I recently attended a conference in Montecito titled “Why Water Is Sacred.”
The focus was climate change, which means the conference was at times depressing, at other times challenging, at all times fascinating.
One thing that has haunted me since was a comment by Ched Myers, with reference to those in poverty-stricken sections of the world who are already experiencing extreme shortages of drinkable water. Of course, I was thinking about our drought when Myers said, “If you ever doubt that we are a people of privilege, just hold this thought for a while: We defecate in clean water.”
Climate change and consumer-driven economics are interwoven realities. Climate change and post-colonial politics are interwoven realities. Climate change and religious privatization are interwoven realities. Climate change and racism are interwoven realities. And the reality is that we do not have the technological ability, scientific ingenuity or political will to reverse much of the damage that humanity’s carbon footprint has already inflicted on the Earth and its waters.
We are going to have to live with the unintended consequences of the industrial revolution. And unless we develop the political will to see the Earth and its waters as sacred, instead of as a pool of infinite natural resources awaiting our exploitation, we will have to die with the unintended consequences of the industrial revolution. It is a grim reality.
The Christian church, in its best moments, is a place that has made the grim practice of facing death a sacred practice. In his first letter to a church, Paul told Christians in Thessalonica who were facing death, “We do not grieve as those who have no hope.”
We grieve, yes. We grieve because we do not blithely overlook the grim reality of death. But we also believe that God is able to transform — transform us, transform our practices, transform our loyalties, transform our prejudices, transform our appetites, transform our world.
So we commit ourselves to the daily grind of small practices and large protests, persuasive conversations and spirited debate, radical solutions and incremental adjustments. I suspect that the hour for final, large-scale fixes is past, and what faces us is an ongoing uphill climb toward living with greater reverence for the Earth and its stressed-out resources.
During this season of Lent, perhaps the best way to approach making sacrifices or taking on disciplines is to pray daily for God to give us a vision of creation as a sacred reality and the courage to live into that vision.
MARK DAVIS is the pastor of St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach.