The Cross isn’t business as usual

The Cross isn’t business as usual

Sooner or later, as we travel the road of our lives, we come to the point where we have to choose between the new and risky path and “business as usual”. This can be a critical choice. According to poet Robert Frost, choosing the road less travelled can make all the difference.

A recently-published study by the CSIRO tells us that the amount of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has now reached 390 parts per million.

The earth’s atmosphere is continuing to warm and there is no reasonable doubt that this is caused at least in part by human action, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Current measurements tell us that our environment is experiencing change at the upper end of former predictions.

These findings are supported and confirmed by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, as well as by organisations such as the OECD and NASA. Yet to commit to policies that seriously support renewable energy and significantly reduce carbon emissions remains, in the words of Professor Ross Garnaut, a “diabolical” choice when “business as usual” provides, at least for an advantaged part of humanity, abnormal profits and a continuing high standard of living.

When Jesus called Levi from his tax-collecting business (Mark 2:13-17), it was for Levi a choice between “business as usual” and a new and risky path of discipleship. Given Levi’s privileged position as an agent of the Roman Empire, and his no doubt comfortable income especially compared with those around him, this might have seemed for him a diabolical choice too.

There is a cost whichever way we jump. Nevertheless his sacrifice was for the greater good.

Choosing for the greater good — the common good — remains a gospel choice and one which, in climate terms we are not finding easy to make. Even a relatively weak carbon tax is struggling to attract widespread support in Australia and will probably be repealed after the next election; that is, if it survives a threatened High Court challenge.

While this may appear to be a partisan political issue, we all have to face the fact that the implications could well be manifesting themselves already in the way our climate is behaving. A few weeks ago, while on a trip to the Riverina to celebrate the centenary of Methodist/Uniting Church worship in Leeton, I visited the flooded areas of North Wagga, The Rock and Lockhart. At Lockhart I saw firsthand the work that our church is doing in the local community by providing material and emotional support for families whose houses were flooded for the second time in just over a year.

Some families had just moved back in to their recently-renovated homes only to see their new kitchens, carpets and furniture ruined once again.

In one house the whole bathtub had been overturned by the force of the water. Some goods that were raised higher than the level of the last flood were not high enough to escape the rising floodwater.

These people are brave. They understand the cycles of nature and are willing to try again.

What worries me is that it is at least arguable and consistent with mainstream scientific predictions that the natural cycles are being augmented by global warming, making such cyclical weather events more severe.

Their misfortune could well be partly due to the “business as usual” approach that we collectively still seem to be choosing.

In the light of Easter, I wonder what it might mean to us to be called to follow Jesus in such a way that the taking up of our cross, like he did, is in fact a choice for the common good.

The Rev. Dr Brian Brown, Moderator


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