Shuck and Jive

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amendment A Has Passed. Now What?

Before voting had started regarding removing the ordination barriers in the PC(USA), former moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow started a "presbymeme" in which he asked people to make a blog post about why they were planning to vote in favor of the amendment. It is such old news that he has since changed blogs and his post has evaporated. Here was my response.

One of the questions Bruce asked was,
"What should the Presbyterian Church focus on after Amendment 10a passes?"
My answer? Peak Oil.

The voting is over. Amendment A has passed. I am happy about the result. I think that equality and justice are important realities to shoot for both at the top and on the far side of Hubbert's Curve.

Now I think it would be helpful to talk about the most significant event our civilization has yet to face. When gasoline is $10 a gallon few people will be driving to attend our Bible studies. The size of the Book of Order, the status of the Belhar Confession, or the latest Twitter gadget will be of little significance if unemployment is 30% and rising, our cities are forced to schedule brownouts, and supermarket shelves are more empty than full.

If you wonder where I get these ideas, I invite you to click any of the links on the sidebar. On the front page of today's Johnson City Press, we read that the International Energy Agency made a desperate move by authorizing "the biggest ever release of reserve oil" that will reduce prices about a dime a gallon at the pump for the summer months. Sixty million barrels of oil will be released. Industrialized Planet Earth injects that amount into its veins every 16 hours.

Half the oil will come from reserves in the U.S. Refiners who turn crude into gasoline will be able to bid on the extra oil and have it shipped to them from the salt caverns along the Gulf Coast where it is stored.

The IEA said high oil demand and shortfalls of oil production caused by unrest in the Middle East and North Africa threatened to “undermine the fragile global economic recovery.”
We have "emergency" oil reserves for emergencies. Saving a dime a gallon for summer driving is hardly an emergency. I highlight this story to illustrate how desperate we are. We will do whatever crazy thing we can to keep this economic monster at bay for another couple of months. We are most certainly "fragile".

This is difficult to address. I don't want to talk about it. It is too much. It is too scary. Yet if we, clergy--the ones "called" to talk about important stuff--don't address it then it would appear that Oil is bigger than God.

Is it true then, that
"In oil we live and move and have our being?"
Perhaps our religious institutions including the PC(USA) are little more than petroleum products. While that may be true,
I say we are human beings and are more than our institutions. While we may serve at present Petroleum Man's Church, we have more depth. We are strong enough to face what will come with open eyes.

As we enter this
catabolic "stair step" collapse as John Michael Greer calls it, when we fall into a period of crisis and collapse then have a period of stability and small recovery followed by another crisis/collapse, and so on like descending stairs, people, in their desperation might turn to us for something. In addition to supernaturalistic platitudes, it would be helpful if we offered some kind of legitimate psychological, spiritual, communal, logistical, and physical support. I wish I could say that my community and I have a plan. But we don't. Do you?

There are certainly justice issues surrounding this. The wealthy will still be wealthy. The powerful will find a way to make money going down as well as they did going up. Why do you think the rich and famous are making sure their pie slices will get larger as the pie gets smaller? The laws at both state and federal levels are being changed right under our noses in preparation for this future of decline.

Not only that, but the relaxing of environmental laws and nuclear safety regulations and the invention of crazy Earth-hating ideas, are on the rise.

I can't think of anything more important for us to care about than Peak Oil Justice. Maybe as Petroleum Church (USA) collapses there will be some green shoot that comes up from the slime.

We have plenty of resources within our tradition to speak to our time. The Bible contains plenty of stories and themes about rise and fall and shoots sprouting from stumps. But we cannot seem to apply these stories to our current situation.

Perhaps the scriptural voice is overpowered by the myth of American exceptionalism.
Not us. We are not subject to the same fate as civilizations in the past. We are different.

When this myth is coupled with the myth of progress (technology will save us) any discussion of limits and overshoot is heresy.

We are onward and upward forever and ever. We are ever-evolving, ever-improving, growing, growing to the stars.

We need some different stories. We need to find a way to celebrate conservation. We need to celebrate the use of human brain and muscle power as opposed to machine power.

Human life will be more fulfilling when we simplify and use far less. We need to celebrate the spirituality of less.

We might as well celebrate using less fossil fuel energy. It will be our future, and that future is now.

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