The View from the Ages

Viewpoint

Here’s a Christian assumption that shapes life: the world, and everything in it, is created. The ecosphere comes into being from outside itself.

Not only the stuff—the people, the beavers, the highways, and the oxygen—was created, but also the way they interrelate. Creation is a working, inter-dependent whole, with its seasons, its rain and sunshine, and its life that begets life.

These living things of the earth and the sea “all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” (Psalm 104:27-28) The 104th Psalm sees this vision, then tells it in poetry!

Energy—the ability to work and to give shape—came through the cycle of the weather, the earth, the community, and from human and beast labour. In the world of biblical writers, the sun is seen as such a vital source of energy that it is sometimes overpowering.

By the clever process of harvesting fossil fuels we take the energy of the sun which has been gathered over the course of a very long time and use it to spare us the need to work so hard. The zoom can be placed in a gas tank and used to move people and goods about the planet.

But it is too clever. We are using it up much more quickly than it is being made. The humongous problem is that if we use it up, we will also use up all of life.

So, some argue, let’s make it God’s problem. As popular as that may be among the pious, it is a distortion. Smallpox epidemics and the bubonic plague did not yield to such an antidote. Nor did the Holocaust or the power of the Roman Empire against which Jesus taught. Well, they may have yielded to the grace of God. But they did not yield by simply being returned to God’s desk from ours. Eventually they were seen to be curses that could only be abated through a change in people’s behaviour.

We’ll need to face harsh news but we’ve been this way before. Seven decades ago we were rallied from the grief of war by this: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal …” It’s a worldwide issue that’s as difficult as the personal issue of quitting smoking. The first response is to say, “I can’t do it!”

Yes, you can! Failing to move on from dirty energy ends in death. Abundance of life lies on the other side. The rest of us cannot love you into the decision of your life. You must take ownership. You’ll need the rest of us, you’ll need the blessing of God, but you’ll also need to own the killer in you.

The economic empires of this world tell us that we cannot live without fossil fuels. Fissures are appearing in that argument, however. Countries such as Denmark and Germany are struggling to show the viability of sustainable energy. Corporations, educational institutions, and churches are opting to shape their investments so that there are no fossil fuels in their portfolio. By itself that will not bring the end of the lifestyle. A tipping point is coming. The world is now perceiving it and it will need the arm and mind of Christ to help it through.

A new world—more local, more sustainable, with more employment than the oil patch delivers—is being born. Our children’s children may see it full-grown. The pain of birth will give way to new life.

The church’s 21st century calling is to act as midwife while a new world is being born.

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About Allen Aicken

Allen Aicken is a retired minister living in Vancouver.