Every Day Is Earth Day
by Rob Blezard
One day a year our nation leaves its climate-controlled houses and SUVs long enough to stroll through some woods, pluck a beer can from the roadside, plant a tree or two, watch a scampering squirrel and nod sagely while listening to a talk about energy conservation.
And if a congregation is lucky, at least one Sunday a year its minister will climb into the pulpit to reflect on our sacred duty as stewards of the earth.
But the fact that we make such a big deal of the environment only once a year shows what the real problem is: We are self-absorbed and fail to think of the natural environment as a part of us. We can get away with it because most of us live most of our lives in totally unnatural environments, and that is because of our affluence.
Central heating and air conditioning mean that our living rooms can stay 68 degrees year-round, regardless of whether there is a blizzard raging outdoors or it's 100 degrees in the shade.
Refrigeration and fast shipping bring the world's produce to our supermarkets, ensuring our supply of food regardless of regional droughts or floods. So it's easy for us not to see how climate change is affecting agriculture.
Since wildlife is something we see primarily on the Discovery Channel, we think of disappearing wildlife, forests in crisis, melting ice caps, receding glaciers and sick oceans as something distant and abstract.
And until recently, the low cost of fossil fuels meant we could forego the kind of no-brainer energy saving that Europe and Japan have taken for granted for decades.
These factors and others have helped insulate us from the reality of environmental degradation – and the fact that it stems from our collective choices as human beings.
As Christian theologians over the centuries have noted, our chief sin as people is that we are selfish – curved in on ourselves – and tend to act in our own self-interest despite the consequences to the world around us.
In fact, we are so inwardly directed, we fail even to see it. Our sinfulness keeps us from seeing our sinfulness. Instead, like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, we think of sin only as the laws we break and the things we do, not what we are: pathologically self-worshiping and self-interested.
That's why pastors can look at every sermon as an Earth Sunday sermon: to call God's people to repent from our sin of self-absorption and to understand ourselves in relationship to everyone and everything else on the planet.
As people of God, we can look at every day as Earth Day: an opportunity to repent from our sin, to look beyond ourselves, and to see our relationship to the rest of God's creation.
Rob Blezard is webmaster for the Stewardship of Life Institute – www.stewardshipoflife.org in Gettysburg, PA, and is working towards ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.