As Continents Burn


A Semi-Poetic Reflection on the Nature of Reality

Half a world away,
A crisis is unfolding.

 

Some say the crisis has been here a long time,
we are just now noticing.
Some say it is not really a crisis at all.
Others say that how we respond will define humanity for generations.
Still others say it is already too late,
The choices before us are about adaptation and a new normal.

 

Some blame our governments.
Some blame the corporations.
Some blame each other.
Some just wish we would all shut up about and go hang out at the mall.

 

What is this crisis?

 

Some say it is climate change.
Some say it is the economy.
Some say our way of life is under attack.
Some say we must impose our values on others for the sake of “love” and “order”.

 

We all say a lot of things,
But is anybody listening?
Is anybody doing?

 

Australia is burning.
But it could just as easily be the Amazon,
Or the Serengeti,
Or cousin Ed’s house down the road.

 

An entire continent could be lost.
We can’t even agree on what’s happening,
Or how,
Or why.

 

Will reducing waste solve it?
Travelling less, taking public transit more?
Eating less meat, carrying reusable water bottles?
Will recycling and buying local solve it?

 

“Conflict arises at the point of perception vs reality.”
I read that in a book once.
Or at least I got the idea from a book, it is not an exact quote.
The author was talking about personal turmoil.
I think it applies here too.
How we perceive impacts how we interact.
What we value impacts the pieces we choose to ignore.
If we perceive incorrectly and reality disagrees, conflict.

 

Reality always wins in the end.
We can ignore it,
We can try to fight against it,
Objective, scientific, physical reality cannot be willed into non-existence.

 

To be anti-science, is to be anti-reality.
You can question science.
You can continue to collect data and test theories,
but at some point, you are going to have to accept what the results tell you.

 

The crisis we current face is multifaceted.
It is not just about climate change,
or economics,
or values.
It is all these things and none of them at the same time.
It is truly a crisis of perception vs reality.

 

Until we agree on the parameters that define reality,
We will continue to argue about perception.

 

As continents burn.

Quote of the Day – 12/20/2016


Scientists are to science what masons are to cathedrals. Catch any one of them outside the workplace, and you likely find someone leading an ordinary life preoccupied with quotidian tasks and pedestrian thought. Scientists seldom make leaps of the imagination. Most, in fact, never have a truly original idea. Instead, they snuffle their way through masses of data and hypotheses (the latter are educated guesses), sometimes excited but most of the time tranquil and easily distracted by corridor gossip and other entertainments. – E.O. Wilson; The Creation

 

Mercy, Mercy Me, (The Ecology) – Pacifist Lamentations Part 2


Woo ah, mercy mercy me
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east
Woo mercy, mercy me, mercy father
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no [Marvin Gaye, 1971]

earthonfireWhat is the role of mankind upon the earth?

According to Genesis Chapter one, mankind was made in the image of God. That’s all of us as I wrote about last week in the first installment of this series on why I am a pacifist and why I believe pacifism is the true calling of the Christ-Follower.

Continuing from where I left off in the scriptures we read this:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Genesis 1:28]

If we stop there it becomes fairly easy to justify all of the ways in which mankind has been raping and pillaging the earth for the last hundred or so years. This is the mindset that is prevalent among most climate change deniers on the so called “Christian” right and the mindset that has permeated the corporate world, politics and average humans since the 1960s.

When Rachel Carson, an employee of the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, first published her research into the disappearance of certain bird species in the book Silent Spring no one had even heard of Global Warming. That was 1962 but Carson had been studying bird populations in the US Mid-West for over a decade at that point.

The book documented the detrimental effects on the environment, caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation about the safety of their products. Not surprisingly the book drew fierce criticism from corporate America, specifically companies like DOW Chemical and Monsanto. But as a result of Carson’s undaunted pursuit of the truth and meticulous documentation she was eventually credited with starting the debate that resulted in the North America wide banning of DDT and many other similar pesticides.

But the work Rachel Carson started more than 50 years ago is far from done. And the naysayers have been far from silenced.

In 2013 it was widely reported that 97.2 percent of scientists believe that humans are playing a major role in climate change. Another way to say that is that is if you put 100 scientists in a room together, 97 of them would think the remaining 3 are idiots! But if that’s what the experts say then why is it that only 33 percent of people in the general public believe them?

smokestackAs a Christ-follower and a pacifist, I believe that part of the blame lies with our incomplete and misdirected understanding of the creation story from Genesis.  We have been taught that the role of mankind on the earth is to “rule over” and “subdue” our environment. In so doing we have inadvertently and irrevocably changed it. As Marvin Gaye sang so eloquently in 1971, a result of our ruler ship, “things ain’t what they used to be.” And we continually refuse to see the evidence that is right in front of our eyes. We caused this. And if we continue on this path we will continue to cause ever increasingly severe and irrevocable damage to our domain.

