What Hasn’t Changed

Don’t get me wrong. The recently-concluded season of American presidential politics—the longest and costliest in the history of the universe—was a much-needed time of introspection for the American people. After eight years of constitutional degradation, unnecessary warfare, and the erosion of America’s reputation abroad, we’ve needed a period of internal dialogue, and there’s clear evidence that the great national soul search was beneficial for us. In Barack Obama we’ve chosen a thoughtful, intellectually curious, articulate, and inspirational leader at a time when even mediocrity would feel refreshing. Historians will forever remember this election because after 219 years of electing white men to the Presidency, we have elected a man with an African father, and we put two women within spitting distance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So three cheers for introspection; but unchecked introspection can turn to narcissism, and the last thing our world needs is a narcissistic America so self-satisfied, so pleased with the transformation in Washington, that it ignores what has not changed around the planet.
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Back to Business: Desmond Tutu on Climate Change and Poverty

I saw this video and felt a singular weight of conviction: now that the election is over its time to talk less about Joe the Plumber from Ohio and more about José the campesino from Honduras; less about middle class tax breaks and more about breaking the cycles of war, poverty and disease in Africa.

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Tesla and the Electric Future of Green

This column also ran on UPI’s Religon and Spirituality Forum.

Like a lot of Americans, my interest in presidential politics has bordered on obsession in recent weeks. I’ve been spending an indecent amount of time trolling the web for evidence that Barack Obama’s campaign will be reinvigorated by an infusion of moxie or that Sarah Palin actually thought the Bush Doctrine practiced bush medicine.

I love politics and the soap opera that is unfolding in the battle for electoral votes, but Sunday morning I got a reprieve from my political fixation, a touch of grace that came in the form of what certainly must be the most beautiful green car that anyone has imagined since Ian Fleming wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Continue reading

Religion and Global Warming: A Wager

This column also ran on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum.

Sometime this fall, HarperCollins’ imprint, HarperOne, will be releasing a “Green Bible,” in which all of the scriptural passages that speak to the Christian responsibility to care for creation will be printed in green letters. Also bound between the eco-friendly covers of this Bible will be several essays and a couple of poems by great Christian thinkers such as St. Francis, Desmond Tutu, and Wendell Berry.

Last week HarperOne interviewed me for a short video that will be used as part of its advance publicity for the Green Bible.  During the interview I had to answer questions about the connection between faith and environmentalism, and for the most part, I think I gave responses worthy of my being the pastor of one of the most intentionally and publicly green Presbyterian congregations in the United States (and perhaps the world).

On one question, however, I think I stumbled: “why,” the interviewer asked, “should Christians care about global warming?” For an answer I sort of mumbled through what I hoped would make for a good sound byte, something about global warming being an issue in which care for the earth and care for humanity intersect. It’s not a bad answer, but my thoughts about global warming are a little more complex than the answer I gave. Continue reading

Farm Bill On My Mind

This column ran as the featured commentary on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on August 6, 2007.
I wish the farm bill had a bigger place in the Great American Discourse.

Every five years, our elected leaders in Washington have the opportunity to set the policies that apportion federal subsidies given to America’s farmers, and when the farm bill comes up for renewal it is a great opportunity to ask some very basic, very important questions.

How do we want to eat? What kind of food do we want to feed America’s poor children who take advantage of the school breakfast and lunch programs that are underwritten by the federal farm bill? Which farmers and what kind of farming should derive the greatest benefit from federal financial aid? Continue reading

Patriotism’s True Color, or Green: the New Red White and Blue

This column was the UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum’s featured commentary on July 2, 2007.


Both my country and my grandfather were born on the fourth of July, and while only a handful of Americans this week will remember the birth of William Mullenger of Crawford County, Iowa, his lasting legacy of service to his country is worth mentioning as a nation prepares itself for the great manifestations of patriotic celebration that, for the next few days will mark American life from sea to shining sea.

My grandfather was a patriot. He served his country in uniform during the First World War—mostly digging graves for his brothers in arms who succumbed to the flu’ pandemic of 1917—but a fuller expression of the love for his country was my grandfather’s dedication to the five hundred acres of farmland he inherited from his father and worked his entire life. Continue reading

Creativity and a World Without Oil

I was raised behind the Redwood Curtain on California’s Mendocino Coast. It is a beautiful bit of creation, tucked there on the edge of the continent, an extraordinary meeting of land and sea, a place of tall cliffs, rocky beaches, wind, and fog.

It’s a hard place to reach by car, and car is the only way to get there. The nearest freeways are more than an hour inland by curvy, two-lane mountain roads that wend their way through vineyards, orchards, and redwood forest. Growing up I had friends who never left the coast without suffering violent bouts of carsickness.

It is difficult to imagine that a place as remote has my childhood home would have any connection to the recent violence in the Middle East, but the Mendocino Coast is a place where huge oil reserves lie beneath the ocean floor. Oil companies have long coveted the offshore oil reserves, and given the ongoing violence in the Middle East as the United States continues its quest to secure its foreign oil supply, many folks are looking at the oil buried off the Mendocino Coast with renewed interest driven by the hope that Americans might one day have an oil supply that needn’t be defended with violence.

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