea of caring for His creation. The church is no longer sitting on the sidelines. Thanks to the leadership of Matthew and Nancy Sleeth and others, the church is beginning to take a leadership role as stewards of God’s creation.

Julia Burnett

Julia Burnett has taken a leadership role in her church’s creation care team and has presented at faith-based creation care symposia. Her husband, Seth, is a LEED-certified engineer and shares Julia’s passion for leaving a greener planet for their children.

The Question That Haunts Me

[reposted with permission from the blog Alien Nation by Reverend Darin Collins]

“When asked by pollsters, 90 percent of Americans identify themselves as ‘kinder than average.’ If we say we care about the least in the kingdom, if we identify ourselves as ‘kinder than average,’ if we see ourselves as responsible stewards of nature, then we are content. Contentment does not result in change. The content mind is one of the greatest obstacles to a rich spiritual life. The content mind is a proud mind. It has nothing to learn; it has an answer to everything and no more questions to ask.” (62)

Serve God, Save the Planet Matthew Sleeth, MD

If you are wondering what this quote has to do with Creation Care, I don’t blame you for the quizzical look on your face. One of the strengths of Serve God, Save the Planet is the connection that its author, Matthew Sleeth, makes between personal spiritual growth, discipleship, and Christian Environmental Ethics. The quote above is included in chapter 5, as Sleeth addresses the gap between concern and caring and action. It includes some interesting exegesis of the parable of the good Samaritan and some compelling statistics about the affects of pollution on the respiratory health of America’s children. What I really responded to was Sleeth’s call to action, a call which the Church needs to wake it from its therapeutic and emotional malaise. We are not called to simply have beliefs and be a part of a supportive community (although these are an important component of being church together). We are called to go into all the world carrying a cross and a story of God’s amazing, sacrificing love which urges us to repent and live lives of active mercy and justice. Sleeth’s firm but gentle critique of a church in the rut of inaction is refreshing. To move from thought to action, we must feel some discomfort with who we are; Sleeth is talking about the environment but he could also be talking about poverty, human trafficking, shrinking Sunday school attendance–the list could go on and on. I have long felt that a church that engages in learning about, practicing, and teaching creation care would find that the process challenges other areas of our lives that have atrophied as a church and as disciples. I also believe that the practice of creation care would inspire deeper and more authentic and intentional forms of spiritual discipline, faith formation, and service. The question that haunts me is this: how do you a grow a church that attempts to cause discomfort and not simply be comfortable and comforting? -Darin Collins

Rev. Darin R. Collins has pierced ears, tattoos, plays guitar passionately but poorly, and is a ‘Lord of the Rings’ geek. He currently preaches at Berean Baptist Church in Harrisville RI, blogs at alienationchurch.blogspot.com, and loves his wife Roberta and their three children.

Technology, Social Networking, and Babel Tower

[reposted with permission from the blog Alien Nation by Reverend Darin Collins]

“We have forgotten that we have far more in common with the honeybee than we do with our SUV of DVD…Do you know in which direction the Milky Way traverses the sky? As the phases of the moon progress, does the light go from right to left, or left to right? Can you identify a greater number of trees or cars? If the Bible says God knows every flower and bird, why do we spend so much effort knowing the names of man-made items. Maybe we”re paying attention to the wrong things.” (60-61)

Serve God, Save the Planet
Matthew Sleeth, MD

Should the church and its leaders be embracing technology, devoting time, energy and financial resource, to Facebook pages, websites, twitter and worship services that feature prominently videos and images, OR, should we be presenting a respite from all this technology and an alternative way of being together. I know, I sound like a Luddite.
What I think is beautifully done in Sleeth”s book is that he manages to do some really interesting exegesis, as I will show in future posts, and give some really creative options for becoming more environmentally conscious. He also tackles food ethics, consumerism, and our technologically obsessed culture. And he shows quite clearly how they all are connected.

In this case, our increasingly technologically focused lives are also using more and more electricity, getting less exercise, and spending less time with the people and the creation God created us to relate to in order to be fully human (he says, typing on his laptop, while his kids play DS).

I think Sleeth is suggesting that all of this obsession with cell phones, social networking, video games, etc, takes our attention away from the things that really keep us connected to our humanity, such as the world that God created for us to live in. Could all of this technology, social networking, Ipod-ing, and Word-of-Warcrafting be a Babel Tower we are constructing, hoping to reach the heavens, when the connection to God we need is right in the backyard?

And if so, is the church really presenting an alternative to this idolatry it if follows suit by using more and more technology in worship, and in ministry?

So again I ask, should the church jump into all this technology or abstain from it? Is there a middle way?

-Darin Collins

Rev. Darin R. Collins has pierced ears, tattoos, plays guitar passionately but poorly, and is a “Lord of the Rings” geek. He currently preaches at Berean Baptist Church in Harrisville RI, blogs at alienationchurch.blogspot.com, and loves his wife Roberta and their three children.