Sunday, October 03, 2004

"But I Want an Oompah-Loompah Now, Daddy!"

My husband and I recently took a long weekend to go visit my family for the first time since out wedding. We took our pictures to show everyone and spent every day visiting with a different configuration of relatives.

We had dinner at my parents' house one evening with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my grandparents. After dinner my aunt and uncle and I were sitting in the living room, looking at pictures and reading magazines between snippets of conversation. Very relaxed and comfy. I flipped through a National Geographic magazine lying on the table next to me. It was the September 2004 issue, with many articles focusing on the effects of global climate change.

I made a comment about the article I was reading. My aunt, a very conservative evangelical Christian, breezily replied, "Oh, well, I know the Lord's going to be coming back for us before too long anyway, so I'm not worried about it."

I really wish some Christian who holds that attitude could explain to me how they think it is consonant with the teaching of the man who warned, "If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?"* Don't you believe that humanity is to be a steward the earth, to care for it and nurture it not as a toy to use up and toss aside, but as a gift to be cared for and entrusted to God's other children when you are gone?

My aunt doesn't worry about that responsibility, because she feels certain that she's got a "get out of jail free" card--the Rapture! Hey, Jesus is going to come back any day now, and that means she doesn't have to worry about having a good earth to pass on to the next generation! It never occurs to her that for two thousand years Christians have been expecting "the End," and every other generation has been mistaken in their guesses about its timing. She refuses to consider that she also might be wrong, that there might be another generation, or ten, or a hundred, before her Jesus returns with a shiny new earth to play with.

Oh, Christian, explain this to me. Don't you talk a lot about family values and discipline, about responsibility and commitment? I hear a lot of Christians talk about the inadvisability of "handouts;" I hear them warn that people who get things for free tend to take those things for granted and misuse them. But then those Christians turn around and say, without a trace of irony, that it doesn't matter if species are going extinct, the ocean and the air becoming increasingly polluted and the earth struggling, "'cause we're gonna get a new earth any day now, just as soon as Jesus comes back! Hallelujah!"

Explain to me how you can say this without feeling like a greedy, spoiled child?

*Matthew 16:11-12