Friday, October 13, 2006

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Jesus did with you!

Did you know that Christians do not care about preserving or nurturing the environment? It’s true, you know. I found that out as I watched a documentary on Idaho Public Television last Wednesday night. Through an expose on evangelical Christians and their views about the environment, Bill Moyers attempted to tackle the question, “Is God Green?” The show featured interviews with Pastor Tri Robinson of Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Garden City, Idaho. Robinson is being hailed a “hero” of sorts for his bold assertions that Christians should actually take an interest in this Earth that we live on, even going so far as to say that it is a “Biblical imperative of stewardship.” Can you believe that? Apparently, we, as Christians, are to be concerned about things that non-believers have cared about for years. Absurd!

But here’s what I find truly unbelievable (and if you haven’t figured it out yet, that whole diatribe I just laid out was sarcasm)…I don’t know any Christians who believe they should “ignore” environmental issues or who fail to acknowledge that EVERY human being has a duty to take care of God’s green Earth. Yes, I believe God is green and perhaps a bit red with embarrassment when he sees the media portray his children from such a pitiful perspective. I don’t even know where to begin with this one.

Cheers to Pastor Robinson for his brave efforts to address an issue that has unfortunately been swept under the proverbial rug for way too long. Cheers to Pastor Robinson for even laying out a biblical foundation for our calling to environmental preservation. Cheers to Pastor Robinson for seeking to dispel a common myth that Christians believe the Earth is “gonna burn,” therefore, asserting that any attempts to preserve it are futile, at best. Did you know that? Did you know that Christians actually refuse to recycle on the basis that the whole Earth is going down, even the aluminum cans? Hmm, I don’t know about yours, but my God is a God of second chances, even for the tin cans and the plastic bottles (hehe – sorry, the whole thing is absurd, isn’t it?)!

In my quest for truth, I came across an author who put it this way. As Christians, our bodies will soon perish, but yet, we take care of those, don’t we? So why not the Earth? It has been entrusted to us in the same way that we have been admonished to care for our bodies, which are “temples of the Lord,” right? We’ll spend countless hours on the treadmill, but we won’t spend 2 seconds tossing our Pepsi can into the blue trash bin instead of the black one? A heartless lot, aren’t we? No, we are not, at least not all of us. So here’s what really sits uncomfortably in my soul when I watch these programs. What happened to truth in broadcasting? Not all evangelical Christians are racing for the finish line to claim the prize (which we already have, by the way). Not all of us are standing on the highest sky rise with our arms outstretched waiting for the spaceship to land. And certainly not all of us are impatiently searching the horizon for some plume of smoke that signifies the lake of fire is just around the corner! Some of us actually would like to do some good or leave some mark while we meander through this life. So again I say, yea to Pastor Robinson for showing the world that Christian environmentalists exist and though we are few (she says in jest, with a mischievous smirk), we are ready, willing, and able to act in whatever means necessary, even if it means, Heaven forbid, sacrificing a perfectly good minute on a Sunday afternoon to bend down and pick up a candy wrapper that has fallen by the wayside!

If you haven’t noticed, I’m really quite sick of it! I would rather jam a pencil in my eye than watch another expose on the crazy lives of evangelicals. Why don’t they do a piece on Muslims and their views on the environment? Or the Hare Krishna’s, now THAT, I’d watch! Why is it always those crazy Christians? I’ll tell you why. Because my Jesus is a threat to people who don’t believe in Him. My Jesus was a pacifist and an activist, a politician and a law-abiding citizen, a student and a teacher. My Jesus was specific about how we ought to live our lives here on Earth, but vague about when we would see him face to face. People don’t know what to make of that. They don’t want a community of people who tow the line. They want you to take a stand and fight till the death to defend it, even if it means climbing the ladder of self-righteousness to reach the judgment seat. But with Jesus, there are some shades of gray, whether we choose to believe it or not. We are called to believe the impossible, to deny our instincts, to admit to our imperfections and accept undeserved forgiveness. We are called to believe unabashedly that what seems upside down is actually right side up, and what our hearts tell us is senseless, our eyes will one day confirm. I truly believe that if you are so defensive about the views of another that you must go on the offensive to attack, there must be some seed of conviction deep within that you are trying to stifle.

