Thursday, May 06, 2010

Christians and Oil Don't Mix. Or Should They?

I was going to write about octopuses this month. (By the way dictionaries are split on whether the plural is octopuses or octopi, with a slight edge to octopuses.) They are quite fascinating creatures.

Then the Gulf Oil spill happened, and it seemed that a "Science and Religion" blogger ought to write about that. But what to write? Everyone (mostly) thinks an oil spill is a bad thing. You don't need me to tell you an oil spill anywhere is a serious problem.

There is the topic of what we should do next, actually those are multiple topics. There are all sorts of issues surrounding environmental clean up and recovery. There are all sorts of legal and regulatory concerns. There is the whole tangled debate about energy sources and energy use. There are economic concerns. It's a complex web of issues, too much to write about in a single post.

So back to the intriguing, less contentious, and more fun topic of octopuses. Or not?

That's the problem isn't it? When faced with complex, difficult, and divisive topics we are prone to throw our hands in the air, proclaim it too difficult for mere mortals and think about something more entertaining, like octopuses.

This disaster, the gulf oil spill is complex. There are lots of ways to compound mistakes that have already been made. We can make some things worse while trying to make other things better.There are lots of opportunities to assign blame and to condemn. There are lots of reactions we can have, lots of solutions we can propose.

So where should the church be in all this? What is the role of people of faith?

Right in the middle of it. Speaking up and speaking out. This is where science and religion meet. Not to mention where economics and religion meet. And where politics and religion meet. We will all respond in various ways. We will have various proposals. But they should have one thing in common.

As Christians we start our thinking from a different place. Our response should not be based on how this affects the price of gas in my car. Or the price of fish I eat. Or what happens to my countries energy and foreign policy.

We are supposed to view the world with eyes focused on the kingdom of God. What are God's hope and desires for us and for the planet? We start our thinking from a different place. Not centered on ourselves but on the desires of God. It's crucial that we don't engage this problem with the eyes of the world. We are called to care for creation as God cares for it.

That's part of our call. It's not easy. It takes all of us. And germaine to this blog, it takes Christians seriously and thoughtfully engaging science. This is a time to dig into the science, to understand it's implications and then the think theologically about all that.

So friends, the floor is open for discussion. How do we do this? How do we help folks figure out, as best we can, what God's desire for us and the planet is? How do we help each other keep that perspective first and formost as we work through this difficult problem?


Douglas Underhill said...

For me, step one is lifting the limit on what a company has to spend to clean up spills like this. I think that as long as our economy is founded on huge corporations externalizing the real costs of their products, we'll never get anywhere. If it takes gas being ten bucks a gallon to really teach us what the *cost* of our fossil-fuel-driven lifestyle is, then so be it.

Stushie said...

Firstly, let's understand that 97% of species that has lived on this planet, according to the experts, is now extinct. Natural disasters have killed more species on Earth than anything else.

We are not here forever and one oil spill is not going to kill off everything.

It's real easy to blame everything on our fossil fuel driven lifestyle...but let's not blame it on our wireless technology which is irradiating the atmosphere and heating everything up. Heaven forbid that our netbooks, Kindles, ipods and blackberries could actually be affecting the planet more than anything else...

Stushie said...

BTW, here's a site that offers this theory

Sarahlynn said...

On the issue of oil spills, I agree with Nancy and with Doug: it is important for Christians to come at the issue from a different angle than a purely personal/economic one, and it's also important not to hide the true cost of our choices.

I am not the environmental activist I probably should be. I am, however, concerned with aspects of our wireless society and many other environmental issues.

But I don't think suggesting that one thing might be causing harm is a legitimate excuse to ignore other issues that are also causing harm.

(The same holds true with the global warming discussion, IMO. Some say that whatever we do pales in comparison to what developing nations do or don't do, so why should we do anything? Why? Because it's the right thing to do, because we're world leaders, because change starts somewhere and if not here, then where? On a related note, France is doing some interesting things with wifi lately.)