Ecological Armageddon & Repentance

Written by Jordan Peacock : February 19, 2008

In the last couple years the topic of global warming has skyrocketed from a fringe scientific debate to very mainstream, with everyday people, governments and businesses striving to find ways to ‘carbon-offset’ their living.

While a majority of the support goes to the Al Gore interpretation of the issue, there are a couple other perspectives:

1. There are those who support global cooling (a distinct minority)
2. There are also those who deny that changes in climate are anything more than that have occurred before. (a strong minority, but a minority nonetheless)
3. There are those who believe that global warming is causing a crisis that could change the face of the earth given enough time without actively changing the ecological footprint of the human species. (the majority)
4. Finally, there are those who say the global warming issue is far worse than the 3rd group believes, and that the only thing preventing all-out catastrophe is the fact that human pollution has created a global dimming issue which prevents spikes in warming across the planet. (a distinct minority)

I don’t particularly mind which group you place yourself in. What I do find fascinating and somewhat confusing though, is the fact that 3 of the four groups, constituting a majority, agree that there is a problem and that it could get severe; if not today, then in the future.

For such a cataclysmic belief, you would expect something more than purchasing carbon credits and turning off city lights for an hour. The Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War sparked far stronger measures impacting day-to-day living of American citizens yet for a concern that potentially threatens the very planet, a mild inconvenience seems to be the best effort that can be mustered.

I find a terribly strong parallel between this and the issue of repentance in the church. Repentance means to ‘turn around’, to confess, be purified and cease to do evil. The concern is an eternity of separation from God, and in addition to the threat there is a promise of eternal life with God and citizenship in God’s kingdom: the stick and the carrot, so to speak. Yet even with the teaser in front and the pain behind, moving forward tends to be an awkward, difficult step. This does not necessarily indict all believers, but it is too common to simply ignore, especially when it comes to issues such as evangelism and holy living.

So the question is, why? Is it human nature to be this stubborn when the problem is not immediately in our face or is difficult to see? Is it spiritual blindness? What means of prevention does your spiritual community use to help past this apathy?

I ask because, while I’m genuinely boggled at both issues, I am guilty of ambivalence in both areas and honestly am not sure where to start. I would love to hear what has worked for you.

Author Bio:: Jordan Peacock lives and works in Minnesota with his beautiful wife and daughter. When not playing with technology or music, he’s writing comic books and wrapping up a university education.

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6 Responses to “Ecological Armageddon & Repentance”

  1. Dustin on February 19th, 2008 7:55 am

    Another thing I find so interesting about this issue is that it shouldn’t matter what you think is the reality of global warming–whether it is fact or fiction. We should all be able to agree that caring for the earth is something we all should do–regardless of one’s political affiliation or stance.

  2. Jordan Peacock on February 19th, 2008 8:01 am

    I said that more to mean that my argument in this article is not meant to draw debate on global warming. That’s a topic for a different article, not this one. :)

    I’m with you though on the caring for the earth bit, and I do have my perspective but I’ll keep it out of this conversation.

  3. Nathan on February 19th, 2008 9:46 am

    “So the question is, why? Is it human nature to be this stubborn when the problem is not immediately in our face or is difficult to see? Is it spiritual blindness? What means of prevention does your spiritual community use to help past this apathy?”

    I think it is definitely part of our nature to focus on the immediate ahead of the distant, even when the distant problem poses the greater threat or difficulty. But in the case of the church in America, I think there are many other factors that continually force people to choose the expedient over the wiser long-term choice, especially in regards to global-warming. Many families live paycheck to paycheck, struggle with mounting debt, worry about rising healthcare costs, may lose their home to a foreclosure, need to put the kids through college and just pay for expensive gas. These are more on the side of necessities and they can be hard enough to provide. Factor in the manufactured needs that our consumer culture foists on people - new cars, bigger tv’s, the latest gadget, monstrous homes - and the economic picture gets even bleaker for most people who are either unaware of this alien pressure or who are too apathetic or incapable of resisting it. Thus any additional financial pressure, which working towards correcting global warming would undoubtedly create, is rejected. And its even easier to do when differences exist on causes, impact and means of correction. Its another convenient excuse - “I’ll wait until they know for sure what we need to do.”

    That’s all a bit global-warming specific, but I think it speaks to the broader issue of the apathy you describe. The church has forgotten how to be separate from the world. Protestants especially don’t fast any more, we don’t practice the disciplines of silence or solitude. Our worship is trite, our service to the poor and the alien lackluster at best. What resources do we develop, communally and individually, to empassion ourselves, to give us power and energy for repentance and reformation? We rely on what the world gives us; entertainment, mindless consumption, status, etc, to sustain us. But this is meager sustenance at best, and at worst, outright poison. I think the only means of prevention is the consistent practice of the disciplines and a renewed understanding of our relationship to the world.

  4. Mark Van Steenwyk on February 19th, 2008 10:14 am

    It seems, Nathan, that we’re separate from the world in the wrong ways, and not separate in any of the right ways.

  5. Maria Kirby on February 21st, 2008 12:02 am

    If I understand what you’re asking is why can we cook a live frog if we slowly heat up the water he’s in, but not if we put him directly into boiling water? Or why do we let the urgent crowd out the important? Or why do I procrastinate?

    A. I don’t believe it’s that urgent/important. (Self denial can be really thick.)
    B. I don’t have clear next steps. (I think that this is particularly true with respect to global warming. The impression I have is that people think they have to spend more money to solve the problem, when a lot could be done that actually saves people money.)
    C. I want someone else to take the first step. (My own internal sense of fairness doesn’t want me to deprive myself if other’s are not going to participate.)
    D. I don’t want to be responsible. (It’s much easier to point the finger or expect the government to pick up the tab.)

    Sometimes I think as Christians we are so busy trying to get people to accept shame for past behavior, that we lose sight of the goal of getting them to change. As Americans we like disasters -they make headlines. It’s much harder to focus on positive changes, like wearing long underwear so thermostats could be lower, or saying thank you to develop gratitude.

  6. Joshua Zugai on February 23rd, 2008 11:56 pm

    Hey Jordan,

    I think you’ve asked a fairly decent couple of questions.

    Christian laziness (of which I am a fairly chronic sufferer) has been a great defence mechanism which seems to have caught on with far too many people for far too long. I’ve actually heard it said that there are christians who consider it fine to do whatever ecological damage they like as God told us to reign over the planet.

    Stunning huh?

    The point you’re making is a good one and one that christians should always be asking themselves. Complacency can break up any relationship.

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