Now I’m not saying this particular documentary was challenging Christianity or portraying it in a negative light. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I guess it’s what wasn’t said that really bothers me. What was missing was the fact that the majority of Christians do not believe we are to overlook environmental issues, global warming, etc. And to praise one pastor who is doing his part suggests, to me anyway, that most of us are not. My husband was watching this show subconsciously absorbing a story line that reads something like this: Christians roam the Earth like packs of wolves devouring aluminum cans and hurling them by the thousands into the nearest ocean, all the while spraying Aqua Net in an endless stream into the sky, which unsurprisingly is now a dirty shade of blue from which birds plummet to their death at an alarming rate. Don’t count me out yet; I did e-mail this to save paper, didn’t I? Ok, I’ll lose the dramatics now and simply say this…I love my home (San Clemente, the United States, and the Earth) and I’d no more like to see it perish than I’d like to spend an evening on the receiving end of a frontal assault by my demon-possessed cat. I care about the Earth and I know some other Christians who do too. There’s prayer because we care (the new motto of Christian activists), and we believe in a God who makes things happen. I do not believe I am free and clear of responsibility to Mother Earth simply because one day I will leave her and I know a few others who feel the same way. For the love of all that is holy, I married an Environmental Resource Specialist, tree hugging, granola-eater; I couldn’t litter if I wanted to!

There is one other thing I’d like to address and you may totally disagree with me on this one, but for the longest time, I’ve wondered why it disturbs me so intensely when I see a church or a pastor or any Christian for that matter on television discussing what they are doing for the Lord. And though this is a non-essential tenet of the faith, I have a very strong opinion on this one (tune out now if you don’t care to hear it). Matthew has much to say about service to the Lord in Chapter 6 and states, 2”Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3But when you do a charitable deed do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. 5And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Not for one moment am I presuming to know the motives of one man’s heart, nor do I believe his intentions were anything but pure. In fact, I might even go so far as to assert that it is the media that seeks to call attention to Christianity today, but I think in light of Matthew’s admonitions, if I were ever to find myself the interest of a media frenzy – don’t laugh, it could happen - I would gracefully bow out and leave the convertin’ to Jesus! I am fairly certain the intent of most Christians who take center stage in the public arena is to point a finger at the grace, forgiveness and love of God, but unfortunately, there is much more interest and much higher ratings in jumping on the bash-Christianity bandwagon. The lights I’ve seen shed on my faith time and again are less than flattering.

I’ve watched hour-long shows about my faith and failed to hear even one mention of Jesus Christ. My favorite author, Donald Miller, tells a story about a class he taught to a group of Christian college students. He asked them to describe the tenets of their faith and they nailed it. They spewed out everything from service to worship to moral absolutes to spiritual gifts, but forgot to include that Jesus guy. Ouch. That’s like trying to describe the ocean without mentioning water. In another interview I read recently, Reverend, Richard Cizik, gives the following definition of being “born again.”

“Well, it's pretty hard to define. Every individual has their own definition, their own existential experience, so to speak. All [born again] means [is] that you submit yourself to the authority of Jesus Christ over all of your life. He becomes the most important thing to you. It's not obedience to some laws or the Old Testament Ten Commandments. It's obedience to what Jesus wants, as authoritatively stated in the Scriptures, and that changes one's life.”

Ok, Richard, I’m halfway there with you. I wholly agree that everyone does have his or her own definition and I’m way on board with the idea that it has little to do with obeying some laws that were etched in stone some fifty gazillion years ago, but I’m going to take it a step further. Being born again, to me, has a whole lot to do with repentance and forgiveness and not necessarily in that order. It’s that whole idea I alluded to earlier that God is a God of second chances. And Richard, I second the notion that obedience to what Jesus wants changes lives. So what DOES Jesus want? I believe He wants to love me, and wants to hang out with me on Sunday afternoons (sometimes even on weekdays), and I believe, more than anything else, He wants me to acknowledge what He did for me on a hill awhile ago and maybe even tell some people about that. But here’s the stone, cold truth…there aren’t a whole lot of people who want to hear about that these days, least of all, the people on TV. And sometimes I think if we allow ourselves to entertain the idea of “getting the word out” by stepping into the public limelight and being broadcast through the media, there’s a good chance that Jesus guy won’t make the cut. Whenever I happen to nurture the desire to serve God in the smallest way and whatever I manage to do for Him when I’m not out shopping or at home torturing my kitty or screaming obscenities at the TV on a Sunday morning when the Chargers are down by a field goal (I love you, LT!), I think I’ll just do in silence and not give anyone ammunition to hurl back at me when I’m face down in the glitter gulch mourning the loss of my innocence!

But I digress. Some Christians care about the environment and the ozone layer and the fishes in the sea. But some of them really don’t and do you know what else? Some of them don’t like chocolate or the beach or (God help them) cats. Yes, some Christians suck. Ok, all of them do in one way or another, but so do all Catholics and all Muslims and all Jews and all Amish and all Buddhists and all Mormons, whether they believe it or not. We are all inherently bad (that whole “fall of man” thing). So can we stop focusing on the Christians for once and just play a rerun of Law and Order, or something?! Now that’s good television!

Heavenly Father, we recognize that being a child in your family means caring about other people, even the ones who don’t know you. We like what you’ve done here and even though we can’t wait to see you face to face, we promise to do our best to keep this place clean and beautiful and safe for all of your children. And Father, when we decide we’d like to be movie stars for a day, please help us to act out a story of love, and grace, and friendship and let the truth be told!!!

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