Piglets are crowded in a nursery at Greg Boerboom’s farm in Marshall, Minn. Credit Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times
According to research published in the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings, more than 17,000 deaths a year are attributable to pollution from farms across the United States. Granted, 17,000 casualties seem like a relatively small number when we consider that COVID-19 was attributed to almost 600,000 deaths. 2
However, this is an extremely dangerous argument for justifying the continuation of business as usual. We know that the vast majority of deaths from COVID-19 were preventable. A lack of cooperation and incompetent leadership caused most of the losses from the pandemic.
In The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs, Joel Salatin writes, “Ultimately, one of the biggest human tragedies is succeeding at something God sees as evil.” And this happens a lot with humans. 1
We become very proficient at doing the wrong thing. We discover a mineral that we can use to make more robust tools, so we decide to supersize our tool making. This results in opening massive craters in the earth to extract as much of this mineral as possible. And once the mineral is depleted in one area, we move on, leaving the ground wounded.
We discover that pork tickles our taste buds when cured and smoked. But this requires a time-consuming process. So we improve on what nature has to offer by industrializing the raising, slaughter, and processing of pigs. We add bacon to our cheeseburgers and pizzas, increasing the profits of the wealthy and our waistlines.
Global climate change is as real as the rains that soak the thirsty ground. It’s as real as the winds that tore through homes and businesses in several states this past week. We succeed at going against God’s plan for how we are to care for the earth and for each other — and we reap the consequences.
Yes, my friends who deny climate change is real, storms are as old as the dirt they soak. But the intensity and frequency of devastating storms continue to increase. And this affects every one of us.
Journalist Christopher Flavelle covered a report released by the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent New York Times article. A report kept from public view by the previous administration. 3
In his article, Chris reports that “Climate change is already happening …And in many cases, that change is speeding up.”
Citing the apparent consequences of global warming, he notes that “Wildfires are bigger, and starting earlier in the year. Heatwaves are more frequent. Seas are warmer, and flooding is more common. The air is getting hotter. Even ragweed pollen season is beginning sooner.”
When it comes to caring for God’s creation, humanity’s report card shows a failing grade.
There is hope. According to a Washington Post article, Exxon-Mobile was recently forced to pay attention to the damage inflicted on our planet in search of profits for its shareholders. A similar reckoning took place at Chevron. Major energy companies are being forced to pay attention to the damage their companies do to the environment. 4
And it’s time for food producers to be held accountable for their damage to creation.
Granted the taking care of our planet gets complicated. Balancing how to address the needs of humanity with earth care isn’t easy. And the quest for wealth motivates humans to succeed at something God sees as evil.
I realize that I can’t convince you to stop visiting McDonald’s if you believe that you can’t live without their fries. Perhaps I can appeal to your desire for safety from the storms made more dangerous and destructive by global warming. Environment destruction is caused in significant part by the consequences of our choice of food.
One of the Old Testament practices that we look at as outdated and irrelevant is sacrifice. The idea that God expects us to slaughter an animal and burn it on an altar to show how much we care about what God thinks is definitely primitive.
But the idea of sacrificing our time and money is quite contemporary. Charitable giving continues to be a conversation at tax time for the well-off. And passing offering plates predates the church. Scripture uses the word “tithe” to describe contributions that God expects from each one of us.
Put me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour out on you in abundance all kinds of good things.
In the Book of Malachi’s prophecies, we read about God’s expectations regarding our tithes (see Malachi 3:10). A tithe is each person’s contribution — we each have an obligation to contribute to the well-being of the whole. No one gets a pass who has something to give.
What we give and how much we give is quite personal, however. Think of a tithe as the contribution that God expects from you to assure that God’s plan for creation is carried out. Tithes, for most of us today, consists of money, time, and capabilities.
Tithes are one way that we give credit to God for all that we have. God doesn’t need our money. God wants our affection for creation to show in our sacrifices. In other words, our tithes.
God wants us to try it out — to test what God promised. In other words, try doing what God asked us to do — try living the way God asks us to live — and then see what happens. This means taking care of creation the way God asked us to take care of creation.
And this includes paying attention to where our food comes from and being grateful for each spoonful.
Try paying attention to the carbon cycle that we talked about a couple of weeks ago. Try turning to local farms that don’t use chemicals to grow food. Try eating foods that aren’t processed and enjoying the plants and animals sacrificed so that you can live.
God promised in Malachi that when we live the way God intended us to live, insects will not destroy our crops, and our grapevines will be loaded with grapes. And that our joy will be evident and contagious.
In other words, try living the way God intended us to live — and you will be satisfied.
If you missed our episodes of our series, Living water, you can find the articles under the Worship tab of our website — Messages and Audio Teachings. Our focus is on food. How we grow it, where we get our food, and how we treat creation in the process.
On June 6 we begin a new series titled Coming out. You can find more information elsewhere in the Circuit Rider under the heading Coming up in worship.
We have a new button on the homepage of our website – Click here to watch. This button takes you to a viewer to allow you to join live or watch later in the week. We’re also live on Facebook and our newly launched YouTube channel. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to info@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
1 Most of the content for our series comes from: Joel Salatin. The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation. New York: FaithWords, a Division of Hachette Book Group, 2016.
2 Sarah Kaplan “Air pollution from farms leads to 17,900 U.S. deaths per year, study finds,” © Washington Post, May 10, 2021.
3 Christopher Flavelle “Climate Change Is Making Big Problems Bigger,” © NY Times, May 12, 2021.
4 Steven Mufson “A bad day for Big Oil,” © Washington Post, May 26, 2021.