Help Wanted!: A Christian Response to the Oil Spill

The other night while watching the show Life I was amazed. There were these ants that would eat these mushrooms and then rush off to die under trees where new mushrooms would sprout from their dead heads. I mean, when it comes to tv, this is serious stuff. So serious in fact, that it seems odd that you could call it anything but natural. I mean lets face it, although it is somewhat mysterious that the ants love to eat the plants which drive them crazy, it really is just a natural cycle of a natural creation. It is life.

What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico this week as a result of BP Chemical’s failure to make good on its promise to protect the wildlife of the world’s oceans while extracting oil to be used for cars is not something to marvel at. Species of fish, pelican, squid, duck, and who knows what else are all being swallowed up into the black gulf of oil which will not only limit their capacity to fly or swim, but will inevitably be the cause of much death. Death that is both unnatural and preventable!

Preventable or not, the disaster is here. The question I have is: where are all the Christians? I mean honestly, here you have an example of humans exacting a kind of injustice on the creation that they claim to be responsible for stewarding, and there has been no effort to try to help or to mobilize (at least from what I can find) people as good stewards to action. And whereas many Christians in the empire were more than ready to suggest that drilling for oil was Biblically justified on a stewardship basis, few are coming forward to take up responsibility for clean up or care.

I have to admit that as I write I am more than a little bummed that if you Google “Christian oil spill volunteers,” you actually find an Atheist organization recruiting volunteers to help with clean up before you find Christians. Now this isn’t to say they are not out there, only to say they are not activating their bases, they’re not stepping in and saying “we love to drive our cars with our fish on them, and so we too are kind of responsible for this mess.” They are not even saying that the oil clean up is part of their responsibility as people of faith in the public square.

But shouldn’t a Christian response to this crisis be equally as measured as a response to other tragedies like hurricanes and earthquakes?  Or, in some classic sense, do most Christians still fundamentally believe that God only cares about human life and human surviving? Is there a way in which this oil spill, like the slowness of Christian response to HIV/AIDS in the early years of the pandemic, will be the beginning of breaking of this kind of disconnect? Maybe, but maybe not.

Maybe response really depends on how one views God’s relationship to Creation. If one views God as completely other and distant then it makes sense why caring for the animals about to be destroyed would matter less. And if you buy the Left Behind logic, it matters even less as everything is going burn.

But what if Sallie McFague was right when she suggested thinking about the relationship between the world and God this way: “the world is God’s body?” Would our response be different? Would we be quicker to help if we experienced the violence against the earth as violence against the goodness of God?

McFague’s understanding of the world as God’s body challenges and calls disciples of Jesus to re-imagine the doctrine of creation not merely as God’s acting upon the world, but as God “sharing” divine power with humans that all of creation may flourish. In McFague’s articulation, not only does God meet with humanity in the “intrinsic and intimate” details of their lives, but in the everyday experiences of life at home in planet earth. With this vision of earth as home, McFague hopes to inspire humans to not only be planted as good stewards of the earth (as God’s body) but also to bear witness to the goodness and sustainability of creation in God. (Some might even argue, that it is this way of understanding God/World that allows Christians to challenge the injustices they experience under any political system.)

Might not this view call more Christians to a sharing in clean up? Might not this view make for a kind of green revolution necessary for sustainable life on earth for all that share it?

You may remember that Glenn Beck infuriated Christians all across the US just a few short weeks ago by suggesting that people should report their pastors for using any kind of social justice language in the church. Beck’s point at the time was that these pastors were just buying into a liberal socialist agenda of the Obama administration and that Jesus’ movement had nothing to do with it. Well, on this point, maybe Beck will have nothing to worry about. For it seems to me that the Church is still very much behind the times with regards to creation care. Or, maybe I’m wrong! Let’s give Beck something to talk about and let Rush know that though he may wish to blame ‘the environmentalists’ for this tragedy, its everyone in the empire who is to blame!

I’m convinced that there is a huge need for Christians to wake up and to respond to this crisis as good stewards of a good creation. As people who ought to be working already to participate in the healing of the world, it is our duty! I’ve started rallying my circles and my networks to mobilize people towards action. Won’t you join me?!

Do Justice!

Joshua

As you hear of opportunities for Christians to get involved in the clean up, please link here in the comments section! I’ll put a list together for ongoing circulation!

7 thoughts on “Help Wanted!: A Christian Response to the Oil Spill

  1. “Maybe response really depends on how one views God’s relationship to Creation. If one views God as completely other and distant then it makes sense why caring for the animals about to be destroyed would matter less.”

    I’m not sure a view of God as completely “other” justifies not caring for Creation. On the contrary, salvation from a God completely “other” in relation to humanity might actually call for a more comprehensive view of salvation that stretches beyond the individual. This is a God who saves the cosmos after all!

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