Jul 24 2015

Environmental Racism

_DSC6770In recent days we have been reminded on a far too frequent basis that racism continues to be an ugly scar upon the soul of America. Most of the media attention has focused on acts of violence afflicted upon African American and Hispanic individuals. This violence is totally unacceptable and somehow, someway, we have got to find a way to bring it to an end. There is, however, another way racism continues to raise its ugly head and, unfortunately, it is not receiving a lot of public attention. What I am referring to here is environmental racism.

_DSC7438This past week I was in Columbus, Ohio, for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly.  At this assembly Rev. Carol Devine, on behalf of Green Chalice, brought a resolution to the floor that addresses this issue. The proposed resolution noted that “environmental racism is an affliction where communities comprised of predominantly persons of color and/or low-income people are adversely affected by governmental, institutional, or industrial practices or policies that either negatively affect or withhold the benefits of clean air, water, soil, or natural spaces.”  It also revealed “contemporary studies show that it is easy to predict the placement of hazardous waste facilities, the creation of food deserts, and the lack of natural space by looking at the concentration of minority and low-income areas across the country and that since the afflicted communities, primarily those of racial minorities, lack local representation or national protection, these communities are made victims of environmental racism’s various forms, including:  greater probability of exposure to environmental hazards, uneven negative impacts from environmental procedures and policies, targeting and zoning of toxic facilities, segregation of minority workers in hazardous jobs, little access to or insufficient maintenance of natural spaces, and disproportionate access to environmental services.”

_DSC6662Having acknowledged the problem of environmental racism, the resolution went on to remind us that the Bible “refers to the entire cosmos as God’s sacred creation and calls followers of Christ to care for creation and care for neighbors” and that “Jesus preached compassion to all people, and tasked us, his followers, with ministering to and caring for all persons in all communities.” Finally the resolution called on all Disciples’ congregations, organizations, ministries and institutions “to address environmental racism in their communities through research and education, thoughtful engagement and prayerful action;” and to “support national, state or provincial legislation which prevents the further marginalization of people from their community.”  It urged that we “diligently strive to faithfully care for all of God’s creation and work for justice for all of God’s people.”

_DSC7422I’m happy to say that the resolution passed at the General Assembly without dissent. This speaks well of the denomination I happen to call my own. But environmental racism is something all Christians (and everyone else for that matter) ought to be concerned about. This is an injustice that needs to be dealt with just as much as the violence mentioned above. But what can we do? An addendum attached to the resolution in Columbus offered these suggestions. We can take action by 1) researching the pervasiveness of environmental racism in our area; 2) joining creation, racial and economic justice movements; 3) funding and supporting creation, racial and economic justice work in organizations and academic institutions; 4) lobbying state/provincial and federal elected officials for stronger enforcement of environmental standards and petitioning for new legislation designed to address the affliction of affected communities; and 5) supporting and voting for candidates sensitive to and supportive of creation, racial, and economic justice.

May God help us all to combat racism in any and all forms it might appear.  In the words of the prophet Amos, “let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”


(I photographed the two waterfall images while in Ohio last week and the two sunflower pictures this morning at Bluegrass Fish and Wildlife Area near Evansville, IN.)


Mar 4 2015

Reading Scripture Visually

Psalm 1A few months ago my pictures began to be used to illustrate prayers by John Philip Newell on his Facebook page.  The person who puts the images and prayers together does a fantastic job.  There is always something about the image that corresponds to the prayer.  I always look forward to seeing which image is chosen.

Psalm 21Getting to see my photographic work appear with Newell’s prayers inspired me to begin working on a new project.  In January I was invited to participate in a peer group of ministers from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky.  We began by spending three days together at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana.  We will continue to meet together once a month for the next year to year and a half.  Prior to leaving St. Meinrad we committed ourselves to reading through the Book of Psalms together.  We then established a Facebook page for our group and everyone was invited to share reflections on the various psalms we read each day.

Psalm 31On the first day we read Psalm 1.  Verse 3  of this psalm says the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on that law “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.”  When I read this I immediately thought of an image I took several years ago of a tree situated right next to a stream of water.  I located the file of the image and posted it on our Facebook page, along with the verse.  When we moved to Psalm 2 the next day I had another image come to mind so I did the same thing.  A number of weeks later I’m still doing the same thing each day.  I decided it would be a good discipline to examine each day’s psalm and try to connect it to one of the images of Creation I have captured over the years.  Some of the psalms are easy to find images for, others not so much.

I have found that reading the Psalms while searching for pictures to illustrate a verse or two is both challenging and helpful.  It forces me to look at the scriptures in a new way—visually.  I am convinced that reading the scriptures this way can help one find new meaning in the Bible.  It is something anyone can do; you certainly don’t have to be a photographer to approach the Bible this way.  Just use your imagination when you read the scriptures and see where it takes you.  Try to visualize what you are reading.  Perhaps ask yourself what type of image you would use to illustrate what you are reading.

Psalm 11The Book of Psalms is probably the easiest book in the Bible to take this approach but it will work with any book or passage from scripture.  I encourage you to give reading the Bible visually a try.  See if it doesn’t help you and open new doors of understanding for you.  “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)


(I used the first image to illustrate Psalm 1:3, the second image for Psalm 21:13, the third image for Psalm 31:3, and the fourth image for Psalm 11:1.)

