Since the beginning of the year I’ve been focusing on Creation Care as a spiritual discipline. Scholar Sallie McFague believes that the climate crisis “is really a spiritual problem—a problem of changing hearts and minds so that people will live differently.” The change needed is for people to move from self-centeredness to self-emptying, following Jesus in living simply, sustainably, and putting the service of others ahead of self-aggrandizement. Such a life, Jesus tells us, leads to the greater happiness found in the relationships we have formed and in the accomplishment we feel in helping others, even in the sacrifices we have made.
In fact, many recent studies have shown that people who reject materialism are happier. The more people endorsed materialistic values, the more they were competitive, manipulative, and selfish; the more they had depression, anxiety, and health problems; and the more they were dissatisfied with their lives. People are happier if they can have more time instead of things, give more than get, appreciate what they have instead of trying to get what they don’t have, and create strong relationships and a life purpose. And even small acts of activism, like signing a petition, make people happier, possibly because it gives them a sense of purpose and a chance to meet others, according to a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology. (Sierra Magazine, 1/27/2022)
Because Epiphany is the season of missions, over those weeks I offered suggestions on those small acts of activism, ways to make some impact in the public square. I wrote about how to write letters to change financial institutions that support carbon companies and how to make your political representatives aware of your strong feelings in support of CO2 reducing public policy
Lent, however, is more about self-examination and repentance, repentance as Jesus framed it—turning around, turning back from the way that was leading you farther from life as God intended and turning toward a new life following the way of Jesus. So over the next six weeks I’ll be offering resources for personal reassessment and starting new practices in creation care.
First, let’s dismiss the idea that making personal lifestyle changes does little to slow climate change. Katherine Hayhoe is that rare person who combines a career in climate science with strong evangelical faith. She knows very well that government action is essential to stopping global heating. But she also believes that individual lifestyle change is also vital. In a New York Times interview when challenged that people aren’t willing to change their ways she responded “The reality is that more than 70 percent of people in the U.S. are already worried about climate change, and about 35 percent of those are really worried. So the biggest problem is not the people who aren’t on board; the biggest problem is the people who don’t know what to do. And if we don’t know what to do, we do nothing. Just start by doing something, anything, and then talk about it! Talk about how it matters to your family, your home, your city, the activity that you love. Connect the dots to your heart so that you don’t see climate change as a separate bucket but rather as a hole in the bucket of every other thing that you already care about in your life. Talk about what positive, constructive actions look like that you can engage in individually, as a family, as an organization, a school, a place of work. Add your hand to that giant boulder. Get it rolling down the hill just a little faster….[O]ur personal actions do matter, but they matter because they can change others. When we take that extra step of saying, ‘Hey, I tried a Beyond Meat burger and it was delicious. Let’s go to this place for lunch and give it a try together.’ If you take those kinds of actions, all of a sudden you’ve got 30, 50, 100 more people whose hands are on the boulder beside you, and you realize, hey, we might have a shot at fixing this.” (New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2022, p.13)
I’ll get into specifics next week, but in the meantime you might find inspiration on how to start making a difference in this article on “How to Reduce Food Waste.”
Thanks for your commitment to praying and caring for God’s creation!
(You can find this and all the Creation Care blogs for the church website I have written at my consolidating blog: ststephenscreationcare.blogspot.com)