A couple of days ago, with the BP undersea oil blowout raging, I was watching an episode of "Dharma and Greg", in which Dharma's parents went to Washington to protest outside a senate committee hearing where Greg's father was testifying.
(If you're unfamiliar with the show's premise, Dharma's parents are superannuated, unrepentent hippies who still engage in activism of all sorts -- except the effective kind; Greg's folks are from the monied elite. It's the classic "social clash" love story.)
The senate committee hearing involved offshore oil drilling. I wonder if the syndication company made a snap scheduling decision based on events of the day?
It was good to find something funny in all of this, because looking at the BP situation now, all I can feel is sadness. What's the use of saying, "I told you so" or wondering aloud, as comedian Bill Maher did, whether President Obama was going to "catch s**t" for saying offshore drilling was safe just a couple of weeks before the disaster? After all, if people weren't demanding oil, BP wouldn't be drilling for it, right?
Now, with solution after solution coming up snake-eyes (latest headline: new answer could take weeks), we're faced with the classic scenario of mankind's best technological efforts being unable to keep up with mankind's worst technological disaster.
Einstein said (and I've probably quoted this one elsewhere in this blog or at the Rev. Downtown site, but it bears repeating) that you don't solve problems using the same approach that created the problem in the first place. And here we are, showing in spades how our intellect has become far too sophisticated for the world we live in.
This isn't about oil. This isn't about environmental disaster. To be blunt, we are seeing what happens when we fall away from God. We need oil and its various uses. Even the guy who stood beside Beach Drive in Vancouver last year during one of the Critical Mass bike rides, shouting "no more oil! No more f**king cars!" over and over again, needs oil. (If I thought he had the power of reason, I would have stopped and pointed out all the oil-dependent things he had in his possession.)
Oil is a staple throughout the Bible: the source and maintainer of light and heat, the metaphor for the Holy Spirit itself. But when "need" takes a back seat to "desire", that's when things start going wrong. See, you could argue, "God put the oil in the ground for us to use," and you'd be right. But does that give us license to drill wherever we think there might be oil?
I don't think so, and the First Great Assignment God gave us should be the clue. He told us, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it." (Gen. 1:26 KJV - my italics). Without going into a great long dissection of that passage, I read that to say that we are the managers of His creation; we are entitled to enjoy that creation, so long as we are able to replenish it.
And there's the rub: if we cannot enjoy something without destroying or threatening other parts of Creation, we need to leave it alone.
How does that apply to oil? We need it -- no question. We know that it is possible to drill for oil out of the ground on dry land without doing irreparable harm. That's largely because, if there is a problem, we're in our own element as human beings and can deal with it: we can mitigate, contain, clean up and remediate when there is a problem. But add the complication of being outside our element -- at sea or underwater -- and you can't guarantee the same level of safety.
Here's where we need to bring the Word of God into the conversation. Psalm 127:1 says, "except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." Conversely, if the labor is in vain -- or, in this case, causes unspeakable harm to God's Creation -- it's a pretty safe bet the Lord isn't building that house. We need to ensure the Lord is blessing our activities -- and that doesn't mean making a decision and then asking the Lord to bless it: it means going before Him, seeking His will and committing to follow it.
Another Word is Jesus' reminder about "counting the cost" (Luke 14:28-29). Environmental considerations -- including immediate impact on wildlife and our ability to handle a potential disaster -- have to be part of that cost consideration. If one can't guarantee that, best to leave it alone.
Where does that leave us with offshore oil exploration? I'd say it means leave it alone. It means moderating our demand to suit the oil that's readily obtainable, as opposed to the oil that's in too risky a location. It means reining in our greed.
It also means praying for BP, for their executives, their workers and people who depend on that company -- shareholders and those with pensions tied up in BP shares.
It means going before the Lord and asking Him to forgive us for our own greed and wastefulness, which has landed us in this mess. We are clearly in a situation that is beyond the reach of human intellect to resolve: but as we know -- or should know -- with God, all things are possible. It's the clearest evidence yet of our need to turn to Him: humble ourselves, pray and seek His face (2 Chr. 7:14).
Volcanoes, earthquakes, pandemics (or fears thereof) ... now an undersea oil blowout: I get the feeling that God is standing there, waiting for us to finally get the message, wondering if we've had enough yet.
(Please note: I see that the Google Ads thing has a message from someone in the oil & gas industry -- whatever the message is, I don't endorse or condemn it.)