The Common Good

The Gulf Oil Spill as Seen from Africa

I'm in Kenya with a group of about 150 emerging leaders from across East and South Africa. A brilliant and diverse group of clergy, social activists, aid workers, and others have come together to discuss the relation between Christian faith and care for the environment.

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I can hardly speak as I write these words. I've spent all day in conversations about the environment with people who live and work in slums where you literally walk on human excrement ... in cities where the factories pour untreated waste into streams ... in villages along lakes whose waters would qualify as untreated sewage ... in slums that reek with the stench of mountains of garbage. For people here, global climate change isn't a theory: they can see the desert spreading year by year, and they're coping with the unrest and migration that happens when formerly fertile lands become dry and hard.

Today a man told me that he had never before thought of "the environment" as a sacred thing. He said, "Up until today, whenever I saw a bird, my only thought was whether I could eat it. But from today forward, I will look at the bird, want to know its name, and see it as one of God's miraculous creatures."

I was just listening to a young Congolese man who has created the first recycling center in his region. He employs 15 people to recycle garbage. He's turning a dirty way of life into a beautiful way of life.

Meanwhile, when I've snuck a few minutes online, I'm reading about the spread of the oil slick in the Gulf. Our problems differ, but perhaps they're the same: we've been living a dirty way of life. I'm sure the solution is the same: we need to see this world as God's sacred work of art, and we need to come together, from a small Ugandan village to the hallways of Washington to the Gulf of Mexico, joining with God to care for the precious world, the only one we have.

Brian McLarenBrian McLaren is an author and speaker whose new book is A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith.

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