Home » Environment & Creation Care (Page 2)
Category Archives: Environment & Creation Care
It’s funny, and a bit tragic, how some extremely radical words of Jesus which should make all rich people very uncomfortable, can be misinterpreted into some cosy, fluffy inspiration that rich people can quote on their living room wall and feel warm inside about. I’m specifically thinking on Jesus’ words about the birds and the lilies:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
Notice the word “therefore” in the beginning of the passage. This is obviously a word that links it to what is immediately said before it, which in this case is:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
I often debate with fellow Christians who, contrary to me, oppose migration from poor countries to rich countries, aid from rich countries to poor countries or that rich countries should take greater responsibility for the environment than poor countries by living simpler. When I argue for why I think these ideas are good, I often point to facts and statistics that for example show that poor countries receive 80 % of all refugees today, or that aid donations are less than 0.3 % of rich countries’ GDP, or that environmental pollution kill more people today than malaria and HIV. Quite often I even have to start with explaining that rich countries are rich; most xenophobic people here in Sweden think that Sweden isn’t a rich country, which of course is the opposite of what the Global Wealth Report recently stated.
However, while I believe these facts are important for the discussion, they are seldom sufficient for my adversaries to change their mind. I find over and over again that even if we can agree upon that the world is unequal and unfair, they don’t have a problem with that while I certainly do. We have different world visions, and they often tell me that I shouldn’t claim that my world vision is more Christian then theirs.
But it is.
Jesus’ ethical teaching is clear and straightforward. Do to others what you would have them do to you (Mt 7:12). That’s a universal command, meaning it applies to all human beings. We should love everyone, even our enemies, and do good to them just as the Father loves and does good to all human beings (Mt 5:43-48). (more…)
Building stuff is very Biblical: Jesus our Lord and Saviour worked as a carpenter, Paul was a tent-maker and the whole people of Israel were commissioned to build cities and villages across Canaan after they had colonized it in a not very pacifist way (I’m really looking forward to Greg Boyd’s book on how to deal with Old Testament violence that’s coming out soon). God realizes that shelter is important, He does not want us to be homeless.
1 Tim 6:8 is often translated as “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that”, and even though Paul’s point clearly is that we should live simply and reject wealth, he isn’t saying that we should be content with homelessness. The word used for “clothing” is in Greek skepasmata, which literally means “coverings”, which can both refer to clothes and shelter. Similarly, the word translated as “food” literally means sustenance.
Historically, the church has indeed built a lot of stuff, but have we really built the right things? As you may know I’m very critical to church buildings, for various reasons that I give in the video above. In Europe where I live, we have hundreds of thousands of church buildings, most of which stand empty at night. We also have four million homeless people, and millions of refugees are expected to seek refuge in our rich subcontinent during the coming years. (more…)
Five years ago I became a vegetarian. I had read about how extremely bad meat is for the climate and global environment: meat and diary production accounts for 1.5% of global GDP but 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the United Nations Environmental Programme recommends a transition to more vegetarian and vegan diets in order to prevent huge environmental disasters. I also knew that producing meat requires much more resources than it takes to produce other foods – instead of eating crops ourselves we have to give it to animals for several years and then eat them – and since God had called me to live simply and help the poor by fighting global hunger, it was easy for me to become a vegetarian.
I have several Christian brothers and sisters who have made the same decision, but as you probably can tell yourself most Christians are meat-eaters. Which in one way isn’t very strange – even though Adam and Eve were vegans and the prophets tell us about how animals and men will live in peaceful harmony in Heaven, there is no clear-cut command to be a vegetarian in the New Testament. Peter was told to “kill and eat” in Acts 10:13, and Paul says “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” (Rom 14:2) Most vegetarian Christians have heard these Bible verses a few times, I reckon.
I believe that meat-eating Christians are fully correct when they point out that Jesus ate meat and that the apostles didn’t teach that you have to be a vegetarian to be a Christian. However, I would like them to reflect on how much meat Jesus and the apostles eat, how much we eat today and whether meat was the environmental disaster then as it is today. Seriously, in Sweden where I live, most Christians and non-Christians alike eat meat three times a day, all year round. I’ve been to a couple of Christian conferences this summer and boy, it wasn’t easy to be a vegetarian. There was some massive meat-eating going on there.
Many of those who invented and fueled industrialism and capitalism were, or claimed to be, Christians.
Sure, some Muslim oil sheiks and Confucian factory workers have also played their role, but Christians are responsible to a very large extent to the inequality and environmental destruction which this economic system has brought. Now, followers of Jesus around the globe need to step up against the biggest beast that global mass consumption has birthed: climate change.
