Monday, July 8, 2013

Is there a message we need to see?

An unspeakable tragedy in Quebec. More reported leaks in oil pipelines. The BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Sudden massive and disastrous flooding in Southern Alberta. They all coincide with the current debate over two major oil-transportation proposals: the Northern Gateway project and the Keystone XL pipeline. (The connection with the flooding in Alberta is that some people have been blaming it -- rightly or wrongly -- on climate change related to oil-sands production in northern Alberta.)

On top of that, this morning's Vancouver Sun carries an article speculating on the possibility of oil being moved by rail as production exceeds pipeline capacity.

Through it all, I'm wondering if God isn't trying to send us a message.

I'm not talking about end-times Doomsday stuff. There's no question that much of the environmental upheaval we're seeing, whether man-made or beyond our control, has already been prophesied as part of God's plan. But rather than look at it as Divine judgment, we should look at these events as a warning from God that we need to "count the cost" when it comes to resource extraction.

It's important, too, to say that I am not suggesting that God wiped out scores of innocent people in Lac-Megantic in order to make a point. It's enough to say that our greed and desire for "oil at any price" is at the root of this tragedy. But the "message" I'm referring to is, we need to take a hard look at the basic concept of resource development and transportation.

In my book, A Very Convenient Truth -- or, Jesus Told Us There'd Be Days Like These, So Stop Worrying About The Planet And Get With His Program!, I point out that Jesus talks of counting the cost of anything we do and I suggest that that cost must include the effect our actions have on God's Creation. In Genesis, it's clear that our primary purpose is to be the caretakers of His Creation, to enjoy it, but also to ensure it's replenished and protected (Genesis 1:26, 2:15).

"... we have to include consideration of the impact we have on Creation as part of all things we do. But when we follow God’s way, this consideration – and the action that goes with it – takes a different form.

"'For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has [enough] to finish lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see [it] begin to mock him, saying, "This man began to build and was not able to finish it."'
-- Luke 14:28-30

"Counting the cost is not just a matter of bricks and mortar and the price of labor, but also the impact on God's creation. Nor is finishing the work (v.30) a matter of getting it to the ribbon-cutting: it’s ensuring that God’s creation remains protected and nurtured. Consider how many projects have become objects of scorn because they wound up damaging creation – damage that often could have been mitigated had someone sat down and counted the cost. 

"Again, though, just as an obsession with profit-and-loss is wrong, so, too, is obsession with environmental impact. It all has to be considered in toto, keeping the Word of God constantly before us.

"God’s will is no mystery: we have sixty-six books to show us what He wants and what He doesn't want. The beauty of His Word is that, if we look hard enough and meditate on it long enough, His Will becomes clear. Is the solution in line with His will, or does it involve compromising for the sake of a short-term goal, no matter how 'good' our intentions or goals may be?

"We also need to have the faith, like Elisha at the waters above Jericho: if it’s His will for us to proceed, He will provide the means to mitigate environmental damage.

"When God tells you to do something, He doesn't tell you to afford it: He tells you to do it.

"Solutions proposed by environmentalists may sound catchy and many of them can be appropriate for the particular circumstances, but we have to be careful not to take them wholesale and simply add “in Jesus' Name”. That's putting lipstick on a pig. We must avoid inward-looking thinking, like undue emphasis on our “carbon footprint” and remember that Jesus teaches us to look outward – and upward – in our thinking.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. -- Matthew 6:33

"What could be simpler and more direct than that?"


Put a different way, we need to ask ourselves how badly we need that oil. How necessary is it to be free from the "dependency on foreign oil" that we keep hearing about? If oil -- or any resource -- is located in a place where it is virtually impossible to extract it without harming God's Creation, should we be trying to get at it at all? Should we not be finding alternatives?

But how would we run our cars, you ask? How would we heat our homes and fuel our industries? What about the jobs and economic activity tied to oil?

In what do we place our faith? Oil or God? The just shall live not by oil but by faith; it's said that in tough financial times, economy trumps ecology; but God trumps all, whether we like it or not.

It feels like God is screaming at us to take a step back and look at Him. I believe that, if we do, He will show us exactly how we're supposed to get at the oil and transport it, if we are supposed to have it at all.* If we're not, I believe we should leave it exactly where it is and trust that He will provide for us.

Sadly, in British Columbia, where so much debate over the oil pipeline and oil-port expansion is going on, the provincial government has been pushing a mantra about "growing the economy and creating jobs to provide for BC's families" -- a platform on which they were elected in May -- and that will likely drown out any discussion of alternatives -- including the God alternative.

*(Elsewhere in the book, I suggest that the relative ease with which oil is found and extracted in Arab countries is part of God's promise to Hagar that her son's seed will always be provided-for -- even though he will be constantly at war with the rest of the world. While the idea of not being dependent on Arab oil seems to be the right thing, it may set one at odds with that plan and promise of God.)

If there was ever a time to "trust in the Lord with all [our hearts] and lean not on [our] own understanding," it is now.

And that's the "message" we need to see.