Oct 24 2010

Wind and Leaves

Cane Run 877This past Thursday I drove up to the Cane Ridge Meeting House near Paris, Kentucky, for a special prayer service.  In the first few years of the 1800s a major revival broke out there.  This Second Great Awakening was given considerable attention in the recent PBS special, God In America.  The denomination in which I serve, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), arose from what took place at Cane Ridge over two hundred years ago.

I got to Cane Ridge early and walked around the grounds while I waited for the others to get there.  In the back of the building I found a bench facing three or four very colorful trees.  I sat on that bench and began to pray.   Soon a strong wind started to blow and scores of beautiful autumn leaves began to scatter about me.  Instead of letting this be a disturbance to my time of prayer I allowed the wind and leaves to help guide me in my prayer.

Cane Run 898In both the Old and New Testament the words that are used for wind also mean spirit.  In his famous encounter with Nicodemus Jesus drew upon this twin meaning.  He said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  (John 3:6-8)

With the wind blowing and the leaves scattering all about me I asked the Holy Spirit to blow in my life and in the life of my church and denomination.  I prayed that just as the leaves allowed the wind to carry them wherever it wished that we would allow Him to move us or take us wherever we needed to be. 

I truly believe that this was the prayer that God desired to hear from me at Cane Ridge and I am thankful for the guidance I received from elements of God’s Creation to move me in that direction.  Does it surprise me that God used nature to guide my prayer?  Not at all.  No, not at all.


(I took the images above in the Cane Run Lake area after leaving Cane Ridge on Thursday.)

Aug 1 2010

The Alverna Covenant

WA-Mt-Rainier-NP-Paradise-MeadowsA couple of days ago I read a chapter in a book that detailed how many Christians feel that environmental issues are not important.  One reason given is the belief that Christ is coming back soon and will establish a new heaven and a new earth.  As a result, they argue, why waste time and money caring for that which will shortly be replaced?  It was also pointed out that some Christians feel that the material world is evil.  Due to this belief some say the earth doesn’t need saving, we need to be saved from the earth.

I cannot express how frustrating it is to me that many who take the name “Christian” fail to see environmental stewardship as an important aspect of our faith.  Thankfully, not all Christians have such a truncated view of Creation and our role as caretakers.  The denomination to which I belong—the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—encourages its members to affirm “the Alverna Covenant.” It reads as follows.


 *God has created the world with finite resources

*God has given to us the stewardship of the earth

*God has established order through many natural cycles

And it is evident that:

*We are consuming resources at a rate that cannot be maintained

*We are interrupting many natural cycles

*We are irresponsibly modifying the environment through consumption and pollution

*We are populating the earth at a rate that cannot be maintained

As a member of the human family and a follower of Jesus Christ, I hereby covenant that:

*I will change my lifestyle to reduce my contribution to pollution

*I will support recycling efforts

*I will search for sustainable lifestyles

*I will work for public policies which lead to a just and sustainable society

*I will share these concerns with others and urge them to make this Covenant.

Since I support the Alverna Covenant I would like to do what the last line says and encourage you to make this Covenant too.  I realize that there are lots of other things we need to do to be better stewards of God’s Creation but the Alverna Covenant seems to me to be a good place to start.


(The image above was taken at Paradise Meadows in Mount Rainier National Park.  I’ll be heading back there tomorrow.)

Aug 2 2009

The Greening of the Church

IndianapolisThe picture to the right probably doesn’t look much like a nature photo, even though there is green grass, trees, blue skies and beautiful clouds.  Actually, it is a picture I took a couple of days ago from my hotel room in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I have spent the past five days in Indianapolis attending the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). 

You may be wondering why I am writing about this on a site called “Seeing Creation.”  There is a reason.  In Indianapolis I discovered just how committed the Disciples of Christ are to promoting environmental stewardship.  Every Assembly service drew our attention to the beauty and wonder of God’s Creation and to our need to care for it.  Songs were sung celebrating Creation, children’s sermons were presented helping kids better understand our calling to care for the earth, and a resolution was passed calling our churches to respond proactively to climate change.  The Assembly also made several efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of this gathering of some 6,000 people.

One of the workshops offered at the Assembly was called “It Isn’t Easy Being Green.”  The featured speaker was Dr. Matthew Sleeth, author of Serve God Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action.  (I encourage you to check out his website at www.blessedearth.org.)   Dr. Sleeth says “It is right to change our behavior and to start caring for God’s creation.  It is wrong to continue destroying that which belongs to God and to future generations.”  He emphasized the need for the church to do more to care for the earth.

Unfortunately, there have been many over the years who have pointed an accusing finger at Christianity, claiming that we are much to blame for the environmental crisis.  There is no denying that the church has been slow to get involved in “creation care” but there has always been a recognition among some that we have a divine obligation to be good stewards of the earth and that “having dominion over the earth” involves caring for Creation, not destroying it. 

Thankfully, more and more Christians are beginning to realize that the environmental crisis is a moral and spiritual crisis too.  I am grateful to be a part of a denomination that is striving to make a difference and am praying that the “greening of the church” will come sooner rather than later.