First published on April 16, 2007
Every week I enjoy reading Rick Reilly’s column in Sports Illustrated. In the April 9, 2007 issue, Reilly compared Tiger Woods with Roger Federer, arguably the world’s greatest golfer and world’s greatest tennis player. Although Tiger and Roger are friends and have much in common because of their fame, Federer has chosen to keep a low profile and live as normal a life as he can.
Even though Federer made an estimated $28 million last year, he flies commercial airlines. He doesn’t own a yacht or have a full-time coach and stays in the same hotel as the other players. In contrast, Reilly pointed out that when Tiger Woods played a tournament in February in Tucson, he not only rented a house but had all the furniture removed and brought in his own so he could be more comfortable. Federer’s response? “I don’t want to overlive. I don’t need to be too big. It’s got to feel right when you go to bed at night.”
That phrase is not only haunting me, it is convicting me. I don’t want to overlive. It’s especially pertinent because this past Saturday our country experienced the biggest demonstration on climate change in U.S. history. The goal was to send a message to Congress, urging them to enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050. A bill supporting these target figures has already been introduced in the Senate, S. 309: Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act.
Organized by environmental activist, Bill McKibben, Step It Up 2007 sponsored 1,350 events in all fifty states. This included three separate events in Grand Rapids, Michigan, sponsored by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Adopt a Beach Cleanup in Muskegon, and a rally in Centennial Park in Holland. Tonight (Monday), there is a free showing of Al Gore’s environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, at 7:00 p.m. at the Forest Hills Performing Arts Center in Grand Rapids.
I think we’re finally beginning to get it. We can no longer overlive as Americans. Caring for our environment is embedded deep in our Judeo-Christian heritage. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” (Psalm 24:1). God has given us dominion over the earth, not to dominate it, trash it, or despoil it, but to live in harmony and partnership with our world and all of its creatures. The earth is sacred not because of its usefulness to us but because of its inherent value to God.
The politics of global warming is beginning to take hold. People are talking about it in school, at the store, at the Academy Awards, and at local town hall meetings. It’s important for all of us to exert pressure on our government to challenge the incredible resistance to change by oil companies and their lobbyists. Even the Supreme Court rebuked the Bush administration in a case on global warming in regard to carbon dioxide emissions from cars.
Now it’s time for the church to get involved as well. Who better than the church to lead the way and speak about the dangers of overliving and overusing our precious resources? We need to live more simply so that others can simply live – it really is that simple. Americans constitute 4% of the world’s population, but we create 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide. Imagine the potential devastation wrought by global warming in low-lying areas of our world where tens of millions of people live. This is a social justice issue!
Not only do we need to advocate for environmental justice in the political area, but we need to practice it at home and in our churches as well. Did you know that for the third straight year, thousands of Upper Peninsula United Methodists will be participating in an Earth Day hazardous materials clean sweep on Saturday, April 21? This year they are targeting out-of-date and unwanted pharmaceuticals.
- Does your church have a policy limiting the use of paper products?
- Are you using energy saving light bulbs throughout the church? Do you ask people to turn off the lights?
- If you’re thinking of new construction in your churches, are you considering “going green” by building in an environmentally friendly way?
- Would you ever consider buying a hybrid car? Are you conscious of the miles you drive?
- Do you buy locally grown fruits and vegetables?
- Do you recycle at church as well as at home?
- Do you reuse grocery bags?
- Are you practicing conservation by installing water saving devices?
- Are you reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers?
This coming Sunday, April 22, is Earth Sunday. How are you going to celebrate Earth Sunday in worship? There are wonderful resources on the web site of the General Board of Discipleship (www.gbod.org).
We don’t want to overlive. We don’t need to be too big. It’s got to feel right when we go to bed at night. It’s not too late to give up overliving, for we are people of hope. We still have a chance to turn things around.