A Pledge to the Next Generation

In light of the oil spill and the resultant devastation, we at Sojourners felt led to examine ourselves, our lifestyles and our habits. I helped to write the following pledge, originally posted on God’s Politics:

We are witnessing a massive despoiling of God’s creation that will impact ecosystems for generations. Our response must think that far ahead as well — to our children and our children’s children. Fortunately, if we lead by example, others, including future generations, will follow.

As people of faith, we know that true transformation requires sacrifice. To change our energy consumption as a nation, we’ll need more than symbolic gestures — we’ll need to learn to embody the scriptural practice of stewardship.

As part of Sojourners’ ongoing efforts to learn and discern lessons from the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, we’ve created “A Pledge to the Next Generation”. The pledge outlines some of our Christian beliefs found in scripture with a corresponding commitment statement. It reads in a similar fashion to a responsive reading. You can join us in the pledge by signing a short version on our website. Then, share with us what you would add to the pledge and what you have decided to do in your life as a result of the oil spill.

A Pledge to the Next Generation

As a person of faith called to be a steward of God’s creation, I take responsibility for the ways in which my lifestyle and my choices are partly responsible for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I acknowledge that a new future will require conversion — a fundamental change in the ways we live in our communities, our nation, and our world.

Therefore, as a person of faith I believe and I pledge:

I believe we are called to be good stewards of the resources and gifts that God has given us in creation, and to share in God’s appreciation for the world which God called “good” (Genesis 1: 28-31).

  • I pledge to transform my life, through sacrifice, worship, action, and prayer, into one of stewardship of God’s creation.

I believe that children are a gift from God and that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:13-16). I recognize that those who come after us are left with what we pass on to them.

  • I pledge to model, with my words, my attitudes, and my actions, a lifestyle that demonstrates a commitment to God’s creation and to the next generation.

I believe we are created for relationship, community, and shalom — not only with people (Mark 12:28-31) but with the world around us (Genesis 1:26-31).

  • I pledge to love my neighbor through the ways in which I treat the creation which we share, and to love God through the ways in which I treat God’s handiwork.

I believe the poor are often the most vulnerable to the consequences of our energy consumption through unsafe working conditions, polluted neighborhoods, and exploitation, and that “those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (Proverbs 14:31).

  • I pledge to be generous with my resources toward those in need, aware of and responsible for my energy consumption, and committed to protect vulnerable communities from environmental exploitation.

I believe that God is a God of justice (Deuteronomy 10:17-19) and that we are called to reflect and represent this same God in doing justice ourselves (Micah 6:8).

  • I pledge to ensure the safety of all God’s children from the environmental excesses of the few and to advocate for policies and practices that forge a more sustainable and creation-aware path into the future.

I believe that knowing God should lead to just and righteous actions (Is. 1:16-17; Jer. 22:15-16). I believe that  since, in a democratic society, government is accountable to its citizens, and government is intended to be God’s servant for good (Rom.12- 13, Col. 2), I have a role in advocating with my government accordingly.

  • I pledge to share this commitment with my family, friends, and elected officials so that together we might seek both personal transformation and legislative outcomes that help us steward God’s creation for generations to come.

The lessons we have learned from this catastrophe impact all aspects of our society.  Any hope for a different future will only come when individuals, churches, elected officials, and corporate executives join hands and vow to change.  Today, I make this pledge.

The greatest generation

In Jesus for President, Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw write:

Jesus would rather invoke the great kingless history of Israel. … Just like the kingless confederacy of Israel in the Torah, the kingdom [of God] Jesus spoke of is a real political kingdom that is unique, confusing, and unheard of. His kingdom is not of this world because it refuses power, pledges a different allegiance, and lives love. (110)

When we consider history, I think it’s very tempting to look back and wonder how things used to be so much better. A decade ago, America was experiencing a period of economic prosperity. Two decades ago, the Berlin Wall fell. Four decades ago, a man walked on the moon. Those were the good times. Now? We’re in an economic recession, America has a reputation to repair, and we’re facing global threats of climate change, terrorism, and other major concerns.

Now, I don’t think Claiborne and Haw are trying to idealize history, nor are they implying that Jesus was doing so. And perhaps this perspective can be blamed on my realism/cynicism coming through, but when I think of the ‘great’ kingless history of Israel, I’m reminded of a people who complained constantly, starting right after the Lord delivered them from Egypt, even when he was with them in pillars of fire and cloud; I’m reminded of a people who disobeyed Joshua even as he led them into the Promised Land; I’m reminded of a people who, only a generation after Joshua’s death, “did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). When I think of the ‘great’ kingless history of Israel, I see what I see today: a bunch of people trying their best to follow God, making mistakes and messing up, but always, always being recipients of both God’s justice and his outrageous grace.

I think it would’ve been pretty amazing to live in the days when God dwelled with his people Israel, or when Jesus walked the earth, or when the early church “were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. … There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (Acts 4:32, 34). But I’m not sure that we were meant to just seek to emulate those times. We live in different days, with different tools at our disposal and different challenges to face.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I always wondered what these would look like in practice, what these would look like when lived out; and I realized that that’s part of the challenge, part of the commission of the gospel. Every generation is called to figure out in its own context what it means to follow Jesus Christ and to bring the good news to the poor and the oppressed, to welcome the marginalized, to overturn the world’s understandings of power and strength and glory.