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 earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”

To mark Earth Day, head on over to God’s Politics and check out the post I wrote. Here’s a teaser:

Today is Earth Day, an occasion for marking our responsibility to care for our world and the environment. It seems trite to have just one day to remind ourselves of the importance of this — though the same could be (and often is) said about Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc. We should always be aware of how we ought to be good stewards of the world and the resources God has entrusted to us; not just one day a year.

UPDATE (04/23): The link is down. Sojo’s working on it!

UPDATE 2 (04/23): Back up!

Van Jones and Green For All

Original post: March 29, 2009; repost: February 27, 2010. With Van Jones’ return to the public eye, I thought I’d put this up again.

Spring break is almost over—class starts tomorrow, in fact, on what will most likely be the busiest quarter of my three years at Fuller (following closely on the heels of last quarter, which was the busiest quarter of my three years at Fuller). I’ll be taking four classes (Theology & Culture; Theology, Politics & Modern Society; Culture & Transformation; and Teamwork & Leadership) and working part time as the All-Seminary Council (ASC) Vice-President. I’m excited about this coming quarter, but boy, is it gonna be busy!

Anyway, this past week has been a great one. Notwithstanding the whole not-eating thing (four days to go!), I’ve been able to chill out here and recover from the craziness of the last quarter, watching movies, sleeping, hanging out with friends, napping, and probably most importantly, reading.

Reading is sort of an occupational hazard when you’re a grad student, and one can become jaded towards the whole endeavor of reading when you have to read books for school anyway (and on a timetable to boot). I usually try to be reading at least one non-school book so as to keep me sane, but often this gets squeezed out by the sheer volume of pages I have to digest per week.

So it’s been with great pleasure that I’ve dived back into reading these last few days. Currently, I’m reading Tom Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus, Muhammad Yunus’ Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Nature of Capitalism, and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

And I just finished The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, by Van Jones, who’s Barack Obama’s new Green Czar, also known as the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ). I highly recommend it—the last time I was so struck by a writer’s honesty and inspired by a writer’s vision was when I read Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, and we all know what happened after that. ☺ Anyway, highlights from the book:

our entire economy was designed to function in a world where fossil fuels are forever abundant and forever cheap. Today, as those fuels—and especially oil—become increasingly scarce, prices are rising to reflect that reality. (2)

The United States is the world’s biggest polluter. To avoid eco-apocalypse [both environmental and economic collapse], Congress will have to do more than pass a cap-and-trade bill. And Americans will have to do more than stick in better lightbulbs. To pull off this ecological U-turn, we will have to fundamentally restructure the U.S. economy. We will need to “green” whole cities. We will have to build thousands of wind farms, install tens of millions of solar panels, and retrofit millions of buildings. We will have to retire our car, truck, and bus fleets, which are based on combustion engines and oil, and replace them with plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles powered by a clean-energy grid. (58)

“History teaches us that it is impossible to guide a complex series of deep changes in culture, economics, and law without first grounding efforts in a set of unchanging ideals,” (65) and Jones puts forward the three principles of

  1. equal protection for all: “there are some dangers that are too big for any individual to overcome, especially the most vulnerable among us. So in an age of floods, we must reject any philosophy that would tempt us to tell people in wheelchairs to ‘sink or swim.’ We must embrace, instead, the principle that says: ‘We are all in this together—come what may’” (70).
  2. equal opportunity for all: “We are one human family. So on a good day, we should not leave anyone out. And on a bad day, we should not leave anyone behind. We should not accept a world where people of color and low-income people are always first in line for everything bad and then are left to benefit last and least when it comes to anything good” (73).
  3. reverence for all creation: “we don’t have any throwaway species or resources. We don’t have any throwaway children, throwaway neighborhoods, or throwaway nations either. Therefore, the green economy must do more than reclaim thrown-away stuff. It must also reclaim thrown-away lives and thrown-away places. And it must reclaim the thrown-away values that insist we are all members of one human family, with sacred obligations to each other” (74).

He advocates what he calls Noah principles (as in Noah from the Bible; but go read the book for more) in creating the kind of politics through which we can get things done:

  1. Fewer “issues,” more solutions; that is, focusing on the things that we are working towards rather than focusing on the things we are against.
  2. Fewer “demands,” more goals: “Goals can be shared—even by people who disagree on many points. Demands can never be shared. One party makes them; the other party must either deny them or capitulate” (107).
  3. Fewer “targets,” more partners: “In this age, our main job is to seek out friends wherever we can, not just to defeat enemies” (109).
  4. Less “accusation,” more confession: “We would be better off confessing our own weaknesses, our fears, our needs. Doing so will let others see the gaps more quickly, find their rightful places around the growing circle—and come to the campfire with fewer pretenses themselves” (111).
  5. Less “cheap patriotism,” more deep patriotism: “Some of us still believe in ‘a more perfect union’—and in making it more perfect every day. Some of us still believe in ‘America the beautiful’—and in defending its beauty from the clear-cutters and despoilers. Some of us still believe in ‘one nation, indivisible’—and in opposing those who profit by keeping us needlessly divided. Some of us still believe in ‘liberty and justice for all,’ and we won’t stop until that classroom pledge is honored from shore to shore” (113).

Van makes the point, well-known by many now, that though the United States makes up only about 4% of the world’s population, we emit 25% of greenhouse gases (not good), and are home to 25% of the world’s incarcerated population (also not good). It is clear that something must be done, and something can be done. Once again, this is not situation where we sit helpless and hopeless as the economy collapses and the environment deteriorates—things can be done to change things, but once again, a grassroots movement made of individual citizens, businesses, organizations, non-profits, and governments will be the driving force for change. It will require change on all levels, from recycling, reusing, and being more environmentally friendly to contributing to green job training, retrofitting and weatherizing buildings, and setting up a clean energy grid that will lay the groundwork for the next generation.

Such a green economy will be as expansive and enveloping (in a good way) as the current economy (in a bad way), comprising all five of the major subsystems of sustainability: energy, food, waste, water, and transportation. And already, the grassroots movement is beginning: people, organizations, businesses, and governments are all getting involved. Moreover, we have a ‘Green President,’ as Jones describes him, in the White House: in Barack Obama’s budget for the current year, there is a clear recognition that the way forward is to invest in the present and the future of renewable clean energies and climate-friendly jobs; see here for the White House fact sheet.

And go check out Green For All, the organization founded by Jones.

Yes, we can. Again.