But there is another way to look at creation. You don’t even really have to read between the lines or change your interpretation of Genesis 1:28, you just have to keep reading and see what else God says about mankind’s role in creation.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [Genesis 2:15]

Do you see it?

“Take care” of it!

Ruler ship from the perspective of a caretaker is very different from ruler ship from the perspective of a master. If mankind is the master of this world then we have no one to answer to but ourselves and there are no consequences for our actions. Many climate change deniers, when backed into a corner and forced to acknowledge the evidence will use as a last line of defense some variation of the notion that sure maybe there is something going on that we have caused but it will take so long for the ice caps to melt that we won’t be around to see it and future generations will have time to evolved and adapt.

This is not only rude and callus, it’s just wrong on several fronts!

sewingseedsThe fact is there is a master and He is not us. We are merely caretakers of His creation. Caretakers have to take responsibility for their actions, maintain balance and submit to the authority of the master. They have to do their jobs and then hand over the garden to the next generation in as good or better shape than they found it. It’s not ours we don’t have the authority to alter it irrevocably. We are merely caretakers.

As a Christ-follower and a pacifist my role in all of this is to remain conscious and consciences about how I am altering the environment. And make no mistake; I am altering it, that’s unavoidable. I must be aware of the amounts of carbon and methane that I personally cause to be released into the air and do my part to control and mitigate the damage that I do. If I do my job well I can hand over the reins to my replacement, the next generation, without saddling them with an unmanageable problem that I caused.

God created me to rule over His creation, not as the ultimate master but in submission to His will and His design. God created me to be a caretaker for Him. And that is what I believe is the only proper response of a Christ-follower on questions of environmentalism and climate change.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and my Pacifist Lamentations write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or go to Twitter and follow the hashtag #pacifistlaments.  Stay tuned to this space for the next installment of Pacifist Lamentations where I plan to discuss the problem of evil from the perspective of pacifism.

To Thine Own Emotions Be True


One noteworthy study suggests that people who suppress negative emotions tend to leak those emotions later in unexpected ways… Later, however, the people who hid their emotions suffered side effects. Their memory was impaired, and the negative emotions they’d suppressed seemed to color their outlook. – Susan Cain; Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Whether it be in business, or ministry or just everyday life people tend to be uncomfortable with excessive amounts of emotion. We are encouraged from an early age not to laugh too loud, cry or vocalize our anger in public. When we have an emotional outburst, we are too often told to “shake it off”, “suck it up” and “take a breath”.

While this may seem like good advice when emotions could damage relationships I believe in the long run it’s killing us. Well maybe not exactly. Stifling our emotions might not give us cancer but it certainly alters us in ways we cannot immediately see or understand until years later.

The truth is we, as a society, are not comfortable with our emotions. Sure, we collectively rejoice when our team wins the championship and we may shed a tear when the soldiers come home or the police officers are shot but even in those corporate moments of shared joy and grief we are encouraged to move on quickly. Nobody wants to spend time with Debbie Downer and we are equally uncomfortable around the perpetually “up”. It’s as if we have all agreed that our society functions best in a state of quiet, emotionless equilibrium. Whether we admit it or not we all what to be Mr. Spock, from StarTrek.

spock2

I’ll admit I’m not an overly emotional guy. I’m not easily impressed, I don’t get excited about things, I don’t get angry and although I have admitted to crying quite a bit privately I hardly ever cry in public. This works for me. I never feel unsafe expressing my emotions. And because I tend to express them sparingly, on the rare occasions when I do I believe they carry more weight.

I’ll never forget the last time I had a major emotional outburst at work, there was no mistaking that I was angry about the circumstances, my coworkers and the one client involved talked about it for years afterwards, and the situation never repeated itself. In that case I was able to use my emotions to great effect but I also believe that deep down I damaged relationships and hurt myself and my reputation in the process. You see, in that case my anger and frustration had actually been mounting for weeks, had I let it out more slowly over time, like air out of a balloon, I don’t think the situation would have ever escalated to the point in did. And why did I allow my emotions to mount for that long? Because I had been listening to the voices of our society tell me to “shake it off”, “suck it up” and “take a breath.”

Why are we so uncomfortable with emotions? I think it’s partly due to jealousy. When we see an emotional outburst our first response is to join in, misery loves company and so does euphoria, but then we remember we’re not supposed to feel this way for long so we “suck it up” and then look down on the people who don’t or can’t as somehow less evolved that we are.

