Friday, April 22, 2011

On Earth Day As It Is In Heaven...

'You are my friends if you do what I command. This is my command: Love each other.' – Jesus

I just left my daughter’s kindergarten classroom.  They had a Spring party today.  It was lovely, and the children had a wonderful time.  So did the parents. 

We live in a small, rural community that has one of the best elementary schools on the planet, public or private. 

With a shoestring budget, these dedicated teachers have created an environment of love and peace where every student, regardless of income or social status, has an opportunity to learn good things. 

Great things, even.

At this school, and with the help of the community, they have created an outdoor classroom designed to teach children about the wonders of our amazing planet.

I love that my children have the opportunity to learn about the world in a hands-on way from people who care about them.

This year, Good Friday and Earth Day happened to fall on the same day.  Which is today.

This morning, while reading my Twitter feed, I learned that a very outspoken right-wing demagogue had decided to burn styrofoam in honor of Earth Day.  He’s also allowing his car to idle and lighting his entire studio for no good reason.  In the past, he has chopped down trees to celebrate Earth Day.  He decries any sort of “public school indoctrination” of what he feels are bad environmentalist policies.

It’s also worthy to note that this man recently became a vegan for health reasons. 

But I digress.

Turns out he and a bunch of other folks are kind of upset about what they feel is Earth Day usurping Good Friday.  They think that it takes away from the significance of the crucifixion.  They think that it is indicative of a shift from America as a Christian nation to a nation that worships, well, trees.

It made me sad that people could make this kind of a leap.

So.  Public school with an emphasis on conservation, Good Friday, and political demagoguery all sort of swirled together for me this afternoon.

I pay attention when this kind of thing happens in my brain.  I get quiet and wait for what happens next.

The Easter season illustrates the power of resurrection, a power that I cannot deny in my own life.  It makes me think about times when I thought that all was indeed lost…only to be surprised by a still, small inaudible voice, light for the darkness, and ironed out circumstances.

If I blink or can’t be still, I miss these moments.

I have learned that there is nothing that can’t be fixed.  It may not look the same as it did before it became broken, but it can be fixed.  Sometimes for an even greater purpose.

After some reflection, I don’t think that Good Friday and Earth Day are incompatible.

Earth Day was created by environmentalists who wanted to see some redemption on this
planet.  I thought that Christians were all about redeeming that which was lost.  And wanting things to be on earth as they are in heaven.

There’s nothing in the Holy Writ that indicates that God’s notion of heaven involves burning plastics.

Can’t Earth Day be a holiday where Christians and humanists can find some common ground?  I mean, we’re all kind of unified in the fact that no one wants to die from chemical exposure.  We all want to drink clean water and breathe good air and eat food that isn’t sprayed with something we can’t pronounce.

Part of this means living with fewer resources and being content.  I’m working on this in my own life.  I struggle with churches that do not share this point of view with me, opting for giant buildings that require a great deal of fiscal resources while caring little about a carbon footprint.

Weren’t we to sell all that we possessed in order to better follow?  Wasn’t simplicity a part of the lifestyle of the Lord?

I love Jesus, but the fan club disappoints me a lot. 

So, mocking conservation?   Really?  Can we use our short time here on earth more wisely?
I self-identify as a follower of the teachings of Jesus.  I pretty much fail epically as a student every day.  I like stuff.  It sucks, but I really do like stuff.  Sometimes I like stuff more than people. 
Sometimes I just want to satisfy every whim that I have.

What kind of lifestyle does my desire for the lowest prices and the most toys create for those who aren’t as fortunate?  You know…like the people who make my coveted stuff for a dime an hour.  Those people that Jesus loves.

Which is why I look at this bloody cross with wonder and amazement. 

I fail.  I am dreadfully inconsistent.  Sometimes, I actively resist loving others so that I can be more comfortable and less involved.

And I am still and always loved by God.  Regardless of what I have done, what I am doing, and what I am about to do.  And regardless of whether those things are 'good' or 'bad'.

Because of this love, shame and guilt were taken care of on my behalf a long time ago.  Huge price paid. 

Having shame and guilt taken away leaves me with an enormous sense of gratitude.
It is out of that gratitude that freedom flows. 

I am now free to love with wild abandon and to care and to give and to champion and to embrace.  Without any reservation or guilt or belief that I am unworthy.

I want that kind of freedom for everyone.  Including those who wish to put God in a box, administering entrance exams and litmus tests before awarding the status of ‘believer’.  A status, by the way, that can be revoked at any time. 

I want these people to be free to stop judging.

Even that guy who gloats about his freedom to trash the earth on television.  I want freedom for that guy too. 

Because the reality is that he and I have a lot in common.  I can be just as terrible, given the right issue and the right circumstances.

It’s just not my responsibility to decide who is in and who is out.  Jesus himself said that he had sheep that his followers knew nothing about.  I take him seriously on this point and assume something that I learned long ago in kindergarten:  Andie needs to take care of Andie.

As a result, I am relieved of the responsibility of judgment and can now embrace those things which bring about redemption and resurrection for everyone.

I am an environmentalist.  I am passionate about Jesus.  I believe in the power of love.  I want to participate in community with others.

None of these statements are mutually exclusive.  Nor need they ever be.


  1. I am confused and concerned when I hear people, especially church people, mock Earth Day type events or say that recycling is pointless. Aren't we supposed to be good stewards of the earth? Wasn't that the first job of the first human? "This earth is not my home; I'm only passing through!" they sing. But really? Should we treat the planet God created like it's a cheap rental property?

    I've been thinking about this a lot lately -- how we sometimes treat God's creation as rental property -- not just the planet, but even our own bodies. I grew up being taught that this body is just a shell, just temporary housing, until we all get to heaven and have new, perfect, heavenly bodies. I doubt the intent of the teaching was to give people a license to neglect their health, but still … it seems to have done so, for me anyway.

    So, I'm working on turning that thinking around … for the planet and for me. :)

  2. I believe that too often we associate the word judgment with censure or with positions of moral superiority. But there is another positive meaning for judgment that is associated with prudence or making good choices in practical matters. That's the kind of judgment we all need to develop.

    Your daughter's school sounds wonderful!

  3. I love this. I like how you started the post out by making me think about how awful this guy is, and then reminding me at the end that I am very similar to him. I judge all too often, forgetting that I too have been saved by grace. Thank you for this reminder. :)