I was going to tell you about our family’s mini camping expedition, but that’s set on one side for a moment – other things are occupying my mind.
THREE STRANDS OF CONCERN fill my consciousness as I watch the world and its ways.
THE FIRST is how we treat the Earth – our mother, our home, on which we utterly depend for every breath and morsel of food, for all our wellbeing. The Earth is the beloved gift of our Father God and belongs to him. God loves the Earth and all he has made, he calls it good. The Earth is alive. Everything of Earth – even the still, silent parts like the rock and the dust – is alive. It is ensouled. God has a covenant with all creation upon Earth – and that means the whole being of the Earth in all its forms is spiritual, first of all because God raised it all into being and God is spirit, second because God could not enter into a covenant with anything less than spiritual (it would be meaningless, like a human marrying a cardboard box).
We are accountable to God for how we cherish, love, respect the living Earth. Even if we weren’t, to desecrate and despoil it would be madness – where else is there for us to go?
Consumerism and growth economics are the problem here.
The fracking, the oil pipelines, the dirty energy, the cutting down of the forests for profit, the dangerous nuclear power stations, the proliferation of plastics – these are evils. I am implicated, I participate in them, but I recognise that they are evils, and it is my responsibility to try to disentangle myself from them. I cannot see a way to do so immediately and simply, but I can at least make a beginning. It can be a process and a direction even it is not a finished accomplishment.
THE SECOND strand of concern is political corruption. Those of you reading outside the UK may be unaware of the recent political turbulence in our Labour Party – but it has been, and continues to be, shameful. The machinations and underhand strategems, the disloyalty and destructive self-ambition have been overt. People have been disenfranchised in tens of thousands, while those who held power have used it for no good democratic purpose.
The self-serving activities of our politicians is no news, of course. My own MP, committed to climbing the greasy pole of power, has used the government departments with which she has been entrusted, not to serve the common good but as material to advance her own career.
David Cameron and George Osborne during their time in office likewise ran the country as a business – the land as a commodity, the people as a labour force, the owners and shareholders themselves and their cronies. To them, these islands were a mine from which they extracted what they could in the time they had.
Our present administration sees the whole purpose of life as being to get as much as you can for yourself regardless of the cost to others and to the living Earth. They see the Earth as there only for extraction, for milking, for sucking out every ‘resource’, every consumable and saleable commodity. They see other people as allies or competitors – and as scarcity deepens, only as competitors in the end. Those they see as allies are not friends – there is no loyalty in the matter; an ‘ally’ is, for them, someone who serves their interests at the present time. A rung to step on.
This outlook is ungodly and evil; which is to say, it is inherently incapable of resulting in social wellbeing or human blessing. It is rotten.
THE THIRD strand of concern is violence. The systematized murder of black people in America. The UK collusion with Saudi bombing in the Yemen. George Osborne chortling as the bombers went off to blast poor, beleaguered Aleppo: ‘Britain’s got its mojo back.’ The plans to build a wall enclosing the refugees at Calais. The savage income cuts to poor and disabled people. The cruel indifference to refugees. The mountain of money made every year from the sale of weapons. The culling of badgers and clubbing of fox cubs, the shooting of birds for sport. The intensive farms and terrible abbatoirs, factories of terror. The subjugation of women by men, rape as a tool of war, as a punishment, as an accepted way of life. The assassinations and interventions to destabilize human communities with the intent to capitalize from that instability. Beheadings and shootings and the right to bear arms – the whole vile racket of war.
Violence is the scourge and shame of the human race. Violence in all its forms debases and diminishes us. This depravity does not rest with individual perpetrators, it is like a terrible infection, spreading through the whole community – to every single one of us colluding knowingly or unwittingly, and our children and our children’s children. We are all dragged in to this loathsome, disgusting trade. War is never glorious, war has no honor, no triumph. It is a show of pitiable weakness, it has no strength in it at all. Peace is strength, kindness is strength, compassion is strength – to lift the fallen, to bear the cost, to exercise restraint, to comfort and heal and uphold, to protect and shelter the vulnerable; these are the signs of human strength.
AND THESE THREE STRANDS – they are not separate, they are tightly braided together. And so systemic, ubiquitous, rooted are they, that I am fixed, trapped, fast-bound by this tight mesh of merciless human savagery. That in which I take refuge also takes refuge in me. It’s like the plastics that disperse into the earth, the sea, then the fish, the plants, then are taken up again to reside in our own flesh. I have taken refuge in the consumerist selfishness of the murderous West; so now it has taken refuge in me. I am implicated.
I know the power of prayer. I know the seeds of violence and of peace start small in the impulses of the human spirit. I know the remarkable power of one small weed breaking through the tarmac, the power of one – one purse, one voice, one life. I know the power of starlight, of a candle lit at midnight. So I have to try. I have to do my best.
Meditating on these things, I felt that the way in is to gradually diminish violence in my own life. In my faith tradition (Christianity), fasting has always been known as a powerful form of prayer. I know that food products of animal source are inherently violent – whether the slaughter of animals to eat, the pulling of fish from the sea, the mass gassing of day-old male chicks in service of the egg industry, the taking of a calf from its mother so we can have all the milk. There is violence shot through it all. I personally have tried and failed to follow a vegan way – my body does not flourish on a vegan diet. But I thought, I can fast. I can abstain from much of it. I can eat just a small amount of meat or eggs or fish from sources I trust. I can live a fasting life, eating mostly plant-based food. And steer clear of the mischievous crops – the palm oil, the soya.
Beyond that, I can dress myself in second-hand clothes to diminish the pressure of consumerism and waste. Anything I am finished with, I can pass on responsibly, sending the least possible to landfill. I can earth-closet, I can solar-power, I can compost. I can shop where the vegetables are not encased in plastic and where the human rights of employees are respected. I can live frugally and send what money I can spare to help the refugees and the people trapped in war zones. I can do my best to raise consciousness, to speak of these things, to increase awareness. I can speak up for the Muslim, the minority person, the cause of peace, even where it is seen as trouble-making and finds disfavour. I can live small and simply, live mindfully and intentionally, practice kindness and gentleness, and share. I can take responsibility for myself. I can vote. And that way of living will be my prayer – for the Earth and the people of Earth.
I’m not really sure what else I can do.
It seems to me that the days of the beast are with us. The great pains of childbirth, the prolonged and painful labour for the birth of the new creation. May God give us the wisdom we need, the patience, and the faithfulness.