Climate change – isn’t it a weird term for a phenomena that may very well kill hundreds of thousands of people, ruin cuties and destroy whole countries? It’s like naming a genocide something like “population change” or, as the Guardian’s excellent podcast The biggest story in the world pointed out, calling a bomb an “unexpected delivery”. Human emissions of greenhouse gases is, according to 97% of scientists researching the matter, destroying the system and will eventually crush civilisation. What we’ve created is Creation Destruction.
The sad thing is that while this catastrophe is caused primarily by rich people, most of those that will get hurt from it are poor. This is often called “climate injustice”. What our hyper-consumption has caused harms not just polar bears, but human beings living in poverty. To stop this, we need to act quickly.
American prosperity pastor Creflo Dollar wants 65 million dollars so that he can buy one of the most luxurious private jets there is: the Gulfstream G650. Dollar asks 200 000 people to give “at least” 300 dollars each so that he can buy this thing without wasting his own money, but thankfully this has caused a lot of criticism from other charismatics. J Lee Grady at Charisma Magazine writes:
The Bible calls us to be good stewards of God’s resources. Private aircraft cost an exorbitant amount of money compared to commercial flights because the owners must provide service and upkeep on the vehicles. If a preacher insists on renting a private jet, the cost to fly from Fort Lauderdale to New York would be in the ballpark of $59,000, compared to a $652 ticket on a commercial plane. People who own private jets spend as much as $4 million a year just on maintenance.
You know what could use the 65 million dollars instead? Vanuatu. The oceanic island state has been devastated by tropical cyclone Pam this week. By the grace of God, very few people have died due to warnings and public advice from the government, and a quick humanitarian response. However, over 65000 people are homeless, and countless crops have been destroyed leaving tens of thousands in need of food aid. Tourism, which accounts for 40% of the country’s income, will most likely also be negatively effected (rich people usually want to go to paradises where they can ignore the world’s problems, not find them).
Today is Global Divestment Day, a day when people all around the world pledge to divest out of fossil fuels. Divestment is the opposite of an investment–it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Thousands of churches, schools and local government have pledged to divest out of fossil fuels in order to prevent a climate catastrophy. The campaign writes:
The divestment campaign highlights a conflict that most politicians are reluctant to address. If the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming, most known fossil fuel resources need to stay in the ground. Yet fossil fuel companies not only plan to extract and sell their existing reserves but are exploring ever more sensitive territory to find new ones, thus ruining any chance of securing a safe planet.
Christians and churches – it’s time to become fossil-free! Stop harming God’s creation and the environment for the poor, live simply and sustainably. Sell all what you have, give the money to the poor and whatever energy you use, whatever goods you consume, make sure that the dirty oil- and gas-industry doesn’t get a cent. The horrible effects of climate change may already be irreversable, we must do whatever we can to turn this ark around and steward God’s creation in a sustainable way.
Jobs, growth and enterprise are constantly viewed as something solely positive in the political and economical debate. More jobs are good, less jobs are bad. If a policy may lead to “fewer American/Ukrainian/Indonesian jobs”, it should be rejected. Economic growth must increase as much as possible. As long as an activity is legal and you get paid for it, it’s good and should be supported and celebrated.
The Bible, on the other hand, says that work means “doing something useful” with our hands. The Christian calling to holiness, compassion and altruism doesn’t stop when we’re earning money. On the contrary, if it’s somewhere we should live like Jesus it is at our workplace, where most of us will spend a lot of time and energy.
This is why the early Christians didn’t think that all jobs were good, such as slave trading (1 Tim 1:10), occultism (Rev 22:15) and politicians (Mt 20:25-26). The Apostolic Tradition from the third century named other jobs as well, such as gladiators, prostitutes and soldiers, as unacceptable for Christians. This is basically concluded from what kind of activities the job requires compared to what ethics are Christian called to follow.
However, as Christians try to “do something useful” in our work, we should also take a look at activities that may not be as harmful as for example being a gladiator, but rather, unnecessary. The Bible encourages simplicity and equality and says that we should not be rich, and that means that we should not consume unnecessary stuff but be sufficient with food and clothing (1 Tim 6:8) and give away one shirt of we have two (Lk 3:11). If we should not consume superfluities, we should not produce them as well.
Mammon, the deceptive demon of wealth, has poisoned the church so that rich Christians thrive in luxury and superfluities while the poor starve and suffer. 50 000 people die because of poverty every day, while 20% of the world’s population consume 80% of the world’s resources. The biggest consumption feast of them all is Jesus’ birthday, and this has escalated massively during the last 50 years so that we now here in Sweden spend twice as much money on Christmas shopping than we give in Official Development Aid to developing countries. Then we complain about how we can’t help the homeless or receive immigrants since we’ve ran out of money.
