Green Paul: How to wage against sin

I ran across this cartoon the other day which gets right to the heart of the debate:

Stiver Prius cartoon

Humans and churches have a habit of getting all fired up about the “cause de jour.”  These days that includes the environment. We talk in SAINTLY TERMS about saving the environment, and being good stewards of creation, but let’s be honest: what motivates MOST change is not altruism. It’s the fear of pain, loss, even death that usually motivates people. Prius sales are going up not because they are cool eco-friendlier cars, but because gas prices are rising. (Maybe some day ugly cars will be cool, but this is America for now).

Worldwide Fact:  When something gets expensive, people tend to use LESS of it, or figure out ways to conserve it.  This is why Hilary and McCain’s Federal Gas Rebate stump pledge is RIDICULOUS. Making it cheaper will just mean people will use more of it. Not very environmentally sound of them.  

Reality Check: Yes, gas prices are hard on working people, but is carpooling such a bad idea?  Higher energy prices are here to stay. For 90% of Americans, it simply means less money to spend on expensive cell phones, ipods, and eating out.  Time to stop the whining and start changing our wasteful habits.

Thomas Friedman is one of my favorite columnists, and perhaps one of the finest global thinkers of our generation.  He’s a bit of a contrarian too, which suits me fine.  For years he has been advocating making gasoline MORE expensive to GOAD consumers and car makers into more efficient behaviors. He continues to talk about it and it’s well worth reading pretty much everything he writes.   

The Apostle Paul would agree.

He wrote in Romans that “the wages of sin is death.”  God has designed a world that assumes we need NEGATIVE consequences to curb our bad behaviors. 

So how can we use Paul’s “wages of sin” principle to help the church get “greener” ?  

… We do it by programming some “negative consequences” into our schedule and habits. We hit ourselves  where it hurts AND where we can save money, AND where the change will be HIGHLY VISIBLE so that it might also inspire others.

Example #1
What if we turned off our air-conditioning on Sunday morning? What would be “the consequences” ?

  • People might dress lighter in the summer.
  • Services might shorten up a bit (never a bad thing)
  • Might serve lemonade during worship (that would be friendly!)
  • People might think of ways to turn down/up at home.

Too crazy for you? … what is you simply instituted and “AC FREE JUNE.”

Example #2
What if we CLOSED the church during the heat of the day each summer?

  • The office staff might actually go out and visit people (in their air-conditioned homes)
  • We might find that summer office hours are a ridiculous expense anyway, and staff can work from home for two months out of the year, half the day.
  • We might plan more evening events/hours

Example #3

What is we instituted a “February is Carpool for Jesus Month” as part of our Lenten Practice

“Give up driving half empty for Lent.”

  • Imagine the ACTUAL FELLOWSHIP that would rise up from members actually having to contact each other, go to each other’s homes in order to get to church!  And imagine the degree to which it would encourage ATTENDANCE because people were calling each other to ask for a ride to something.  A new kind of “Global Warming” could be the side effect 😉

(And I’m going to put the youth group at the front door of the church with a donation box. It costs you $5 to drive up with fewer than 3 people in your car. )

My point: Like Friedman and Paul note, we need to APPLY SOME PAIN to make some gains.

And the odd thing is, “some pain” might actually be quite fun. Lemonade in the pews = TASTY.

Just scratching the surface here. Your ideas welcome….

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