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How Shall We Then Live


Mark Twain once said: Whiskey is for drinkin’.  Water is for fightin’ over.  I heard about and then read an article the other day about this new fangled word that is cropping up in California:  Subsidence.  Have you heard about this word?  Basically as people drink and use the water from the aquifer under the valley, the land on top collapses because there is nothing holding it up.  The severe drought there has only exacerbated the problem, of course, and now in places the land is collapsing as much as 2 inches per month.  That is a two feet a year.

It’s causing a feedback loop, like if you don’t exercise, you get out of shape, and if you are out of shape the harder it is to exercise, which makes you more out of shape, etc.  Well as the aquifer collapses then there is less room to store water, which means that when it rains or snows, there is nowhere for the water to go, so there is more run off.  The aquifer is shrinking, and the smaller it gets, the quicker it shrinks.

This is big problem in California, one that has been steadily growing over the last 70 or 100 years, but while it is reaching crisis there, the problem of draining aquifers faster than they are being replenished is a problem throughout the US.  Even here in the very wet Northwest, we have seen longer, warmer, drier years.  There have been years about as bad as this year in the past, but climate change is not a problem for the future, it is already broadly impacting people throughout the world.  Looking at this from a biological and anthropological standpoint it is probably the largest single natural change that humans have faced since the ice age.

Now having said that, I do not believe this will destroy all life on the planet or wipe out humanity, but over the next several generations, as always, things are going to change, people will have to adapt, and I believe it is a real question whether our complex, global, society will be sustainable.

But the question is: what are we to do?  How shall we then live?  And I mean specifically the church and Christians.  Do we have a role or a voice in this transformation of society?  There are some that might say no, that the church’s job is the care of souls, and only the care of souls.  

But if the world is heading to a transformation, and if you talk to any young person, this issue is of paramount concern, and the church has nothing to say, why would anyone listen to anything it says.  Is the church selling fire insurance during a flood?  Are we still arguing about who can take communion when an army is invading?  Are we practicing a personal relationship with God, that, no matter how satisfying or important it might be for me, has nothing to do with the person at the coffee shop who just doesn’t have a taste for that sort of thing?  Are we celebrating pastors who teach us to be personally successful when the survival of Social Security is a big question for people under 40?  Perhaps the church is seen by younger people as irrelevant because it has made itself irrelevant.

How shall we then live?  I have some ideas, but I think you should think about this too.  The church should not be trendy, but neither should it be irrelevant.  How do we get our voice back?  And what should it be saying?


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