The Great Oil Kill

article_image This past Sunday, many thousands of gallons of oil spewed into the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and began its journey up the food chain. At the same time, 400,000 people sat in the midday sun and cheered as 33 race cars sped in a circle at 200 miles an hour toward the place they began 500 miles before. While dolphins gasped their last breath, the race fans cheered. It was Memorial Day weekend in America, but it was not a typical one. We are witnessing an environmental catastrophe of biblical proportions–and the end is not in sight. For those of us who receive our marching orders from the Bible we should ask, “What does God have to say about this?” When I open my Bible, I find that generally God is a God of very few words. He communicates directly with less than a dozen people, and these missives are usually very concise. (“Moses, take off your shoes.”) Not so when speaking to Job in the book that contains the longest soliloquy from God. For those unfamiliar with the story, Job is a blameless pillar of society who loses his fortune and health. Most of the book contains a back-and-forth between Job and his friends, attempting to answer the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It reads like an argument between a husband and wife; things get repeated–only louder each time. Finally, God shows up on the scene. His answer to Job”s question is a five-chapter walk through the glories of nature. Think that God doesn”t care about the world and what we are doing to it? This section of the Bible says the morning stars “sang together” and the “angels shouted for joy” at the making of the earth. When answering our deepest questions, God points to the splendor of the coastline, the importance of wilderness areas, and the vastness of the constellations. Much has changed in the millennia since the Book of Job was written. Humanity has traveled into space and peered at the bottom of the ocean; we have split the atom and sliced our genes, but we have not learned the lessons of hubris. This Sunday I visited a church to talk about the Bible and the environment. As is often the case, it was the congregation”s first sermon on the subject, even though the entire Bible is filled with stewardship principles. Adam and Eve are told to tend and protect the earth (Gen 2:15). God instructs his people not to pollute the water (Ezekiel 34:18). And when Jesus is resurrected, Mary–not surprisingly–mistakes him for a gardener. According to scripture, those responsible for the destruction of ecosystems can be held accountable by the creator of life (Revelation 11:18). But as Jesus taught, we should not judge others until we have gotten the log out of our own eye. Every time I fill up or use a plastic spoon and toss it in the trash, I am supporting the system that looks for oil on the ocean floor and beneath the permafrost of the poles. This past Sunday we had nothing to be prideful about in front of the God who instructed Job on the ways of the deer and the ravens. It really was a Memorial Day. My prayer is that the church awakens to the biblical call to be good stewards of the planet. May God forgive us if we do not change.