Years ago, we sat next to a father and his two young children-a boy and a girl, both probably between five and eight years old. As the food and beverage cart came by, each time the father would buy a beer; each time his children would beg for food. “We’re hungry, Daddy,” they cried. We were grieved that each time he responded, “We don’t have any money for food.”
Recently, while thinking about how future generations will view us, this incident came to mind. For one, climate change will certainly cause a negative evaluation of our moral priorities in the eyes of our children and grandchildren. It is not, sadly, the only way our unsustainable lifestyle will cause worldwide problems in the future. The growing disparity between rich and poor also staggers toward a global reckoning.
When our way of life hits the wall, Christian churches will certainly have to answer some challenging questions. Some are already raised on a regular basis: more and more, we are asked why we have so little to say about climate change. But, hidden in this question is a deeper challenge that speaks about our behaviour before the present crisis. We are not only faced with issues regarding our present inertia-we must face our complicity in the creation of this system.
We did not challenge a way of life that was never morally sustainable. The churches all but abandoned any ongoing moral evaluation of people’s economic priorities, at both personal and societal levels. Greed became good and the church became silent. In the face of such idolatry, we lost more than our moral voice-we began to forget the mandates of our basic Christian discipleship. The care of the earth, the most basic of biblical mandates, has all but disappeared.
For many years, we have eagerly and earnestly sought ways to make our churches attractive to people.
We have, at the same time, left people to make their own moral choices. As a result, we have not spoken to one of the most critical moral issues of our time: an unsustainable way of life that condemns the poor and threatens our children. Even Adam Smith, father of modern economics, said that the unseen hand of capitalism could not function in a moral vacuum. Today, a livable future for the world cries for a spiritual revolution that will provide a moral framework for a just and open society.