Ethics of Energy Story Tour 2012
Faith and Ethics of Energy
In March 2012, we sent our staff on the road to get stories from Christians across the United States who grapple with how energy issues relate to their faith. Here are a few of the stories we heard.
"Energy prices and our need to consume have risen so greatly. I hear of congregations that no longer worship in their sanctuaries in the winter. They go to smaller rooms because they can't pay to heat those lovely historic buildings. Those New England images of the big, tall church with the steeple on the common is threatened because of energy inefficient buildings and lack of good sustainable energy options." Rev. Laura Everett of the Massachusetts Council of Churches
"Part of our mission is stewardship of the land. We have a sacred ground team that believes all God's Creation is sacred. Because of the need for gas, oil, coal, and uranium development - all things Wyoming has to offer - we are vulnerable. State revenue depends on energy development. As a result we have become a sacrifice zone --- a sacrificial lamb for the nation's energy. We are fortunate to have energy resources, but it has sometimes become a curse. Energy development has become perceived as more important than God's irreplaceable Creation." Chesie Lee of the Wyoming Association of Churches
"To me, "energy" and "faith" go hand in hand. It took energy - from a divine source - to originate the creation of this world. It provides energy to me to know that I am related to a creative God who produced all the beauty and interconnected resources in the earth. I am humbled by my own consumption of fossil fuel based energy, which affects this beautiful creation. I believe my call, as a Christian, is highly related to recognizing and reducing my and my family's and my community's consumption of these resources. I am also convinced that our extractive processes for fossil fuels are causing harm to the earth and diverse creatures and human health." Robin Blakeman, Presbyterian minsiter and member of the Environmental Ministry Action Network
"We're really careful right now about teaching our son about careful energy use. When we leave the room, we turn the lights off. We're trying to instill in him the life skills that will serve him and his generation as well as our planet. God created us to be stewards of the Earth. It's part of our faith discipline as well as our faith formation that we practice those things in community and in family." Kathryn Lohre, President, National Council of Churches
"I think back to Psalm 24 - the Earth is the Lord's and all that is in it. So often we treat the Earth as if it is ours to use however. In Kansas, we have a huge agricultural populations, and the importance of maintaining Creation - including through energy stewardship - is especially high." Sean Weston, President, Kansas Ecumenical Ministries
"Mountaintop removal means ... that some communities and land are dispensible in the pursuit of cheap electricity. MTR overlooks external costs of human health and the environment. The land can never be restored to the original state and many people are displaced - never to return home." - Lauren Kemp, Senior Sociology major, Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia
"In the state of Washington, we have a number of (hydroelectric) dams, and some are now being taken down because of the endangered salmon. This is an example of how energy is being generated in a way that does not sustain Creation. The values of common good, sustainability, and stewardship are all part of the energy issue." Alice Woldt, Faith Action Network in Seattle, Washington
"Mountaintop removal means ... that we are turning the 'mountain state' into a 'molehill' state, irrevocably changing what God has created." Rev. Dana Sutton, Campus Minister at Marshall University in West Virginia.
"Energy Issues are Ethical Issues Because... It's all about the Earth we share." ~Michelle Hintel, Marshall University
With campus ministry students at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania as well as Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia, we had conversations about reframing the traditional way we think about the energy cycle: Natural Resources > Extraction > Use > Emissions. We tested out different ways of thinking about the cycle and our part in it. Below are the results of the brainstorm.
Natural Resources vs. God's Creation Reflections: Psalm 24 tells us "The Earth is the Lord's and all that is in it." The term "Natural Resources" can lead us to think of God's Creations as objects, rather than parts of living systems made by a loving, careful Creator. The term "God's Creation" evokes thoughts of relationship, care, and stewardship of that which does not belong to us, but is only for our care and keeping. How would we change our orientation toward energy sources if we thought of things like coal, natural gas, nuclear sources, etc. as integral parts of God's Creation?
Extraction vs. Harvest Reflections: Deuteronomy 8:17-18 says "Do not say to yourself 'My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power..." What is the difference in the power dynamic between the words "extract" and "harvest?" Who is in charge, and who else must be considered when we gather energy?
Use vs. Sharing Reflections: No one wants to feel used, and if we have a relationship with God the Creator and share in the abundance of God's Creation, we cannot use Creation's gifts without considering how to share them at a sustainable rate, in a way that is equitable with other creatures and humanity. Here, we can consider the concept of Sabbath. In the Bible, the Sabbath is not only for people but also for the land. How can our human celebration of the Sabbath be a time when we moderate our energy use to make sure there is enough for all Creation?
Emissions vs. Stewardship Reflections: Ezekiel 34 asks us: "When you drink of clear water, must you muddy the rest with your feet?" Energy is a blessing, but the way we are generating and using energy now creates waste that is harming God's Creation. When we create waste from using energy, we still must figure out how to practice good stewardship.