Sunday Edition - On 'Saving the World'


This is a repost from last year that I thought would be appropriate given all the Earth Day festivities today. Sunday Editions are intended for exploring the intersection of faith with the topics explored on the blog.

I've had this Sunday Edition post brewing in me for awhile. I have several newsfeeds I monitor. Many of them include issues of the environment, and I have grown used to seeing variations on the phrase, "Saving the World", in the headlines of the stories. A Google news search of headlines today was topped by the question, "Can Bill Gates Save the World?", followed by Time Magazine's article, "A Cost Effective Way to Save the World." The Wall Street Journal predictably chimes in with an article on "How to Make Money and Save the World." The topper for me is the news that Whole Foods Market is now going to carry "Save Your World"TM personal care products. Notice I had to put the "TM" for trademark in there, because, as the headline makes abundantly clear, some personal care product company has legal rights to the phrase.

On the plus side, there seems to be a tacit agreement that the world needs saving. There is a recognition of a world crisis that needs resolving. Amen to that. But the shadow side is the presumption that somehow this saving work is within our grasp, and we can make money and have pretty nails while we do it. Instead of really engaging the deep question of salvation, wholeness, and peace in the world our dialogue tells us we have the whole world in our hands.

I would argue that the most hopeful place of responsibility, when it comes to the environment, is to take a more humble view of our place in the world. Karl Barth talked about this when he described theology as the only knowledge seeking endeavor in which, instead of standing over the microscope looking down through the lens at the object of study, we stand on the platform looking up at God. We are created, not creator and our recognition of that makes all the difference. It opens up the possibility for us to participate in the grand story of God's saving work in the world, which includes decisions about money and even personal care products, but does not presume that these choices give us the power to save the world.

In other news the newly minted pew study on religion and American life had this to say;

Members of non-Christian faiths...are much more likely to believe that stricter environmental regulations are worth the economic costs. More than two-thirds of Jews (77%), Buddhists (75%), Hindus (67%), Muslims (69%) and the unaffiliated (69%) support stricter environmental laws. Further, more than seven-in ten atheists (75%), agnostics (78%) and the secular unaffiliated (72%) say stricter environmental laws are worth the cost.

Not sure what to think about this. Mainline Protestants came in at 64% and evangelicals came in at 54%. I'm even less sure of what to say about this finding of the report; 21% of atheists believe in God.