Muskrats and the Practice of Restraint

A little over a decade ago, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada published a short booklet that outlined a biblical case for environmental stewardship or “earth-keeping.” At the heart of the document was this observation: “We stand . . . at a watershed in human history: we are no longer at the mercy of the seasons, yet our continued drive for mastery may lead to disastrous environmental consequences.” This assessment is hard to refute, yet even years later the way forward is fraught. 

A few weeks ago, just beyond the edge of our neighborhood, an excavator crawled off a low bed trailer and went to work. The big machine was equipped with a brush-clearing attachment. Over the span of a couple of days, the operator worked his way around the retention pond, munching through small deciduous trees and mowing down the cattails. The excavator’s twin steel tracks left deep ruts in the wet ground. The work blocked off the path we use for our daily walks. Nevertheless, my family and I watched anxiously to see what would be left. [the rest of this column for Mennonite Creation Care Network is available through this link]

Are Christian Becoming Greener?

Is Christianity becoming a more environmentally sensitive faith? In 2016, a scholar named Bron Taylor, along with colleagues Gretel Van Wieren and Bernard Daley Zaleha, published a paper in the journal, Conservation Biology suggesting there is no evidence that the world’s religions are becoming greener. Earlier this year, a Nigerian scholar named George Nche published a paper that surveyed more than 100 empirical studies and came to a similar conclusion. There is scant, if any, empirical evidence to suggest that religions in general, or Christianity specifically, are becoming greener. Continue reading “Are Christian Becoming Greener?”

To Buy or Not to Buy? This is Not the Question

I’ve long been convinced that one of the most significant things we do is spend (or not spend) money. What we buy is an expression of what we value. It’s a direct vote in the ongoing referendum on the type of economy we want.  These last six months have made this clearer to me. Years ago I remember being scandalized when a national leader (a president or something) urged everyone to respond to a crisis by going out and buying stuff. I still think the advice was misplaced, but I am now a little more sympathetic. Continue reading “To Buy or Not to Buy? This is Not the Question”

Christianity and Conspiracy Theories

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they often have some element of truth, if not an element of factual truth, then a story that bears some resemblance to the structure of things. The other problem with conspiracy theories is that what counts as a conspiracy theory depends on where one stands. Certain liberals see the world controlled by international corporations. Certain conservatives see the world controlled by shadow states. Certain religious folks see the devil’s behind everything. Some of each see the end of the world as we know it just around the corner. Each sees their understanding as the one based in the facts, based in reality. Each labels the other view a conspiracy theory, a mental creation spawned from wishful thinking and bad movies. Continue reading “Christianity and Conspiracy Theories”

Nature has Been My Ballast

The last few months have brought storms and strange currents to the people and organizations to which I’m tethered. My spirit has fallen, risen, and fallen again. My legs have ached, not from training for the marathon I was hoping to run, but from sitting too long in my makeshift office, an old table in a corner of the basement. There, a roaring water heater and furnace drown out virtual meetings.

The thud of my kids’ feet on the floor above is rolling thunder. The dog steals their erasers or hats. They give chase. In the din and swirl, I read notes from quarantined congregants, contemplate layoffs and lead prayers. The ship has stayed afloat. Its ballast has been rocks and trees, sun and cloud. Continue reading “Nature has Been My Ballast”

Should Nature Have Rights? Exploring a Provocative Question

Here’s a piece I wrote some time ago “in partial fulfillment of the requirements” of a course I was taking. If you’re hoping for some spiritual or theological reflections from me, this will not scratch that itch. While I do think the question of whether or not nature should be granted “rights”  is of theological and pastoral significance, that isn’t the lens I’m using here. I’m posting this piece as an invitation to reflect on what I think is a provocative and important question. (I’ve removed the footnotes below, not to avoid attribution but to make it a bit less tempting to borrow.)  Continue reading “Should Nature Have Rights? Exploring a Provocative Question”

Viral Theology #10 – Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion at Home

Some time ago a friend explained to me that he had baptized his children at home. This was in the context of an Anglican church, so it wasn’t the baptism of children that was the surprising part. The surprising part was the ‘at-home’ part. I forget exactly why the family chose to do this—it had something to do with work schedules, children not behaving well in public, and a general frustration with the ‘institutional’ church. A parent baptizing a child at home was (and still is) welcomed by some churches in extreme situations, but in our own situation it’s helpful to think a bit about why carrying out practices like baptism or Communion at home is not generally a good idea. Continue reading “Viral Theology #10 – Why We Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion at Home”

Viral Theology #9 – An Asceticism for the Masses?

Many religious traditions have ascetic streams. The ascetic take on life is essentially that we need to deliberately give up things that appear to be satisfying in order to contribute to a flourishing world and find a deeper sense of satisfaction. Continue reading “Viral Theology #9 – An Asceticism for the Masses?”

Unity and Diversity – Thoughts for a Church Newsletter Some Months Ago

‘Unity’ and ‘diversity’ can simply be words to us—vague values we hope somebody else puts into practice. Or these words can represent the pain of separation or forced uniformity. They can represent actual people and communities and the everyday struggle for connection. Diversity is natural enough. Pairing it with unity is the hard part, and it seems to me that unity is either hard or it is dangerous.

Continue reading “Unity and Diversity – Thoughts for a Church Newsletter Some Months Ago”

Viral Theology #8 Preventing Every Death We Can?

Let me be clear, I think social distancing is the right strategy. I don’t think churches should be flouting the rules. It’s important to keep the number of infections at a manageable level. However, something about this situation caught my attention today. A Canadian public health official said this, “We cannot prevent every death, but we must prevent every death we can.” This is odd . . . or worse. Continue reading “Viral Theology #8 Preventing Every Death We Can?”