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Our Father's World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation
Edward R Brown
Doorlight Publications, 2006
172 pp., $14.95
Rx for Excess
As our family sits together, eyes closed, we say grace. Today it's Timothy's turn. "God, thank you so much for all we have," he begins in what turns into a typically prolix nine-year-old's prayer. Eventually he is done—"in Jesus' name, Amen"—and I turn the key. We have just filled up our car with gasoline.
There is just one reason we are saying grace at the gas station: a few months ago I read J. Matthew Sleeth's book Serve God, Save the Planet, which very sensibly suggests that if Christians bless God for food, we also ought to bless him for fossil fuels. Those of us who say grace at restaurants know the discomfort one feels bringing a visible expression of religious gratitude into a public place. I can testify that it's stranger still in a gas station, where one becomes aware just how unprayerful the act of pumping gas normally is. Unlike a well-prepared meal, gasoline does not prompt gratitude unbidden. The stuff is smelly, dangerous, and not at all self-evidently good in itself. It is a means to my ends, juice for a momentary sense of power and control. It is surprisingly hard to remember to stop and say thanks before I pull out, a little too quickly, into traffic.
Yet, of course, thanks is due, if not overdue. I can reasonably expect that the food I eat today will be replaced by a fresh crop next season. But the gallon of gas I burn today is gone for good (though it does leave behind 19 pounds of carbon dioxide for the biosphere to absorb). In this fleeting historical moment that will be remembered as the petroleum era, saying grace seems like the least we can do.
Each of these three authors has done a great deal more. Tri Robinson, founding pastor of a megachurch in Boise, Idaho, has shepherded a conservative congregation in the reddest of states toward environmental awareness and responsibility. At the entrance to the church are large recycling bins, part of the church's "Tithe Your Trash" program. Church members shop with reusable shopping bags imprinted ...