Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Who Am I?
distributed 1/22/03 - ©2003

The first part of this "Notes" was first distributed on March 30, 2001, with some slight variations is phrasing.

A congregation that is attentive to eco-justice will blend pastoral ministry with activism. That's not a tension between opposites. The personal needs of the folk in the pew have a bearing on how we live in the world, and how well we care for all of God's creation.

The question of self-identity is at the core of many pastoral needs. People wrestle with the question, 'Who am I?' In answering that question, we often label ourselves as parents or children, by our jobs or political parties, by age or race or gender.

As members of the Christian church, though, we claim a distinctive and over-arching identity. Along with our other descriptions, we all proclaim, 'I am a child of God.' To see ourselves as children of God is an essential part of coming to grips with the beliefs and behaviors of a faithful eco-justice perspective. Claiming an identity as a child of God is important in resisting and rejecting other beliefs and behaviors that are damaging to the environment and to just relationships.

What are some of the affirmations that we make when we identify ourselves as children of God?

  • God creates us as unique individuals, with our own gifts and personalities and identities.

  • We are loved and lovable, not only by the God of Love, but by other people. We are called to share and spread God's love in all our relationships. In loving relationships, we see the uniqueness and beauty in others, and we relate to them as equals.

  • Our relationship with God has moral content. We are capable of and prone to sin, both as broken relationships and as inappropriate acts. By God's loving grace, through Jesus Christ we are forgiven. God's grace is not 'cheap' grace. We are held accountable for our lives.

  • We are capable of finding meaning in our lives, especially through relationships and through dedicating our lives to service.

  • God calls us to be stewards of the gifts that have been entrusted to our care -- of money and property, of talents and abilities, of our personal lives, and of creation itself.

  • We are created to live in community and in relationship. No one is complete as an isolated individual.

  • Our lives are part of the flow of history. We are linked to a past, and in the telling of our stories we find God revealed. We look toward a future, and through God we find hope for that future.
In the church, we have a different answer to the question, 'Who am I?' than many in the secular world. Our materialistic, business-oriented society answers the question in ways that are diametrically opposite to the answers of faith. The business world, for example, sees us not as children of God, but as 'consumers.'

From the basis of the 'consumer' perspective, we hear statements that are contrary to our faith:

  • We are not unique individuals, but statistics, good targets for mass-marketing, and eager to be like everyone else.

  • As ourselves, we are unloved and unlovable. We need products and things to make us attractive and lovable.

  • We find our central meaning in things, in property.

  • We have no responsibility to or for anyone; we care only for ourselves, or at most for our families.

  • We exist in and for the present moment; we are distanced from the past, and have no concern for the future.
The secular answers about 'Who am I?' contradict our faith and lead us into shallow lives. If we do not proclaim that we are children of God, we are easily lead into perspectives and behaviors that ignore and exploit other people and to the environment.

In all of our churches, and in all of our lives, let us remember that we are first and foremost children of God.

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The first word is out about the 2003 Environmental Justice Ministries conference of the National Council of Churches and its 23 participating denominations/communions.

"Sustainable Living in a Global World" will be held June 20 - 22 at Seattle University in Seattle, Washington. The publicity says: "How do we live sustainably in a world that is moving towards a single global economy built on free market capitalism and free trade? How can we build a human economy that is sustainable, just, and honors the rest of God's creation? Join us as we examine the spiritual, ethical, and theological implications of living in a global marketplace. Participants will discover a spectrum of individual, congregational, and societal actions that can help create a healthier, more just, more sustainable world."

This biennial gathering of the ecumenical community is open to denominational staff, clergy and lay leaders, theological educators, and anyone interested in learning how the Christian community can take a leadership role in addressing issues of sustainability.

For more information contact Cassandra Carmichael (cassandra@toad.net) or visit the NCC Eco-Justice Working Group website at http://www.webofcreation.org/ncc/workgrp.html

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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Eco-Justice Ministries   *   400 S Williams St, Denver, CO   80209   *   303.715.3873
Home Page: www.eco-justice.org   *   E-mail: ministry@eco-justice.org