There’s a bit of neuroscience involve here too. The more we suck it up the more we train our brains how to react and build neuro-pathways that make it easier to react that way the next time. But sooner or later our emotions always find a way out and the balloon pops.

We can’t all be Mr. Spock as much as certain parts of our society lionize his emotionless demeanor. But do you remember the back story of the Vulcan Empire? It seems that the Vulcan people trained themselves to think only in terms of logic because their history was plagued with violence. They had made a conscious effort to evolve and viewed emotions as primitive. Sound familiar?

The fact is, emotions are not primitive. They are what make us who we are and stifling them only makes us less than who we are meant to be. Yes we need to learn appropriate behaviours but that doesn’t mean we need to deny the way we feel about things. It is only by being true to your emotions can you be true to yourself.

 

 

AIDS Care 2014


AIDS_CARE

So every year, starting around Valentine’s Day and ending just before Easter my church puts on a funding drive to send much needed supplies and money to care for AIDS victims in Southern Africa.  Today was the launch Sunday at the regional site I attend.

You can read up on the initiative and some of the specific projects we support here – http://www.themeetinghouse.com/aidscare

As part of today’s teaching we looked at Ephesians 2:19-22

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

As I was listening to this teaching and thinking about ways that I can connect with my fellow Christ-followers living with this unspeakable disease I had an idea.   It came to me in the form of a question.

How much money could I raise for AIDS Care if I gave away all the proceeds from the sale of my book “Meekonomics – Kingdom Economics from a Love Based Mentality” from now until the donation deadline of Mar 23, 2014? 

I talk a lot in the book about the morality of having so much while others have so little.  In fact I devote an entire chapter to it.  Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 8 – The Feeding of the Nine Billion.

Living out of the Love Mentality takes you out of your own head for minute and forces you to see the world as a fallen and damaged place where God’s Perfect economy no longer exists.  When we Love “because he first loved us” it is no longer possible in good conscience to turn away from the letter from that international aid agency.  There is no rationalizing our indifference.

Going back to Genesis we know that God created us in his own image.  That means he not only created you and me but he also created the blind and the lame, and the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus had compassion for and he created the starving children, war lords and corrupt politicians that keep developing nations in the news every day.  He created the Fortune 500 CEOs who control 99% of the world’s wealth and he created the Islamic extremists who tried to kill them on September 11, 2001.

There is no hierarchy in God’s love.  As the world’s population approaches nine billion the only way we can look at it without being morally culpable in the squalor to which most of them are being born is to recognize and act according to the biblical truth that God our father has nine billion children and you and I have nine billion siblings.

In a healthy family, when one member of the family is hurting the rest rally around and help in any way they can.  No one looks upon a rich brother who gives half his wealth to a down on their luck sibling as foolish that’s just what you do for family.  We are all family and the boogie man of income redistribution is just what you do for family. [Meekonomics – Kingdom Economics from a Love Based Mentality]

So here’s the deal.  According to The Meeting House AIDS Care challenge, $100 buys one AIDS Care card which will go to purchase much needed medical supplies and training for care givers in Southern Africa.  The net proceeds from one copy of my book on Kingdom Economics is $7.55.  You do the math.  I think that with all the hundreds of followers on this blog, through WordPress, Facebook and Twitter we can purchase at least a few of these cards and save the lives of a few of our brothers and sisters living with this horrible disease.

So spread the word! – Here’s the link on last time. https://www.createspace.com/4289032

Book Cover

PS – This book is in draft form so don’t get too picky about some of the grammatical errors, I’m working on an edited version but that might not be ready for a few months yet.  In the mean time, people are dying don’t wait for version 2.0 to save a life.

Atheist Delusions


I love a good theological or political debate.  Arguably (or should I say debatably) that’s what this blog and my whole purpose for writing is all about. 

Now I’m no theologian, politician or even economist and I can accept when I may not have all the answers.  That’s why I love the process of debate, when done well everyone learns something and we all come away better informed, even if we can’t agree.

That being said, I can’t stand atheists.  Not because I think they are wrong but because, for the most part they suck at debating.

In my experience atheists fall back to one intractable position, that of “prove it and I will believe” or “I will believe nothing without empirical evidence”.  And to be honest that is an unassailable position so long as you can prove your own position using the same set of criteria. But atheists can’t do that, instead they will invariably respond with something along the line of “I can’t prove God doesn’t exist because I can’t prove a negative,” which is essentially saying that you can’t prove your own position and for the purposes of that kind of debate an admission of defeat. 

Now of course, I’m going to get comments on this, lots of them saying that I can’t prove my position either and that’s true so really the Atheist versus Theist debate from a scientific point of view at least is dead in the water.   

