Have you ever had a close friend, a trusted friend, who was so out of sync with you and your world view – religion, politics, education – that you wonder just how you could be such good friends? I know you have and I have, too. The relationship actually defies logic. There is no reason that you should have such good rapport. But you do. There is some deep down connection that matters more than all the rest. Thank God for that.
I have such a friend and we had a recent conversation about the oil spill in the Emigrant Creek in Wyoming. I happened to be in a congenial mood and asked what he thought about it. I wasn’t looking for a sparing partner. But that’s what I got.
This is why, he said, that it’s not that big a deal. Compared to other oil spills this is small potatoes. We can’t beat up on the oil company; they are doing their best, they wouldn’t want this to happen either. So we have to expect that these things are going to happen and write it off to probability.
Ok, I wasn’t rushing the field with a Hang up Oil Executives sign while wearing my Greenpeace T-shirt. But immediately positions were staked down, even against imaginary opponents. That’s what is happening today, isn’t it?
Why did my friend, whom I admire so much, rush to defend Big Oil, almost reflexively? It’s because the polarization lines are already neatly drawn. It’s Unbending Environmentalists on the one side and Free-Market Don’t Regulate us Capitalists on the other, right? It’s one or the other. There is nothing inbetween. If you even glance toward the stated objectives of the other you are automatically a traitor.
Before my good friend built a grenade-proof shield around the oil company that owned the hardware that fouled Emigrant Creek he might have asked what I actually thought. And here is what I could have said:
I’m sure the oil company didn’t do this intentionally. At a minimum it’s in their best interests to have good relationships with neighbors who value the creek, even if they didn’t. But I’m guessing that there are plenty of people who want to make money with oil who also love the pristine environment we all enjoy. In the past there have been some bad boy companies that fouled mother nature in inexcusable ways, but we can’t assume everyone does or does anymore.
In other words, just because an accident takes place I’m not automatically going to assume the worst. It could be reckless endangerment, but we’ll wait to see if that’s the case. It could be that we’re all sad about the same thing, that something went wrong.
If that’s the case, let’s clean it up, but more importantly identify the take-away learning. What didn’t work well and what do we need to change. Once we know it let’s correct others like it. And let’s not do it again. If we do, then we’re being naughty and should have our hands slapped with a billion here or billion there. But maybe we won’t do it again.
But here’s the part I never got to tell my friend because he was already doing battle with windmills:
I believe that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. And so anytime I foul the earth I’m disrespecting nature, messing with God’s domain. I have no right to do that. This is not a political statement, it’s a religious one. So, respecting God and God’s handiwork – over which I’m just a temporary steward – I will not intentionally do anything to harm it. If I do I’m remorseful and try to make it right and don’t repeat the offense. And I make it right with anyone or anything I’ve harmed.
It’s so simple. And it’s not a case of us and them, the greens and the greenbacks. It’s everyone saying we’re going to respect it, this planet. We’re going to make money but do it responsibly. We’re not going to do any harm for the sake of profit, we’re just going to seek profit because that makes the economy go ’round.
I have a friend who talks about the spirituality of money. And he talks about keeping a spiritual eye to how we spend it, a spiritual eye to how we save it, and a spiritual eye to how we give it. What he doesn’t talk about, though, is the fourth leg of that table, and that is keeping a spiritual eye to how we make it. Does it do harm? Does it build up? Does it benefit the many? Is it come by honestly?
So my friend and I are going to talk again. But this time I get to lead out. I choose to begin with the words from Genesis, “And the Lord saw that it was good.” And we can go on from there.