I don’t exactly expect to read top-notch theological reflections in a GQ magazine while waiting at the dentist office, but to my surprise, Editor-in-Chief Jim Nelson’s editorial, “God is Green”, gave me one very needed spiritual root canal.
He described an initiative by the Pope to offset the Vatican’s carbon emissions by planting trees in Hungary. Nelson quickly found himself both complicit and conflicted:
“I would gladly fly to Budapest tomorrow and Johnny Appleseed the entire countryside if it would let me feel good about keeping the air conditioner on for the rest of my life. But something tells me it won’t — that it isn’t enough, that it’s some sort of fairy tale we’re telling ourselves….The holy act of planting trees–of trying to erase your ‘carbon footprint’–has become the modern equivalent of an indulgence….Why do I have a bad feeling that carbon offsetting is mostly an act of expiation, that we’re offsetting guilt more than carbon?”
He became obsessed with making things right by greening every detail of his life, but soon realizes:
“I resolved to try and redeem myself….for a time I felt renewed, even righteous. But then something swept over me. A kind of global warming class rage. I started calculating my friends’ footprints, my parents’ (the gluttons!), that guy in Accounting’s….I started letting people know, at dinner, that they were tree murderers. Meals grew quieter.”
Is there such thing as green guilt? Absolutely. After going to every length to try and offset his carbon footprint, Nelson ends his article by saying, “The ‘Foot’ still haunts me.” There’s plenty of green guilt to go around because the dilemma is dire. And we North Americans, consuming at a rate that would devastate five planets if the rest of the world’s population tried to match us, are the guiltiest offenders.
Is there such thing as green grace? This seems to be the more illusive question. You wont hear about green grace on the news or in GQ, for green grace is “a gift of God, so that no one can boast.” Green grace is what God is doing about the planet’s dilemma, within us, without us and most often, despite us. When we come to the very end of what we can do for ourselves (including our planet) and are crushed by the Law of “I got to”, Jesus does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, then invites us to freely respond to the Gospel with “I get to”.
Is there hope for the whole cosmos, not simply human souls, in the death and resurrection of Jesus? The cross of Jesus sure doesn’t seem like a very good solution to planetary peril, but we are the ones who have been given the nerve to proclaim: “Jesus Christ has overcome ‘the Foot’. So let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord, one apple seed at a time.”
[Originally posted at: Church of the Beloved – Thank you Ryan!]