And that’s why I can’t stand atheists – they turn the debate into something it isn’t. 

You see the debate isn’t about provable science, it never has been.  Indeed most of what we call “science” today would never have developed had it not been for the work of many devout theists.   No the debate is about philosophy and “science” or what we can prove physically has absolutely nothing to do with philosophy.   

Unless and until atheists recognize that their position is actually a philosophy and not a provable scientific fact then the debate is a non-starter and I’m not interested.

Greed, Hubris and Downright Nasty @#$%


So this morning, like every other morning I got up and scrolled through my twitter and facebook pages to see what’s going on the world.  As you can well imagine the internet is full of some pretty interesting stuff, some if it uplifting, most of it fairly innocuous but today one thing jumped off the screen at me as downright nasty. 

That was the story that author and marketing guru Seth Godin published today on the birthday of Thomas Midgeley.  You can read Seth’s take on the man here – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ but here are the cliff notes. 

Thomas Midgeley was the chemist who discovered that if you add lead to gasoline it makes your car engine run quieter.  Psychologically if a car engine is quiet people assume that it is efficient.  Midgeley knew that wasn’t really the case, he also knew that even brief exposure to lead vapor could lead to lead poisoning and he knew that to really get the results people wanted the best way would be to add grain alcohol to gasoline instead. 

Midgeley’s bosses knew that grain alcohol is expensive and lead is cheap.  And the rest, as they say, is history…

If that was the end of the story we could forgive Midgeley for his role in what, to this day has amounted to countless deaths and billions of dollars in environmental damage.  We could put him in the same category as hundreds of other scientists who made discoveries that seemed like a good idea at the time but ended up having unfortunate and unintended consequences.  We could call him a brilliant man who’s genius was exploited by greedy business men.  But unfortunately, for history and the legacy of an undoubtedly brilliant scientist the story doesn’t end there. 

You see Midgeley not only allowed his discovery to be used by deceptive and greedy business men, he actively participated in it.  At a press conference designed to show the safety of the stuff he sniffed and washed his hands in leaded gasoline, even though he knew the risks and as a result ended up contracting lead poisoning himself.  Shortly after that press conference he had to take six months off of work to recover! 

Greed can make people do stupid things!  Blinded by greed people tend to; deny the truth, distort the facts, take unnecessary risks and force unsafe products and practices on people who don’t know any better, even if they won’t use the product themselves.  It reminds me of the story I posted here last fall about Canada’s export of Asbestos to developing countries, all the while having banned the product for domestic use over 30 years ago.     

Thomas Midgeley was just one in a long line of scientists and lobbyists who became blinded by greed and are thus complacent in the deaths of millions of people and the destruction of the planet.  It’s time to wake up and stop letting greed overrule good science. 

Remember, if four out of five dentists agree that brushing with fluoride twice a day helps to reduce tooth decay, the fifth one doesn’t know a secret he’s just crazy!  Think about that the next time someone tries to deny global warming or the health risks of smoking cigarettes.

Come and See


The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.  [John 1:43-46]

I don’t consider myself to be a great evangelist.  I tend to shy away from leaders who stand up and proclaim “truth” to the masses and expect them to buy into what they are saying hook line and sinker.  I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that grand proclamations tend to box people in to a particular way of thinking and rarely leave room for any kind of growth in understanding. 

Proclaimers tend to emotionally bond with their current understanding of facts to the point that they can’t accept new revelations.  Pope Gregory the 15th was a proclaimer who got caught by his own arrogance when Galileo conclusively proved that the earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around.  Gregory was so bonded with his own understanding that he had no choice but to condemn Galileo as a heretic, even though he was right.  The Pharisees were proclaimers too when they couldn’t accept that Jesus was performing miracles by the grace of God, instead they decided that he must be using the power of the devil and had no choice but to put him to death. 

Modern day proclaimers aren’t much different.  They are the so called anti-scientific bunch who have a huge political influence and dispute the evidence for Global Warming.  They are the Religious Right who stick to a literal interpretation of scripture even when the obvious contradictions of their understanding force them to live a double life.  Proclaiming one thing on Sunday and living a completely different way on Monday morning.

Fortunately for us there are still a few churches out there that are different and I am happy to be a part of one.  They are the churches that respond like Philip who when faced with a question he could not answer said simply, “Come and See.”

Come and See is an invitation to be part of something bigger. 

You have questions?  So do we.  Rather than wait for a proclamation that you can get behind why not bring your questions with you?  Come and see.  Come and ask your questions in a community that is working things out as we go.    

Come and see.  www.themeetinghouse.com