Hello readers, for the next nine weeks I will venture into the intersection between faith and sustainability, shedding light on faith-based organizations putting forward a sustainable agenda, and illuminating areas of religion where sustainability advocates have yet to tread deeply. If nothing else, faith and religion are about fostering a community of compassionate neighbors who understand and gaze in awe on the web of life. The Green Bible, published in 2008, prints those words from the New Revised Standard Version that evoke a deep care for creation in green ink (rather than the more common red ink used for the words of Jesus Christ). Perhaps even more evocative than the colored text are the forward and introductory chapters. The forward, written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, says the following:
“We’re made to live in a delicate network of interdependence, for we are made for complementarity. I have gifts that you don’t have. And you have gifts that I don’t have. Thus we are made different so that we can know our need for one another. And this is a fundamental law of our being” (pg. I-13)
As the world grows increasingly smaller through globalization, technology, and geographic and demographic shifts, these guiding principles as to why the Bible and all documents of faith from other religions must become blueprints for a sustainable society ring loudly. The Green Bible is a bridge from faith passing through individuals and finally to the community as a treatise on empathy and compassion. Without compassion for one’s neighbors, without the recognition that misfortune on one of us is misfortune on all of us, without the deep sensation that community is a system of interlocking parts and not a field of silos…without all of these elements, we cannot be good stewards. Without stewardship, the future is bleak.
Living in Niger for three and a half years as a Peace Corps volunteer, some of my richest conversations revolved around concepts of faith and being in a community with limited resources. While few people in the village of Tonkossare, my post for the first two years, had many material possessions or even enough food to last a season, if one family faced hardship, others pitched in to support. Regular community work parties strengthened the notion that, for whatever larger purpose, we are all here together. Every morning I greeted my villagers with the saying “Mate n’dunya goray.” How is the sitting of the world?”
“Tali kulu si,” No problem… or perhaps, “Tali bobo si no,” no big problems.
In community, the world sits fine. In isolation, the world sits on a two-legged, crooked stool.