I usually don’t blog two days in a row but a friend passed me a saucy prompt I couldn’t let lie. There was a certain tone of judgment in his phrasing that at once made me feel a titillating combination of indignance and agreement. Nothing gets me going like a passion or interest that is in a time of struggle. Such things may be called my hobby-horse collection. Just let me dust off my soap-box before I get preachy…..
mmm, there we go…
The defendant: “Christians”
The charge: indifference and derision to holistic living.
The judge: Ultimately God, but for now, you.
First let me say that everything I’m about to say springs from my own opinions, theological ideas, and personal experience. So don’t take any of this as ex cathedra and feel free to comment.
Holistic living, as I understand it, is attempting to go about life with an informed mind about the far reaching consequences of your life style and to then moderate your life style to the maximum sustainable benefit of all. This goes beyond recycling and not pouring chemicals in the storm-drain. Holistic living suggests that when you buy a product, especially clothing, you take the time to see how it was made and by whom. With this knowledge you can choose to support businesses that pay laborers a just wage and don’t exploit the environment to make their products. This extends beyond material products to things like foods and restaurants. Where do they get their produce and is that produce coming from a sustainable industry, as well as, how does this business treat their workers, and what agendas do they support? The philosophy here is that all things are connected and there is no such thing as a simple action, but that all actions cause a chain reaction the end of which it behooves one to know. Of course this whole idea hinges in giving a damn about where the ripple effects wash up. And therein lies the rub.
It is very true that some Christians, in my experience these are mostly hardcore fundamentalists, not only don’t care about holistic living but actually deride it. This all comes from a theologically shallow and wanting concept of stewardship which is a bedrock value in Christianity. The theology gleefully embraced by these folks holds to a strange alien abduction concept of heaven and by extension a certain contempt for the world. Logically speaking, if at your death or the end of time, which ever comes first, you will be taken away from this reality and inserted into a better one, why should you care about this present reality. Add on top of that the theological principle that this reality is damaged, corrupted by evil, and will be utterly destroyed by God in the impending judgment. The end result is not only that this world doesn’t matter but that it deserves as little regard as possible and exists only to be exploited to our immediate benefit and then left to God’s wrath. This is a belief of some Christians, but it is a grievous disservice to a great many people to say that this is a Christian belief. It sure isn’t a biblical one.
The belief which I hold as a devout Christian, highly invested in the advancement of orthodox theology, is that this world matters deeply as we will not be teleported to heaven but rather heaven is on its way here. My post on heaven is considerably more extensive than I can go here, but I’ll just say this. Refusing to live in accordance with God’s will for how we are to invest in the heavenly world, while we live on this one is essentially opting out of heaven. Heaven is this world transformed and if you hate this world so much you don’t want to contribute to that transformation or live in it once it’s done, you’re basically saying you’d rather live in hell. God is clear to the point of redundancy about how we are to live holistically in this world and how pissed it makes him when we don’t. When most people think of stewardship in the church they think of being asked to donate money. In one sense this is true in that money is the one earthly thing people are most tightfisted with and as such it is one of the most beneficial spiritual exercises to learn to let go of it and trust God’s providence. But I digress. Stewardship in the biblical sense goes way beyond money and mostly concerns how we use the assets we have been given. Most of the stewardship literature in the bible concerns the way we use the land, how we treat the poor, and how we manage debts. If you don’t believe me when I say God beats this subject to death, just read Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In Genesis God makes it very clear that this world is a blessing and a gift and that our occupation as humans is to be its care-takers. Care-taker, not rapist. In fact God promises Israel several times in the three books mentioned above, that if they don’t do justice to the land, he will visit every curse listed in these books upon them until the land has healed. Then he goes on to establish no less stringent obligations on his people to respect one another and Him. It is an interesting note that Israel was exiled to Babylon for the exact number of years they failed to let the land recover between harvests. During their exile the land was not populated by a new civilization but became wild again. Food for thought.
Anyhow, Fundamentalists aside, and if you want a window into their theological bankruptcy you can watch Jesus Camp, other Christians in my experience across the nation are jumping onto the holistic bandwagon in ever increasing numbers. This is not because their consciences have been pricked by the theological principle, sadly. Holistic living is becoming more and more a cultural trend, value, and social expectation. By and large, most Christians are no different from anybody else and follow the cultural currents. As green teaching, broader teaching on stewardship, and social justice has ramped up in the church it has called many Christian minds back to these parts of the bible so long neglected and after the fact consciences have been pricked. Now Christians are championing holistic living on theological grounds more than social, even if that is how the ball got rolling. I firmly count myself as part of this group. I was raised in an apathetic environment when it came to things like sustainability. But once these issues came to my attention my theology saw the discrepancy and I became real serious about it. In just about every Church I’ve been to, even some in Texas, you can find more than just a recycling center with a earth stewardship poster above it, but also fair-trade coffee and classes about our responsibility as ambassadors of Christ to all of creation. Even in the dirty Jers the only place you’ll find a recycle bin is a church. And of all the organizations I’ve heard of raising awareness about injustice in the textile and garments industry it’s the Christian ones that are most radical about it. But of course you have to balance this with the thriving of what we in Seattle call the “great satan,” that is Walmart, whose virulent epicenter is the bible belt.
I will say this in summery. Christians are like most people in that they try and do things the easy way which is why our history of exploitation is no different than any other people group’s. But our theology, a reflection of the people we want to be and try to be, is all about the holiness and goodness of God’s creation, which though damaged by sin is bound not for destruction but healing. Scripture says that we will be held to account for every idle word, so how much more so for the implications of our actions. If we are truly to be a people of justice who live as a light to the world we must take seriously pursuing the health of the world and its creatures. The degree to which we actually live this out is dependent on individual motivation and the pressure of culture more than any teaching or preaching, as unfortunate as that is. I think you will find, if you ask around, that Christians are, on a person by person basis, no more or less holistic than anyone else. After all you have people who consider being holistic an act of worship, and others who just want things cheap and easy no matter the consequences for others.
So I’ll give this one last thought. Logic 101. Christ created the world as a recipient of his abundant love and called it good. The definition of a Christian is one believes Christ to be Lord of all creation and who serves Him to the best of their ability. Ergo a Christian ought to love the same things Christ loves to the best of their ability.