Friday, April 24, 2009

God's Idea of Going Green

In case you missed the Catholic Exchange article that ran this week, here it is:

Grandpa was a farmer. He had to be the most “green” man I have ever met. If my grandparents couldn’t grow it or raise it, they didn’t eat it. Grandma’s flowers came out of her flower bed. The milk came from the cow. The blackberries and red raspberries were picked from the brambles that grew behind the chicken coop. The scraps went to the dog or the hogs. And Grandpa had perfected the art of crop rotation and organic fertilization.

Maybe that’s why I find today’s version of going green a bit silly. The “green game” counterfeits real stewardship. For example, some Hollywood celebrities and politicians have come up with a new idea. It’s called paying carbon credits. When one takes his private jet for a ride and wastes fuel and spews carbon into the atmosphere, he simply writes a check to some environmentalist group to offset the damage the trip may have caused the environment. He signs a hefty check and purges the guilt.

Some “greenies” say that future generations will have to pay a carbon tax when they give birth, to offset the “footprint” their child will make over the course of a lifetime on planet earth.

Okay, someone needs to say it. The emperor has no clothes.

It seems to me that some environmental elitists have a few things out of whack. First, I think their idea of penance is skewed. If they want to write a check to make society better, I can think of a few charitable venues. The other thing that bothers me is the potential quagmire of focusing on human “footprints.” It seems like the wrong answer to a real problem.

The problem isn’t in having children. In fact, the “greenest” families seem to be large families. The rest of us could learn a few lessons from them. In general, the problem is how we raise our families and whether or not our society still believes that babies are a gift to the world, not taxing on the world.

Today’s buzz words are “go green.” When I was growing up, it was “give a hoot, don’t pollute.”

God has a name for it. He calls it good stewardship.

In a nutshell, use what you have, and use it carefully. Give all that you can, and give it freely. Share your talents, and do it joyfully.

One of my favorite Catholic phrases is to be rightly ordered. I like that. When one is rightly ordered, things will be used and not abused. Babies will be loved and not destroyed. And we will begin to see Jesus in the face of everyone around us. We need to have a rightly ordered approach to going green, and we get there by focusing on being good stewards of what God has given us.

When that happens, we remember that everything is a gift from God. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton got it right when she urged those around her to “live simply that all may simply live.” Now that gives proper depth and purpose to going green! It’s not a slogan. It’s not even a way of life. It’s faith in action.

Fr. Thomas Dubay in his book Happy Are You Poor summarizes the problem very well. “We have had a Niagara of words, a trickle of action” (25). While environmentalists and politicians have many words and even some crazy ideas about how to handle the problems that plague planet earth, they will never have the solution to global poverty and environmental waste unless they factor in the One who made the world. The solution, as Fr. Dubay points out, is a radical readiness to Gospel principles. It means living like the saints. Americans – even American Christians – have great difficulty with this kind of stewardship. Fr. Dubay puts a fine point on it when he writes, “We are not perceived as men on fire. We look too much like everyone else” (73).

We must let our faith infuse every part of our lives. Then, we won’t need a mandate to go green. We’ll simply be good stewards of God’s riches. The earth. Food. Air. And even the gift of children.

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