Christians are like boiling frogs who are slowly killing their radical spirit when following the ungodly trends of the world. They are like dead fish, following the dark stream of environmental destruction and idolatrous tradition. And so they eat more meat, buy more expensive presents and spend more time and energy on pointless secular rituals, and while they hate to engage in biblical practices like fasting or street evangelism, they have no problems with putting a pointless tree in their living room or buying video games for their kids. Jesus called us to sell our stuff and give the money to the poor. On Christmas, we use our money to buy stuff to give to the rich.
Yesterday I posted this video, called “Stop Celebrating Christmas“. We have to stop this harmful and ungodly consumption feast that has replaced any decent remembrance of the birth of the Son of God. To modify the traditional Christmas celebration isn’t enough, then we risk to fall back to the old destructive wheel-tracks. No, we need to envision a radically different Christmas celebration, a simple, miraculous, worship-centred celebration. This is what it could look like:
Last weekend, I met some other Christian activists discussing the serious threat of climate change, its effects on the poor and what we should do. We will partake in Act Alliance‘s global climate campaign next year that will urge world leaders meeting at the COP 21 in Paris, December 2015, to finally reach a universal, legally binding agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases, stopping the global warming from reaching more than 2 degrees Celsius. To get some inspiration, we watched an awesome documentary called Disruption, produced by 350.org.
Instead of getting stuck in debates with the skeptics, Disruption simply concludes that the absolute majority of climate scientists agree that this is an enormous threat towards especially the poor and vulnerable. The title refers to “the dangerous environmental tipping points after which the entire climate system could spiral out of control, as well as the need for a mass social movement to disrupt the status quo and business-as-usual approach which is inhibiting the bold actions necessary to protect the planet’s future.” If the current global warming melts the arctic or releases tons of methane in the tundra, climate change may spin out of control. It is urgent to stop this as soon as possible.
Disruption is thankfully not just about the problem, but mainly about the solution. It’s a film by activists for activists, and its main focus is the historic People’s Climate March, the biggest climate manifestation in history. The documentary was released two weeks prior to the actual march, so you may feel a little disappointed after watching it without seeing what is being prepared throughout the film. But fear not, I got the solution: here are some pics from this amazing event that occured on September 21st in New York, Berlin, London, Lagos, Istanbul and many other places:
Kumi Naidoo, international director of Greenpeace, tweeted an article today that caught my attention. Written by David Suzuki at EcoWatch, it discusses climate change deniers and their mutually exclusive arguments. At a recent conference organized by the Heartland Institute, one of the biggest centers for climate change “skepticism” in the United States, the speakers were arguing that climate change isn’t happening, or that it’s happening but that it’s cooling the earth instead of warming it, or that it is warming it but it’s not caused by humans but by the sun, volcanoes or something else, or that it is happening and it is caused by humans but it’s to expensive to do anything about it.
Obviously, these four theories are not compatible with each others, yet they were uttered at the same conference. The only common thread was, according to Bloomberg news, the constant jokes about Al Gore. I wasn’t at the event, but I recognize the pattern from various climate skeptic blogs that I’ve encountered; and I would like to add another thing that I think is almost universal among climate change deniers: conspiracy theories.
When I took a course in climate change at Uppsala University, we watched a British climate change “skeptic” documentary that argued that the earth is indeed warming, but it’s caused by the sun rather than carbon dioxide. It ended with an attempt to explain why most scientists believe in man-made climate change if it’s so obvious that it is caused by the sun, and the answer was – I’m not kidding now – that they are communists. The voice-over explained to us that after Soviet collapsed, Marxists and leftits felt disillusioned in how they now would crush capitalism, and found their escape in the environmental movement and its demand to decrease fossil fuel usage.
My dear friend Andreas Lundström who helped me make my new E-book God vs Inequality also made this video for me. It’s based on this blog post about how Costa Rica is a good example of a country that combines a long life expectancy with a small ecological foot print. Most people are quite happy to live there, and they are managing to do so wighou destroying the environment very much. Also, their GDP per capita is about the same as the gross world product per capita: 13,000 dollars a year. If everybody lived like the average Costa Rican, wealth would be evenly distributed, while if everybody lived like the average American, we would need five planets.
As I have shown people this clip, some have been skeptical. They dig up facts about inequality within Costa Rica, or its horrible sex tourism, or its crima rate, and argue “look Micael, Costa Rica isn’t much of a paradise, is it?” And of course I’m not arguing that it is a sinless state, because such do not exist – the only perfect country is the Kingdom of Heaven. But you can’t get away from the fact that Costa Rica disproves the idea that you need to be rich to have a long happy life, or that it’s impossible to enjoy life without trashing the planet. This is also the case with Kerala in India, a state that combines good health care and education with very low GDP per capita.
