This letter is in response to the article by Dennis Shock, "Green churches coming, churches respond to the environmental alarm," page 6, Jan. 2009 issue of Together.
I have of course been aware of the green movement for a long time, but a phrase in the referenced article caught my attention. The clergy were asked to give their "support to creation care through their preaching ." I thought the phrase "creation care" sounded like a slogan. So I did some research and indeed "Creation Care" is a movement which is also known as evangelical environmentalism. In fact, a web site and magazine exist by that very name. The movement attempts to find a Biblical basis for going green. A statement at creationcare.org says "Because we worship and honor the Creator, we seek to cherish and care for the creation."
Creationcare.org has many biblical references that they say point to environmental stewardship, but I will choose just one: Hosea 4:1-3.
The verse reads: "Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying."
Hosea is not telling the Israelites they should now take better care of the birds and the fish, rather that they should become faithful to both God and their spouse, love one another, acknowledge God as supreme ruler, stop cursing, lying, murdering, stealing and committing adultery. Presumably greed and arrogance could be added. Paul tells us that creation is in bondage because of sin (Romans 8). Hosea is calling the Israelites to leave their sin and be in a right relationship with God, not his creation.
The Israelite sins are the true causes of the environmental disaster. And I would contend, such sins are what our pastors should concentrate on during their sermons, i.e. man's bent towards sinning and separation from God. Taking the emphasis off sin and putting it on environmental degradation concentrates on the effect and not the cause. Recycling won't get you into heaven and driving an SUV is not a sin. But it is far, far easier to place a flyer in the bulletin advocating green advice than to say "Stop cursing, lying, murdering, stealing and committing adultery. Commit your life to Christ. See you next Sunday and have a nice week!" One could save your soul, the other cannot.
On a practical note, media urges me everyday to "go green" but never to walk humbly with my Lord. Our pastors have approximately 30 minutes a week to preach the good news to our members and visitors. I would hope they wouldn't spend a second on worrying about what I drive or use to clean my house - let's leave that to the secular world.
Remembering John Adams
The inauguration of Barack Obama and the celebration of the rise of African Americans in our national life set me to recollections of my friend, the late Rev. John Adams. John brought the Civil Rights march home to me.
John was under special appointment to the National Council of Churches. He worked with Civil Rights leaders across the U.S., assisting, organizing, helping assure protectors remained non-violent Christians.
John had been serving for some while in the old Northwest Conference (of The Methodist Church) when I arrived in 1952. He was considerably older, but we shared much in common. Then John went on "special appointment." When he came home to annual conference, we would lunch together, he catching me up on what he had been doing; I catching him up on the annual conference.
Several of his stories still stand out vividly in my memory. Probably the strongest is the time in a southern city, the day's affairs over, he and his host pastor finished talking over the day. They had just gone from the living room to the parsonage kitchen when a bomb blew in the front wall of the room they had barely left.
John knew so very well the danger that went with his work. He deeply grieved the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. whom he personally knew.
John's first trip out of Indiana to support civil rights, as I recall, was for the Selma, Ala. March. He went to Bishop Raines to get the okay to go. Bishop Raines told him the permission he needed most was from his wife, family and congregation. Bishop Raines advised him to be sure his will was up to date. John made the march.
John worked with clergy and church groups in the north as well as the south, in the cities whose names stand out largely, and others that got little notice this far north.
Photo courtesy General Board of Church & Society
|John Adams is shown in the midst of Native Americans on the "Longest Walk," the 1978 march from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., for Native American rights.|
Other places of crisis received his help. He was the negotiator at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. He shuttled back and forth between the Indian leaders and the U.S. Marshals. The marshals did not go on the reservation or it would have been "war." John would meet with the American Indian leaders at the trading post, then be driven out so far (just out of weapon range of the marshals), and from that point, he would walk. As I remember, he carried a flag identifying himself. He would bring the Indian's concerns to the marshals and give counsel, then head back with the marshal's response and give counsel. Undoubtedly some of this had to be relayed to Washington, D.C. As he was driven back and forth, Indian men would sit on the fenders of the car to assure he was not shot by an Indian. As he went in and out of the trading post he passed the "specials" chalk board that had the message: "Do not shoot the National Council of Churches negotiator." The most difficult people of that negotiation were the leaders of the U.S. Marshals. I'll leave that part there.
Another of John's assignments was courier for the embassy hostages in Tehran, Iran. When the up-rising took place in Iran, as the Shah fled, the U. S. Embassy personnel were "imprisoned" in the building (in 1979). Behind the scenes negotiations took place. John was designated courier. He traveled in and out of Tehran carrying mail to and from the hostages. He could report on their condition and how they were being treated, until their eventual release (in 1981).
I have no idea who else John may have shared his stories with. Likely most of what I've written is in print for the first time. Obviously John could not publicize any of this during his service, for it would have compromised his efforts.
Likewise, it was so great to see the Rev. Joseph Lowery and Dorothy Height given recognition at President Obama's inauguration on January 20. I'm confident John would have known and worked with them both.
John did not live to see the current state of racial relations in the United States. But he devoted his life to help make this possible.