I brought you into a fertile land
to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
and made my inheritance detestable.
“Therefore I bring charges against you again,”
declares the Lord.
“And I will bring charges against your children’s children.”
Jeremiah 2:7, 2:9
In ancient times, when God’s chosen people were making a mess of things, which they did fairly often, God sent them warnings via the prophets. This was revealed truth, not to be questioned, but to be obeyed. However, the people usually did not obey. After all, these prophets seemed crazy, and they demanded way too much sacrifice. Consequently, the people suffered what they would come to understand as God’s wrath.
Today, we no longer need to rely solely on revealed truth. Using our natural talents and our ability to pass detailed knowledge from generation to generation, we have developed a method for understanding the world around us based on careful, systematic observation. This understanding has deepened over the years through continually building on what came before, by repeatedly questioning the received wisdom, testing it, verifying some ideas, refining others, and discarding those that did not correspond to the world as it actually is. Thus, in the place of revealed truth, we have theories that can be verified or disproven by observing the results of reproducible experiments. In ancient times, people understood the world to be controlled by God: disobey and you will be punished. Our scientific understanding is founded on cause and effect: touch a hot stove and you will get burnt.
This approach to human understanding has proven extremely effective. It has enabled us to transform large areas of the planet to suit our needs and build cities that reach to the sky. Our modern technological civilization stretches around the globe.
Today, scientists observe that the planet, on the whole, is getting warmer. This was predicted decades ago by people whose ideas used to seem rather far fetched. Now, these assertions have been verified by careful examination of what has actually happened since the predictions were first made. The idea is simple and profound. Our civilization has become so ubiquitous that our collective waste is effecting the climate of the entire planet. Glaciers are melting, sea level is rising, and storms are becoming more destructive.
There are times when the gentle correction of a modern Quaker simply will not suffice, times that call for the fierce intensity of the prophets. You don’t have to believe in the wrathful God of the Old Testament for the message revealed through Jeremiah to reverberate in the depths of your soul. And so I repeat his prophecy:
If we continue to trash the planet, there will be a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, and our children’s children will suffer what the ancient Hebrews understood to be the wrath of God.
Of course, all this is in response to the announcement that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. However, like those Biblical warnings of old, this is not just about the behavior of far off kings and princes and presidents. Each of us needs to examine our own actions, because simply by living in this society, we are complicit in the ongoing devastation.
Do you endeavor to live in harmony with nature, avoiding pollution and the destruction of our environment? What are you doing about your use of the world‘s irreplaceable resources?