Acoustic smog

A little while back I bought The Green Bible. For me it was a small step towards environmental sustainability, but I must admit that I haven’t started a garden yet, although I’ve wanted to. And sometimes I don’t recycle, even though I know I should. I do, however, possess a deep-seated conviction that followers of Jesus should do these things. But I’m afraid that too few Christians care enough to try.

I was flipping through the channels the other night and came across a news report out of Boston. Before seeing this report, I was aware of problems like global warming, acid rain, and deforestation, but I had never heard of “acoustic smog.” But apparently it’s a thing.

As I listened in, I learned that the movement of boats and barges in and out of Boston Harbor has increased to such a degree that whales are struggling to communicate with each other; therefore, it’s becoming harder and harder for them to find food, friends, and even mates. As if that’s not bad enough, countless whales are being struck by boats and killed on the spot.

Is this not a form of injustice?

In a very real way these boats represent the global-industrial complex that has us all disoriented, not just whales. An awful shadow has been cast across the landscape of our fragile planet, and I’m convinced, more than ever, that the church must take seriously its responsibility to care for and tend to the earth.

Unfortunately I’ve never heard anyone talk about creation care in Sunday school, much less heard a sermon about it. Maybe I’m in the minority, but this is sad because until we talk about our planet’s fragility as much as we talk about its beauty we can’t expect people to develop more hospitable habits. But people change, and with the season of Lent approaching I can’t think of any better time to reflect, both personally and collectively, on our intimate connection to the dirt.

I can already hear it. Can you? “Remember, from dust you were created and to dust you shall return.” With these words ringing in our ears and with ashes on our foreheads, let us take some time this Lenten season to think about the land we occupy and all that’s sustained by it.

As humans, we are inextricably linked to the earth—we are interconnected. For this reason, it’s impossible for us to stand outside of nature, as if we are not affected by its exploitation. The health of our environment has significant ramifications for us in terms of human health, both physical and spiritual. The effects on our physical health are obvious, yet we possess little to no awareness that our pyschospiritual development is also connected to nature.

In order to become more fully human, we need nature. It draws us outside of ourselves and reminds us we are small, fragile and dependent, and it teaches us that rugged individualism is not the highest ideal.

It grows us.

We are embedded in a vast cosmos. We are connected. Acknowledging these truths is the first step towards sustainability, but we cannot stop there. We must also our address our patterns of consumption.

Our delicate planet is suffering as a result of our insatiable desire for more. For too long we have treated the planet like a slave and demanded it provide for our every want. But we can only mine so much coal, petroleum and natural gas before there’s none left to mine. And at the rate where cutting down trees and harvesting fish, I’m beginning to wonder if there will be any left in 100 years.

As Christians we can’t afford to forget our role as stewards. The earth and all that is in it is under our care, so we must carefully think about how we are using and consuming the world’s resources. Is our way of life defined by simplicity or extravagance? Would we define ourselves as more of a consumer or a steward? These are important questions, and they have everything to do with the gospel.

One of the most well-known Bible verses is John 3:16, and it says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God loves the world. The work of reconciliation and redemption that began with Jesus and continues to this day is not limited to humans but includes all of creation. In other words, the work of God is expansive and inclusive. And we are invited to participate in it.

We must be careful not to misunderstand the gospel. The Good News is not about escaping this world but participating with God in its restoration.

The reality is whales aren’t the only one’s suffering from “acoustic smog.” Our lives are so full of noise that we struggle to hear the voice of God, and we forget that it’s not enough to buy The Green Bible. We must also take time to engage in the sacred work of caring for creation. And doing so begins today, with a few simple steps.

Recycle. Carpool. Take more walks. Plant a tree. Start a garden. Go to the farmer’s market. Play in the dirt. Simplify your life. Breathe deeply. And “Remember, from dust you were created and to dust you shall return.”


Chris Robertson

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Chris is the Minister of Students and Outreach at Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, GA.

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