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O Me of Little Faith

Today is Earth Day. It’s been around, in an official capacity, since the late 60s. The earliest I can recall hearing about it is during my freshman year in high school, which was 1988. We talked it up a lot at school that year, and the student council was selling Earth Day t-shirts with something about saving the earth and recycling on the front. Green silkscreen. The shirts were cool. I bought one and wore it proudly on Earth Day.

I’m not sure of the chronology, but I ran into my 9th grade Sunday School teacher while I was wearing the shirt. I liked the guy. He was nice and fairly young. He was big-time into Young Earth Creationism (the literal 7-day variety), so almost all of our Sunday School lessons turned into discussions about where the dinosaurs came in and how Noah could have fit some baby dinosaurs on the ark and whether or not “leviathan” in Job was a dinosaur reference. He was super-knowledgeable about that stuff and we ate it up.

This is the first thing he said when he saw me wearing my Earth Day shirt: “Why are you wearing that? You don’t believe that junk, do you?” He was not kidding at all. In fact, he was a little angry. I mumbled an answer about how they were selling them at school. His implied message — that there was something unchristian about Earth Day — was news to me. I was devastated. I don’t remember ever wearing that shirt again. I never talked to him about it, but I definitely looked at Earth Day differently for the next few years. I didn’t buy any more shirts.

It was another few years before I decided that my dinosaur-loving Creationist teacher was flat-out wrong (about a lot of things) but especially for being so jerky about my shirt. I still see him every once in awhile. Not sure if he’s come around or not.

But I have.

And I’m not gonna soft-shoe it, either. Christians need to repent for having gotten in the way of the last few decades of environmental initiatives — for treating any environmental talk with knee-jerk suspicion, for acting like it’s all some sort of pagan/liberal mumbo-jumbo, for forgetting that creation care is a spiritual issue and a poverty issue and a human rights issue and not just a corporate or political one. It is not an anti-Christian thing at all…despite what our 9th-grade Sunday School teachers may have said.

I’ll end the rant and try not to get too preachy about it. But here are some resources to consider on this Earth Day:

Read this: One of the best faith & environmentalism books I’ve read is Tri Robinson’s Saving God’s Green Earth. Tri is a pastor whose Boise church is doing some groundbreaking things when it comes to the intersection of religion and conservation. Some great articles at their website.

Another great book? Serve God, Save the Planet, by Matthew Sleeth.

Watch this: We have a big honking consumerism problem. I have a big honking consumerism problem. And it’s good to recycle stuff and walk instead of drive and try to turn off the lights when you leave the room. But those are tiny actions around the edge of the problem. They won’t fix the environmental crisis. Instead we need to get to the heart of the problem, and its heart is consumerism. We buy too much stuff we don’t need. That’s why I think the Junky Car Club is a great idea. That’s why I also want to recommend this short film by Annie Leonard. It’s 20 minutes long, but it’s a fast-paced, funny, eye-opening 20 minutes. You want to participate in Earth Day? The best place to start is by watching “The Story of Stuff.”

Here’s a teaser.

Watch the whole film at www.storyofstuff.com.

Try this: If a young person gets excited about something good — something that’s beneficial to someone else, even if you think it might be somehow misguided — do not discourage him or her from pursuing it. To do so is mean, selfish, and a crappy way to be human.

On a Saturday morning a few weeks ago, my 7-year-old daughter, Ellie, was riding her scooter down the block. She came back in a hurry, a little frantic because, four houses away, one of our neighbor’s sprinkler heads had come off and water was gushing down their driveway. Ellie had learned at school that week about not wasting water. She was upset about the lawn geyser, “because we might run out of water someday.” She wanted me to go fix it. Or go turn off their sprinkler. My first response was to tell her it wasn’t our yard and we couldn’t really do much about it. And that their broken sprinkler was not going to drain our water supply. Then I thought about my Earth Day shirt, and my Sunday School teacher. And about Ellie’s out-of-nowhere passion for water conservation. So I walked down to that house and — despite getting soaked and muddy — screwed that sprinkler head back into place. Water crisis solved. Ellie was happy. In a small way, we saved the environment that morning.

Baby steps.

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