This is my column for EthicsDaily.com to celebrate Earth Day (April 22, 2013).
Contrary to our personal belief, it appears that money has little effect on happiness. Rather, conspicuous consumption is causing stress on humankind and on nature. It is causing imbalances that amount to injustice.
As we live in this postcolonial world bloated with consumption, we need to have a new perspective on our lives, our planet and our God.
Our road is leading us to destruction. We need to recognize this terrible path we are on, so that we can preserve the wealth of our planet instead of leaving a barren desert for our posterity.
Climatic change deepens the injustice between rich and poor, and without a strong participation of local communities and states throughout the world, climate politics is doomed to fail.
It does not take just one group, but all groups of people to work toward a goal of planetary salvation. Just ways of managing the earth are necessary to work toward just living.
Unjust distribution of resources and goods will lead to unfriendly ways of living on this earth. It leads to overuse of goods, misuse of natural resources, and pollution, which knows no borders.
Faith communities need to act now if eco-justice is to be obtained by all. The partnership is crucial as for many the time is already too late.
The word oikos (Greek for “house”), which is the base of the word ecology, is also the linguistic root for economics and ecumenicity. There is a connection between our domestic economics and our stewardship of the whole earth’s economics.
As we search for just ways of living together, we need to find common ground on laws of economics that can guide us to live sustainably and justly on our earth.
Economics and ecology need to be tied more closely, rather than separated as we have done thus far.
Economics teaches us that sharing natural resources is a basic rule for all inhabitants on this earth to flourish. When one group hoards resources, another group will be unable to flourish.
Ecology is not and should not be a pastime for birdwatchers or “tree huggers.” Rather, it is an urgent discourse that all need to take seriously and engage in because it is about life and all that life encompasses.
Resources need time to be replenished. However, the lifestyle we have adopted does not give enough time for our natural resources to replenish or flourish.
Furthermore, energy sources are running out quickly while demands for energy increase. We must understand the large problem we are creating and learn to exchange our greed for stewardship.
Countries that saw industrialization early (North America and Western Europe) are consuming too much of the world’s resources, and countries that are developing now (South and East Asia, and parts of South America and Africa) are imitating our bad habits.
One concrete mission of the church is to model, endorse and promote life by revering the world and its entire people and by turning back the kind of uncritical exploitation, which arrived with the modern age.
We are created by God and are members of the entire family of God. We need to learn how to cohabit with other creatures and created things to live sustainably.
“To sustain” means fellowship, friendship and caring for others with comfort, protection and sympathy. As we strive for a sustainable life, which seeks the good of all created beings and not just ourselves, we will find ourselves flourishing more deeply than ever before.
Not just humans can flourish. All beings must flourish.
As we reflect theologically on this problem, and as we find ourselves deeply complicit in selfishness, we can rethink our understanding of God, creation and each other, and choose to act justly.
By pursuing a deeper level of engagement with biblical sources – an engagement consciously rejecting the interpretive grid of old, colonial power structures – we can rediscover and begin to live in the power of God’s transforming love.
The gospel unequivocally calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot claim to love God, yet oppress and neglect our neighbor.
Both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures equate pursuing economic justice with knowing and serving God.
And Jesus, whom we are called through the power of God’s Spirit to imitate, self-identified completely with the marginalized and placed serving the poorest of the world at the very heart of knowing God:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these … you did for me (Matthew 25:35, 36, 40).
At their core, selfishness and greed are idolatry, an exaltation of the self that leads to death.
God is the Spirit who has breathed life into all of us. As God gives us life, we can come to understand how the Creator is present in us and in all creation.
Our own recognition of God’s presence will help us work toward restoration and reconciliation with each other and the earth.
It is the Spirit of God who gives abundant life and who can transform our lives so that we can begin to take steps to restore some of the injustices that we have caused on the earth and toward each other.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the MATS program at Moravian Theological Seminary. She is the author of Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit (Palgrave Pivot), The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology (Pilgrim Press).