Politics and the Church – The Politics of God [Part 25]

This week we will look at the subject of the environment.  From the Biblical point of view, mankind was given a planet with an environment to support life and all that was necessary to sustain that life.  According to the Book of Genesis, God created the world and all that is in it in six days…God days, not man days.  Then He declared it to be “very good’. [Gen.1:31].  The Creator rested on the seventh day. [Gen. 2:1-3]  God existed before creation and called the physical world into being from nothing. [Gen.1:1,2; John 1:2,3].  God began organizing a shapeless and barren earth [Gen. 1:2], providing light [1:3-5], and separating land from water [1:6-10].  The creation of plant and animal life followed, including creatures of the sea, air, and land [1:11-25].  Man and woman were created on the sixth day [1:26-28], before the Creator’s Sabbath rest [2:1-3].  The Biblical writer declared that God created the world in orderly fashion as part of a master plan.  The evolution was by no means an accident.  The powerful God who created the world also presides over its destiny.  Man and woman are the crowning achievements of God’s creative work. [Ps. 8:5].  As free moral beings who bear the image of God, they were assigned dominion over the natural world. [Gen. 1:27,28].  They alone among the living creatures of the world are equipped for fellowship with their Creator.  Thus we will take a look at how ‘man’s politics’ and ‘God’s politics’ have interfaced to accept or reject that responsibility.

Before we start we might want to refresh our memory as to exactly what is “politics”?  According to Webster it is “the science and art of government; political methods, tactics, etc.; political opinions; factional scheming for power; principles, organization, and methods of government.  The Bible gave us the basis for our form of government…Exodus 18.  The Bible also warns of the perils of government of man…1 Samuel 10.  Early on, God could see the conflict coming but man in his stubbornness insisted on having his way…not much has changed.

If you’re over forty and grew up in the United States, you probably remember the crying-Indian ad during the 1970’s.  The spot opens with a weathered American Indian man in buckskins paddling a birchbark canoe down the middle of a stream lined with trees.  It is so peaceful, and the man looks serene in his regal Indian way.  Suddenly ominous music comes up in the background.  A piece of trash floats past the bow of the canoe.  It is so out of place, like a cockroach on your piece of cake…repulsive.  Then the camera pulls back.  Behind the Indian is an enormous steel plant, pouring smoke into the sky.  The man pulls his canoe onto the shore, which is covered with beer bottles and food wrappers, and begins to walk.  Soon he is standing by the side of a busy highway…cars roar by.  The narration then begins: “Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country…And some people don’t.”  With that, a man…if you want to call him that…in a speeding white Impala throws a paper sack of half-eaten food from his car window.  It lands at the Indian’s feet and explodes, covering his moccasins with soggy French fries.  The camera, focusing on the Indian’s face, detects a single tear rolling down his cheek.  The ad ends with: “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

America inherited the prettiest natural landscape in the world, and then they went to work trying to spoil it.  Because some people are stupid and greedy, the air is brown and the streams are clogged with trash.  Morons toss their refuse out of car windows.  Wildlife dies. However, it’s fixable.  There’s nothing abstract about the solution to this disaster: Stop being selfish and messy.  Pick up your garbage.  Clean up your country.  It’s a beautiful place and a gift from God.  Don’t wreck it.  When was the last time you heard this subject addressed from the pulpit of your church.  I would think that a gift from God would be a worthy subject.  It’s a national emergency seemingly not worthy of an occasional sermon.

In 2018, the city of Los Angeles counted 55,188 homeless people on the streets, 75 percent of them living in the open air.  Across the city the homeless were passed out on the sidewalks, sleeping on benches, camped out in parks.  They were relieving themselves everywhere.  On skid row, there were a total of nine toilets for the almost two thousand people believed to be sleeping in the area.  Many people just dropped their pants in the street.  Andy Bales, head of the Union Rescue Mission in the neighborhood, told the Guardian that the area was so dirty, it posed a life-threatening health hazard.  “I lost my leg because I got E. coli and staph and strep from the sidewalk because of feces being present,” he said.  A 2012 survey of the neighborhood by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found “piles of feces and/or urine on the sidewalks and the grass areas of the majority of the streets surveyed.”  Storms drains were clogged with human waste.  There were discarded hypodermic needles on almost every block.  A UN monitor visiting Los Angeles found filth “on a scale I hadn’t anticipated.”   Just a few miles away are the affluent of Hollywood who pride themselves on telling others how to live while they solicit donations to help ‘poor starving dogs’.

While Los Angeles is filthy, it is not the ‘winner’.  It is cleaner than San Francisco or New York City.  An NBC news team in the spring of 2018 found garbage strewn over all 153 blocks of downtown SF. On more than 40 blocks there were discarded hypodermic needles.  Close to 100 blocks had piles of human feces.  Those who are familiar with infectious disease says it is much worse than communities in Brazil or Kenya or India.  Unfortunately the filth in New York City has them all beat.  In 2018 the number of estimated homeless on the streets were 76,000.  The Daily News described one abandoned rail bed in the South Bronx, located directly across the street from a school, as blanketed with used hypodermic needles.  They were scattered on the ground like twigs and clumped under trees like piles of leaves.  To a lesser degree such situations are tolerated in dozens of American cities.  One might even wonder what the drug and needle source is?

Strangely, environmentalism as an idea is more popular than ever.  ‘Man’s politics’ seem to have totally consumed this idea.  Some have convinced themselves that they are good stewards of God’s creation.  Just take a walk through Sea Cliff or Presidio Heights or any other affluent neighborhood in San Francisco and ask the first five people you meet if they consider themselves environmentalists?  If only four say ‘yes’ it’s probably because the fifth can’t speak English.  Satan has so convinced much of the elite that they really care about God’s creation that it has become a mandatory trait.  What’s changed is the definition of environmentalism.  The new definition has everything to do with making elites more powerful and self-satisfied.  It has very little to do with improving or sustaining God’s creation.  Modern environmentalists step over piles of garbage and human excrement on their way to pass restrictions meant for us ‘peons’ as they save the planet.

And what sort of guidance do we get from our church pulpits on our responsibilities to God’s environment?  ‘Not the churches’ responsibility’ you say.  If not, then who’s?  Those who have leadership responsibilities in the church have one of the most difficult obligations that can be conceived.  If not,  everyone would be clambering to do it.  ‘Man’s politics’ looks at the “$” possibilities and provides ‘guidance’.  Shouldn’t we as Christians feel an obligation to use what God has given us to best serve mankind?  Do we need guidance?  Look around…I would say “Yes”.  Somehow caring for the planet has become a ‘let someone else do it’ proposition.  That ‘someone’ does it only if there is money to be made.

Before I let emotion on this subject get the best of me, I’ll close for this week but this is not the end of the story.  There is more to come. In the meantime what are we as Christians doing to show God we appreciate His ‘gift’ to us?  Are we too comfortable inside the four walls of our ‘church building’?  There’s a big, dirty world out there.  Might we not spend some of our time cleaning it up and encouraging others to do the same.  God’s ‘church’ can set an example.

– Bob Munsey

“Not being able to do everything is no excuse for not doing everything you can.”   – Ashleigh Brilliant

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