Wednesday, October 25, 2006
A theology for the 21st century needs to take seriously our context. I am reading Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World by Richard Heinberg.
This is the sequel to his earlier book, The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies. Both are sobering works. I recommend reading his latest book first. He summarizes The Party's Over in the first chapter of Powerdown and offers options for responding to this reality.
His thesis is that we have reached or will reach within the next few years, peak oil. I have discussed this in an earlier post. In Powerdown, he writes that we have four options:
1) Last One Standing: the path of competition for remaining resources. (This appears to be our current administration's plan to control the remaining oil reserves militarily).
2) Powerdown: the path of cooperation, conservation, and sharing. (This would require all nations of the world to name the issue, change drastically our way of living, and work for justice so that all people of Earth may have access to basic needs).
3) Waiting for a Magic Elixir: wishful thinking, false hopes, and denial. (This appears to be the option of most of our population. We think that in the nick of time we will find some magic technological advance to replace fossil fuels and be able to continue our way of life).
4) Building Lifeboats: the path of community solidarity and preservation. (This involves working with our neighbors to sustain small communities (gardens, energy sharing, etc.)
Heinberg suggests that a combination of Powerdown and Building Lifeboats are the best options for our survival. This book is an important read. It is a book for those who are not afraid to learn the truth about what we are facing.
What does this mean theologically? Where is God in all of this? My prediction is that when we begin to feel the crunch most theology will revert to option three: Waiting for a Magic Elixir.
That will take the form similar to the Left Behind books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
In this scenario, our crisis will lead to the magic return of Jesus who will save us (at least save the true believers).
Throughout history, this type of theology has emerged during times of crises only to leave the believers disappointed. It is in my opinion, less than adequate theology, to put it mildly.
I believe there are other options. There are other ways to conceive of God's activity in the world and our response to God that are more realistic and more healthy and hopeful for Earth and its inhabitants. Options two and four, powerdown and building lifeboats need to be understood theologically as the way the Holy Spirit can prepare humanity for a sustainable and peaceful future.
This is at the heart of my theological project. I don't pretend to have the answers. I am simply one voice among many calling for us to wake up and respond.