Sunday, July 20, 2008

Greenness Is Next to Godliness

It always struck me as very odd that U.S. churches, charged in part with good stewardship of their acre, do everything they can, through their parking lots, to encourage the use of cars on Sunday. That is why, for my sixth ethical imperative, you will recall, I expanded the biblical encomium about adultery -- which was really about maintaining a pure lineage for the purposes of inheritance -- to apply to preserving the environment, our common inheritance.

In these days of high gasoline prices, of course, everyone is "green." Yet you still see those parking lots overflowing with SUVs. I have never heard a word ever preached against these gargantuan monuments to selfishness, lest they go elsewhere and affect the pastor's bottom line.

The Bible, of course, is the very opposite of environment friendly. One more reason to question it. In Genesis, God tells the first humans "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth." (Gen. 1:28)

This view influenced the Puritans and their spiritual descendants in the United States. Cities, railroads, highways, smokestacks, mines, vineyards, dams and canals were strung out from East to West like ornaments on a Christmas tree, pretty much without regard to what these human works did to plants and animals of North America, nor to the air, the water or the soil.

The U.S. Dust Bowl phenomenon of the 1930s was part nature, part human carelessness. Bad weather came on the heels of the Depression's outbreak. It happened upon poorly tended, overworked soil with cultivated few of the modern agricultural precautions.

Today, as we face the environmental apocalypse of climate change, a commandment calling for "green" behavior seems oddly missing in the Mosaic original. So here goes my own godless ethical norm: "Thou shalt respect the surroundings that sustain thee and thy fellows."
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