Friday, March 15, 2019

Blind Watchmen: How Did We Miss the Disaster of Suburbia?

Yahweh called Ezekiel to serve as watchman for his people (Ezekiel 3:16-21, 33:1-9). If Ezekiel shouted Yahweh’s warning and they repented, good; if not, bad. If bad without the warning, though, Yahweh would hold Ezekiel responsible.

Since the first Pentecost, Jesus has called Christians and churches to serve as his watchmen for the world. Even now Jesus does for us and through us what Yahweh did for and through Ezekiel. When he tells us repentance is needed to avoid destruction, our responsibility is to relay the message to our companion Christians and churches and, through them, to the world.

Not so long ago, theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) reminded us that Yahweh created Heaven and especially Earth as the perfect context for us humans to enjoy a covenantal relationship of truth, freedom, love, and vitality with him, one another, and the rest of creation (Genesis 1). One important way that creation served as perfect context was to impose limits on us humans. Yahweh gave us dominion over creation, but we rightly exercised this dominion only if we respected the limits imposed by the vitality of creation. We remained in covenantal relationship only if we lived in ways that cared for all species and their habitats.

We humans egregiously trespassed creational limits by rejecting a way of living bound by the limits of daily energy income from the sun. Instead we favored the construction of a Global Technological System (GTS) primarily dependent upon enormous energy savings extracted from the earth. One form given by the GTS to this egregious trespass was suburbia.

In his insightful book, The Long Emergency, author James Howard Kunstler estimates the monetary cost alone of constructing suburbia to be in the tens of trillions of dollars (p. 248) based on the cost of all those roads, vehicles, energy grids, water and sewage lines, networks of communication, houses, stores, strip malls, offices, and schools.

By investing this unprecedented prosperity in Suburbia, we made it the embodiment of our dreams and its perpetuation the bedrock of our well-being.

We did not need to bet our well-being on this egregious break of covenantal relationship with Jesus, one another, and creation. Reading Genesis 1 with minds and hearts open to Jesus would have been enough to avoid doing so. Hearing Barth’s reminder should have helped. Instead, we blindly followed the Olympian gods we adore and sacrificed our future and creation's good to their destructive will.

Even now, Jesus calls us to affirm the difficult truth that all those trillions of dollars, all that enormous energy savings never to be seen again, were squandered. (p. 248). Because we egregiously trespassed creational limits, suburbia has no future. [T]he whole system will not operate without liberal and reliable supplies of cheap oil and natural gas. Suburbia is going to lose its value catastrophically as it loses its utility (p. 248).

May Jesus, even now, grant us the wisdom, strength, courage, and good cheer we need to repent of our blind devotion to false gods and to respond creatively to this encroaching catastrophe.

Copyright © 2019 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.