The point of the video is that rich countries must get poorer and give away much more of their money to create a fair and sustainable world. Many rich people don’t like this biblical idea because the love for money is a root to all evil (1 Tim 6:10), but Costa Rica show us that low GDP doesn’t mean that you’ll die when your 40 – Costa Rica has a longer life expectancy than the United States! So if you want a fair and sustainable world, live on less than 13 000 dollars a year and give the rest of your money to the poor. God bless you.
My blog series God vs Wealth has been quite popular, partly because it’s a bit controverisal, partly because I think many share my ideas about economic equality. In a world where the richer get richer while the poor are dying, many Christians realize that Jesus was critical towards the rich and modeled something that would both abolish poverty and wealth, since the two are dependent upon each other. I have returned to this topic several times on this blog, and a couple of weeks ago I got the idea that I perhaps should collect these texts in one volume. Today, I can present to you my first e-book ever: God vs Inequality!
You can download the whole book as a PDF right here: God vs Inequality. It contains all ten parts in the God vs Wealth series, as well as its sequal God vs Poverty and several other texts published on this blog like Should Christians Wear “Formal” in Church?, It’s Time for All Christians to Become Vegetarians and Seven Reasons Why Inequality Sucks. Everything is illustrated by some beautiful photos I captured when I was in South Africa last year (or, to be honest, random stuff I’ve taken from Google Images) and put into an amazing layout by my dear friend Andreas Lundström.
Feel free to spread the document on, print it out and copy-and-paste, I claim no copyright. If you want it in iBook-format, which is what Andreas used to create it with, just send me an e-mail to micael.grenholm(a)gmail.com. If you discover some typos or have general comments about the content, feel free to comment below.
As the election to the European Parliament gets closer, I want to highlight some of the biggest European sins that unfortunately are not very present in the political debates.
The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia describes gluttony as “the excessive indulgence in food and drink. The moral deformity discernible in this vice lies in its defiance of the order postulated by reason, which prescribes necessity as the measure of indulgence in eating and drinking.” It is opposite of contentment and fasting. Gluttony is exetremely common in Europe and the rest of the so called Western world, not only in its original food sense but also when it comes to consuming other goods. In fact, consumerism is the defining social end economic order in modern Europe.
Consumerism is caused by the economic envy of Europe which sees endless economic growth as the main political goal, and it is because of this consumerism we see the horrible greedy neo-colonisalism where Europe enslaves poor workers in Asia and Africa. But not only does consumerism oppress poor workers, it also destroys the environment. It becomes increasingly clear that the world’s climate, water, forests, air, flora, fauna and more get polluted and destroyed by sinful humanity. The environment is a broad topic so let me just focus on the main environmental issue of our time: climate change.
I don’t want to spend so much time refusing climate skeptic’s arguments since that has already been done by others – check this website to find good replies to what they say. We have to agree that man-made climate change is a fact, and that it is caused by inequality and injustice. As the video above shows, it is mostly rich countries that has caused climate change due to their industrial pollutions while it is the poor countries that will suffer the most from climate change’s consequences. Climate change is thus not just one of the biggest market failures, but also one of the biggest neo-colonial strikes against the global south. Europe gets rich through pollution and let the poor countries pay the expensive, life-costing bill.
I found this weird clip today where Canadian capitalist Kevin O’Leary says that it’s fantastic that 85 rich folks owns the same amount of money as the 3,5 billion poorest people on earth. Yeah, he literally says that he “applauds it”, because then the poor gets the motivation to become like the extremely rich. The reporter is stunned, she stands in silence and then just says “really?” O’Leary affirms his crazy applause of global inequality and says “don’t tell me that you want to redistribute wealth again, that’s never gonna happen!”
O’Leary’s statement is incredibly stupid on so many levels, but the thing is that many people in the West do agree with him. Many thinks inequality is not so bad. I’ve debunked many of their arguments in Seven Reasons Why Inequality Sucks, but if I am to comment shortly on O’Leary’s line of thought I would just want to say that:
- Firstly, everyone cannot become as rich as the richest one percent simply because there aren’t enough resources – if everyone lived like the avarage American we would need five earths.
- Secondly, poor people often work harder than rich people, so there is no correlation between hard work and wealth – a lot of wealth is inherited either financially or socially.
- Thirdly, economic inequality is contrary to a belief in that all human beings are equal and have equal rights to a descent life – if we truly believe that all people are created in the image of God, we cannot tolerate economic inequality.
As this clip shows, global economic inequality is enormous. 2 % of the world’s population owns half of its resources. The world’s rich countries are taking more money from the poor than vice versa due to unfair trade rules and tax flight. This is contrary to the Biblical vision. Luke 3:11 says that the one who has two of something should share with those who have nothing, 2 Cor 8:13-15 says that the goal of charity is equality, Acts 2 and 4 shows us that the early church practiced economic equality through community of goods. We need global economic equality. But how should we achieve it?