Listen: Jackie and Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis talk about Rev. Lewis’ book Our Blessed Planet: An Orally-Affirmed Almanac of Love, Power, and Christian Pragmatism:
A few years ago, a dear friend made me a box of books about an allegedly evil planet. Then, several days after she sent it to me, she sent me another letter asking if I wanted to buy it from her for $10. It wasn’t expensive, but it seemed way too cheap for what I had gotten. So, with the minimum $5 down payment, I went ahead and did it. When I opened the first book, with a cover depicting a snow-capped mountain range, I was ready to get this planet.
I opened the next box, full of neatly organized spreadsheets about our consumption habits, our ecological footprints, and our desire to keep consuming. I set them all on my nightstand and for the next few months, my entire Sunday ritual was filled with the release of that first book. I had problems with it, as I suppose most of us do when confronted with what many might describe as bad information. This could be a continuation of classically liberal arguments that our world problems are ultimately intellectual. What about those small local engines of conservation? Why doesn’t this knowledge, this empirical evidence that we’re really damaging the planet, help us?
But the bigger truth that I learned from those books was that, unlike the philosophy of environmentalism or some other “do goodism,” I was not obligated to cure our planet – my beloved world – from some inner fear. Fear is like a disease that kills its victims when they become aware of its existence. I hadn’t stepped into the kingdom of fear. I didn’t fear either my love or the fate of the planet I love. While I had just discovered that things were wrong, my position was pretty simple: nothing in the universe was fixed; nothing was signed, sealed and delivered by humanity. I was not to submit to fear. But I was to accept that my sin, my ruin, came not from all our doing. There were other people – loving people – that we had hurt. There was more love in the universe than hatred, more courage than cowardice. Just because we destroy anything, just because we commit evil acts against it doesn’t mean that we have lost all hope.
I don’t believe that God had a good track record of turning us into eco-heroes or indepth environmental innovators. Nor do I believe that we need to make any changes to our lifestyles or our sense of right and wrong for our planet to be restored. I believe that our suffering in our interactions with the earth – our evil acts and godless fashion choices – is of spiritual nature. I believe that our healing is religious, and that the true “good life” for our beloved world – our home for our human selves and our animal creatures – is one that is environmentally conscious, humane, infused with love and generosity, and renewed in the spirit of unselfish service.
As our world becomes more aware of the environment and how we’re neglecting it, as our moral codes as individuals and as a culture deepen, as our economy erodes and people are asked to take a stance against economic inequality, to be active in changing the social, political and economic system of capitalism, the good news is that our souls have become naturally innately earth-spirited, good people. Through our collective expressions of love, in speaking up for social justice and tolerance, in creating innovative initiatives, in working to provide safe and adequate housing for the working poor, we are testing our stewardship of this magnificent earth. In the midst of our economic, political and social calamities, our time is simply too precious.