March 3, 2007

If Nuts

I think that this statement sums up the human condition fairly well: "if only I could get somebody else to do it for me ..."

When I was in Melbourne, John's wife Rachel did a sort of hands-on discussion about leadership and worry at the last FORGE intensive. She talked about how most leaders tend to be anxious around two sorts of questions: "if only" and "what if". The "if only" questions are regretting those actions - in this case outside of my own control as a leader - that didn't turn out differently. The "what if" statements are doubts about future happenings, in this case also outside of the leader's control. Rachel gave us two walnuts and had us write our two biggest worries on them, one an "if only" nut and the other a "what if" nut. They're our "if nuts" and they sit in my australia memoirs. In my next apartment, they'll likely sit on my desk.

I want to look at the flip side of those anxieties. Mostly leaders worry about the stuff outside of their control, because good leaders already took care of the stuff IN their control. However. Most people fail in this second goal; they spend lots of time trying to get others to take care of stuff for them, so they can go about frolicking around.

I've been trying to figure out what's been bugging me about the many articles I've been reading lately. The ones that I noticed first were, of course, the more liberal articles about the Iraq war or Global Warming. As I pondered, a pattern began to emerge that caught my attention. Mostly, the editorials whine about "well if ONLY this would happen." If only the war in Iraq would go better, if only Bush wasn't an idiot, if only we'd pull the troops out, if only Arab Terrorists were nice people, if only ... Or, if only people would just stop using so much electricity, if only more laws were in place to protect the environment, if only the oil companies didn't rule the world, if only ...
Jerry Falwell, of all people, brought to my attention that Christian environmentalists seem to have an extremist attitude towards things:

"I agree every Christian ought to be an environmentalist of reasonable sort," Falwell said. "We should certainly pick up trash. We ought to beautify the earth as best we can. We ought to keep the streams clean. But we shouldn't be hugging trees and worshipping the creation more than we worship the Creator ..."
Now, I'm not a fan of Jerry Falwell. I think he's an idiot. But even idiots occasionally find a grain of truth amidst their ramblings.

But then I noticed that there were conservatives who did the same thing. Christians tend to do this a lot: "I tithe so that my church will evangelize; I make the money, they do the work." In other words, "I don't want to change the way I do things because that's uncomfortable. Here's some money I have to spare, do my job for me so I'll feel better." Many self-declared environmentalists do it - they give money to organizations to plant trees or protest drilling for oil in Alaska so that they don't have to feel guilty for not changing their lifestyle.
Al Gore is the pinnacle of this - have you heard how much energy his home uses? Likewise, Christians often do this to avoid practicing the harder parts of their faith. In fact scripture DOES say to make disciples of all nations; not a few nations and not by certain people - all of us.

Most people call it "hypocrisy" and nobody thinks of that as a good thing. I'm not saying that it's possible to be free of hypocrisy - everybody fails at practicing their beliefs at one time or another - it's just that those who blatently do it all the time need to wake up and either change what they're saying or change what they're doing.

Or both.


Rob said...

An applicable quote by Chesterton:

"Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice."

I think that fits potentially with what Falwell might have been getting at.

Combine false idols with our general human apathy and you get what you describe.

A. Annie said...

Jerry Falwell is completely wrong.
Tree hugging and creation worship is not at all what global warming is all about.
Global warming is about the consequences of a human-caused massive increase in CO2 in the atmosphere and the steady rise in average earth temperature.
Perceived hypocrisy in others (Al Gore) does not justify our own lack of response. Isn't good stewardship a core Christian value?

Chris said...

Of course it is. I don't mean to say that we shouldn't take care of our planet - to the contrary, I believe the Christian right has neglected this value to a fault, choosing to believe instead that their actions have no consequences. You'll find my critique of this to be fairly scathing, and to that extent, please remember that I know you to be of honorable character, a person who takes care of this planet more than most.

My point was that Falwell said something important, even if it was taken out of context - if we start to worship our planet (not saying we necessarily ARE yet, though some do) before our creator, then we have to re-prioritize.

Yet Falwell is a nut. He insinuates that there's some sort of mass conspiracy about global warming. Something tells me no. He's looking to bolster his own views with false doctrines all the time. It's nothing new.

I'm sorry if it came off like I think we shouldn't take care of our planet. My point is that often the people who try to champion certain causes do so because they feel guilty about something, rather than because they actually believe in it. Gore is definitely the former, and it pisses me off that he tried to turn an important issue into a political advantage. It's one of the reasons I don't like politicians - and yes, BOTH sides do it all the time; the Republicans with their gay-marriage and abortion agendas irritate me almost as much as Gore with his fau-environmentalism. It's not that they care - it's that they want votes.

Chris said...

I read once that technology is now to blame for the plight of the poor. In "Diffusion of Innovations" by Everett Rogers, the capitalist system is seen to be very pro-innovation and so as new innovations come out, those who can afford them buy them (making them the standard) and gradually leave behind those that cannot afford them.

It's funny, but I can't help but wonder; it's so easy to blame technology as the cause, but what about the solution? I think the church is the solution, both here and in the middle east. I think that the it's nice to say the government should take care of the poor, but I also think that it's most often used as a cop-out or an excuse not to give to the poor myself; "oh, the government's doing it from my tax dollars, so I'm REALLY donating". An argument which is bogus, but nonetheless used all the time. It's like saying "my tithe goes towards missionaries so I don't have to be a witness of Jesus in my own community".

shawna said...

James 1:27

I must be on this kick about making people look up their own bible verses :)

Chris said...

James 1:27 - "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Chris said...

It's one thing if you're one of the people trying to make the 'if only' happen, but it's quite another if you're a person who sits back with a proverbial 'if only it were so' and doesn't do a thing about it. It's the latter sort of person who I call a hypocrite.

shawna said...

I suppose my point with that verse was just to confirm what you've been saying...get off your butt and do something. I also like the verse cause its the only place in the bible it talks about what God thinks of "religion" in such a direct manner, because you know what they say -- religion is man made, faith is God made.

A. Annie said...

Re: your "energy" link:
TCPR is hardly a credible unbiased source for information about Al Gore. All the links on their site only link to conservative think tanks such as the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and Manhattan Institute. -Not exactly non-partisan.

The TCPR claims that Gore's mansion consumes 20 times the energy of the average household. Its statistical methods used to determine this are suspect since they include apartments and mobile homes in the average. On average, energy usage in Gore's climate zone is higher than the national average according to the Department of Energy. In that zone Gore's usage is only three (not 20) times the average.

Even if Gore does use more energy, it is worth noting that he purchases the maximum allowable green electricity from his electric company. He is known to have replaced his bulbs with their fluorescent counterparts, and is renovating his house to be outfitted with solar panels.

These are all things that Al advocates for average citizens to do. Al Gore is not running for office. He is not currently a legislator. Where's the political gain?