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I wrote this about a year ago:

I wrote this about 4 ½ years ago now, and find that I am struggling even less successfully to live up to the vision having ecological integrity than I was then. It highlights for me the difficulty of trying to travel against the main-stream of contemporary society when engaged full time with it (studying full time and helping raising a baby rather than working part time). I cannot find the original Evangel article, but I think it was based on this one.

Response to, “Ecojustice and the Diaconate”, Evangel vol ??
Rev. Jason John
June 1999


My article, “Ecojustice and the diaconate” which appeared in a previous Evangel is badly worded in places, leaving it open to misinterpretation.

For example, the first paragraph states that, “In 1997 the rest of creation has dropped off the national and state agendas…” This was intended to mean the agendas of Assembly and Synod meetings, not the work of Assembly and Synod staff. Synod and Assembly staff have continued to prepare a significant number of high quality documents, and dialogued with government and industry on a range of environmental issues since 1991. The article I cited by Ann Wansbrough mentions just some of these. Ann believes that the negative tone of my article is less effective than positive reinforcement of what good things have been achieved by agencies, parishes and individuals with few resources.

Part of the negative, possibly judgmental tone is due to the removal of the section dealing with my own struggles and inadequacies, along with my hopes for the future. If you had read that, or spoke to me, you would realise that the article, and what follows here, doesn’t come from someone proud and perfect, but from someone serious about continuing to change their lives to try to live up to their vision of Christians caring for creation. Hopefully this time Evangel will include my invitation to discussion- you can reach me at skinnypreacher@hotmail.com

My negative tone also, I think, points to a major difference between myself and Ann, and reflected throughout the human community, as to the extent of the environmental crisis and the responses needed to deal with it. I still believe that most people, and most people in the UCA, believe that slow and steady reform; of industry, of government, and of our personal habits, will save us. The implicit assumption is that if we get rid of the worst industrial excesses (like uranium), and individual consumerism (by recycling), and continue to improve things incrementally, we will be able to save the world without life being too disrupted.

I do not believe that reform will save us. Although I have worked against uranium and clear felling, and for Hinchinbrook and recycling, I do not believe that such reforms in the world, in our church, our congregations, or even individuals, will save us. If being involved in a campaign, be it Jabiluka or LandCare makes people think they are doing enough and makes them complacent, then encouraging them may actually be counterproductive, unless it comes with further, frank challenges. It is like congratulating a smoker for reducing from 50 to 49 smokes a day, without pointing out that they are still in big trouble. All it does is make people feel more comfortable and empowered on the bus ride to disaster and oblivion.

What is needed is no less than a total revolution in our levels of consumption, our approach to economics and our view of the world, ourselves, and God. We need to love God (not our things) with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves (including people, ecosystems, species and animals who continue to be exploited to underwrite our affluence). We need to stop saying, “Is the Assembly/Synod/myself willing to do or fund this in order that other people and the environment might not be destroyed?”, and start saying “If we were the other, what would we want the Assembly/Synod/me to do for us?” This applies to our office paper, our energy use, our flying all over the country to Assemblies, our reliance on poison to produce food rather than producing our own where we live, our attractive but energy wasteful buildings, our cars, our convenience, our things, and things, and things.

We need good old fashioned gospel revolution, the sort that got Jesus killed and many after him, for continually pointing to a freedom and life not caught up in consumption, wealth and nationalism. We need to consider the lilies of the field.

How do we get everyone into this revolution before it’s too late? I don’t think we can. It’s already too late. We are going to crash. All around the world, human communities and other ecosystems are already crashing. Most Americans, Australians and some Europeans are towards the back of the bus (having hogged the best seats), and just maybe if we all lean (reform or revolt) really hard we might reduce the brunt of the impact.

Some people are already leaning hard, in their lifestyles and sometimes in their writing and speaking. Hopefully they will be the ones who emerge from the wreckage able to help the crash victims start a new human community. Hopefully it will be the permaculturalists, the organic farmers, the low tech energy producers, the nurses and so on whose voices people follow in the final moments before impact, and not the nationalists and rednecks and bunker mentality survivalists. This is our challenge. If, and only if, we in the Uniting Church make radical changes now, and learn to live on 1/3 or less electricity and material goods, if we start to practice and teach permaculture, if we ask our Christian partners overseas how to live, will we earn a place as leaders now, and in the community to come. When resources run critically low, we must be there, able to shout from the rooftops, with integrity,

“Love your neighbour as yourself”
“Do for others as you would have them do for you”
and, “the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want”.

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Jason is a cynical optimist who works as a deacon and environment officer at the University of Queensland. He lives in Oxley with Carly, his wife, who is studying to be a vet, their dog, chickens, a poor Irish student who lives in their shed, and a constant parade of snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and insects. He worships at Indooroopilly Uniting, and is a new recruit to the Assembly Social Responsibility & Justice Reference Group (July 1999)

NB- I am now somewhat less cynical and more optimistic, but in very (biocentric) different ways. I am now married to Toni, and living in Adelaide where I am trying to finish my PhD in biocentric theology in the Uniting Church before returning to active ministry- see therest of this site for more on that.

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