The environmental crisis gushing up from the Gulf of Mexico, threatening marine life and the delicate, vital, and beautiful ecosystems of marshlands and shorelines is, among many other things, a cause for grief, a call to prayer, and a summons for thoughtful leadership.
More and more, I feel the suffering of the earth–what Paul calls in Romans 8 “the groaning of creation.” The earth seems burdened beneath the weight of the consuming pressure we put on it. We ask it to hold us and hold us up, to provide abundantly and increasingly for our need and greed, and it faithfully tries to do what we ask. But our unrelenting use and abuse of its resources is exhausting; we seem to forget that the earth, too, is our neighbor, worthy of love, nurture and care, and not just an endless warehouse of commodities. Sometimes I hear weeping in the wind and feel tears in the rain.
I do not have a well-defined political philosophy, nor am I particularly interested any longer in the endless civil wars that grind on between left and right, Democrats and Republicans, blue states and red states. The screaming, labeling and name-calling of our civil and political cultures seem to have two overarching effects: (1) They dumb-down our understanding of complex issues, reducing very difficult challenges to sound-bytes and slogans which fill the air with sound and fury but not much light or substance. (2) They paralyze our leaders and the rest of us; not much that matters gets done because leaders–in government, business, and, yes, the church–are too concerned about the short-term reactions of constituents who are agitating for leaders to do their immediate and, too often, superficial bidding.
So, as the oil gushes from the gulf and the earth shudders in response, the risk is that we will turn this crisis into yet another occasion for political posturing. I know it is naive on my part, but I wish, and I pray, that on issues like caring for God’s good earth, providing decent health care, housing, and education for our citizens, and ensuring equal access and opportunity for everyone, we could turn down the rhetoric, take the long view, listen, truly listen, to the views and wisdom of all people of good-will, and get something done, actually done, to make this a more just, more peaceful, and more beautiful world.