Choosing life over consumption in a time of crisis

The prophet Joel holds a scroll. Photo: National Library of the Netherlands/Public domain
Published January 1, 2022

Multitudes [upon] multitudes in the valley of decision, for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:14)

Whatever the original context of Joel’s prophecy, our time fits these words like no other. If they aren’t about the time you and I live in, this era will certainly be in first place until the real time comes. We are in a time of global decision-making that, in terms of its height, depth, and breadth, is like no other.

The intimate connection of individual lifestyle and global economic and political practices has been revealed in forceful detail. Yes, there are big actors that enflame this crisis—governments and corporations—but it is very clear that the tolerance that lets such deadly misbehaviour continue arises from our personal captivity to comfort, luxury, and wealth. And this tolerance is not just for what is overwhelming our planet. We have also accepted, with no major protest that I can see, the hideous damage that our present greed-related practices have inflicted on the poor, Indigenous peoples, and on the creatures that share Creation with us.

These things have been underlined for me in the recent overlapping of the COP26 discussions in Scotland with the horrible destruction visited upon British Columbia, especially the damage to its Indigenous peoples. These, taken together, should act as a prophetic guide, not only for our government, but for each and every one of us.

The 26th Conference of Parties, convened to provide a framework to deal with our global climate disruption and injustice, is marked by two stunning simultaneous realities. First, there is virtual consensus about the threat and the need to act. Second, there is an equally obvious indication that our governments are not going to act decisively enough to prevent misery on a scale that is—and this is also known with clarity—beyond any kind of mass horror that we have ever seen. In the face of this, the best the global culture seems to offer is the strange hope that we can somehow consume our way out of the mess that we have consumed our way into.

How these things unfold can be demonstrated more closely at home. We have tolerated the risk that governments and other institutions, including churches, have built into the lives of the poor and, especially, Indigenous peoples. This has been accomplished by our society’s present indifference to Indigenous suffering, which activates the destructive forces built in to Indigenous life over the past two centuries. These forces have been set in place by the stated operating goal of policy towards Indigenous peoples for two centuries: the dismantling of Indigenous families and communities.

Jesus showed us how to make this world and its relations sacred through the ceremony he gave us. This ceremony looks and acts towards his coming again, a time when God “will be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:28) What humanity has done through the global culture of money is the opposite, with the poor bearing the consequence. To make no choice in regard to these realities is an act of violent moral consequences. We must engage in a spiritual revolution, based in Eucharistic discipleship, and move in concert with and activate public policies and practices that will change these things. We must, in a hallowing of the Name of God, choose life.


  • Mark MacDonald

    Mark MacDonald was national Indigenous Anglican bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada from 2007 to 2019, and national Indigenous Anglican archbishop from 2019 to 2022.

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