Choose life, choose joy in enough

Ruth Jarman shares her talk to the Green Christian event On the Road Together in Earley, looking at the climate crisis and the choices before us.

Bible reading: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

I gave a secular talk recently encouraging people to join the civil resistance group, Just Stop Oil. I ended with verse 19: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

I believe this passage is speaking to us now at this time of existential crisis. To each one of us. To the church. To humanity.

I’m not the only one who sees this point of decision. Christiana Figueres, who led the negotiations to the historic Paris Agreement on climate change wrote a book called The Future we Choose.

This July, Antonio Guterres, head of the UN, who has got to be one of the best briefed people in the world, said this: “Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires. No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction… We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”

And look at the earth. Over 40C last month. Autumn in August. China running out of water. The horn of Africa in terrible drought. Pakistan 50C in May. Birds falling out of the sky. Now flooded. The injustice of this should make us fall to our knees: Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of global warming gases and yet they are reaping the climate damage that we in the West have sown.

The 22nd of September is Loss & Damage Day – a day to stand in solidarity with those suffering from climate breakdown and to call on rich countries and big polluters to pay up for the Loss and Damage that they/we continue to knowingly cause.

This Deuteronomy reading also explains to me why we are in this mess. I believe we are made to worship. And we in the developed world, are for the most part worshipping the wrong thing. Look at verse 17 (NRSV): “But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them…

We do not hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

I believe we have been led astray to bow down and serve the economy. That our desire for God and the things of God has been replaced, corrupted, by a desire for what fuels the economic system in which we live. For money, possessions, the next bigger, better car, house, foreign holiday. We know what the Lord requires of us – justice, mercy and to walk humbly. Our economic system requires pretty much the complete opposite. This is the god we have been led astray to serve.

The way our economy is set up it must grow to survive. Unfortunately, God created a world of constant diameter. Either the economy is wrong or God miscalculated. Either this type of economy or abundant life on earth will have to go. This is the choice we are making now.

And look at what we are sacrificing on the altar of economic growth. Not just a million species, millions, probably billions, of human lives, forests, our own childrens’ future. But also the joy of living a life aligned with God’s kingdom. Finding joy in creation, community. Joy in Enough.

So how, in this fallen world, do we choose life? The writer of Deuteronomy lays it all out for us: “by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances.”

How do we do this, living as we do in this fossil-fueled economy hell-bent on destroying all the best bits of God’s creation?

For me, I find a lot of joy in finding ways to refuse to serve the economy, to resist Business As Usual. There are many wonderful ways to do this. And by refusing to serve the economy, by refusing a high carbon lifestyle, we are also obeying the first commandment, to love God and love our neighbour.

So we look at our own lifestyles, but more importantly, we seek to transform the society to one that observes Godly principles of care for creation and neighbour. We do this by speaking out against what is wrong and calling for what is right and true. Green Christian supports the campaign for a climate and ecology bill that will make the UK play our full part in averting climate and biodiversity collapse.

Personally, for me, this also means taking part in acts of civil disobedience against the government that is currently planning to licence between 40 to 130 new fossil fuel sites. I will be joining hundreds, maybe thousands, of people this autumn as we resist these plans by trying to disrupt oil supply and government. 

We know where Business As Usual is taking us. Antonio Guterres has said we are “firmly on track towards an unlivable world.” For me, physically standing or sitting in the way of Business As Usual, even to the point of arrest or imprisonment, is a way of ‘choosing life’.

You must find your own way to choose life at this time. You may be surprised by how much more fulfilment and joy you find there.

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