We continue as a nation to watch in horror as the Gulf Coast region is devastated by the oil rig explosion and on-going leak. The costs will be monumental. Some are comparing the scope of the disaster to Hurricane Katrina (and while those comparisons are meant largely to embarrass President Obama politically by comparing his response to this crisis with President Bush’s inept response to the hurricane as people were dying) the reality is that the ecological impact may very well rank as one of the worst human caused disasters in American history.
At the heart of this story, in theological terms, is human sin. Consider this story from CNN which chronicles the federal Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with oversight of off-shore drilling:
(CNN) -- The Minerals Management Service, a division within the Interior Department, was a troubled agency long before the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the recent revelations of employee misconduct.When talking about sin we most often refer to personal sin. The Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament, however, talk about societal sins as well as personal ones. We are called, as an example, to be stewards over all creation in Genesis 1:26-27 (NRSV).
The agency -- which oversees U.S. offshore drilling, including the Gulf of Mexico -- has come under fire for mismanagement, questionable conduct and cozy relationships with industry officials.
The MMS issued permits for the Deepwater Horizon drill rig -- contracted by BP -- which exploded on April 20. The explosion killed 11 people and resulted in an oil spill that is threatening parts of the Gulf.
Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, during an appearance Wednesday before the House Committee on Natural Resources, said he was trying to change the agency's culture and its structure, which some critics say leads to mismanagement.
"My belief is that most of the employees of the MMS are good public servants," Salazar said. He, however, acknowledged some of the past conduct was "scandalous" and "reprehensible."
Salazar said some people have been fired and others referred for prosecution.
26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ 27So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them;* male and female he created them.
Some have argued (incorrectly) that dominion gives us control over creation to do as we please – for the benefit of humankind above all else. “We have interpreted the ‘dominion’ granted to humankind as giving us raw power to exploit and abuse the rest of creation, rather than as requiring mature responsibility of us to show respect and loving care for creation,” writes The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. in his new book Whose Gospel? “Like rebellious adolescents, we have been inclined to see the gifts of God as ours to use as we choose.”
The sin in this crisis was not the explosion that caused the massive spill – that was an accident – but rather the arrogance we have shown in drilling for oil in sensitive areas using a system of oversight ripe with corruption all for the gain of humanity without concern for the plant.
“Drill, baby, drill” has been the mantra. Such thinking has led us to this moment: where the interconnectedness of humanity and all creation is once again in jeopardy immediately in a large region of this planet while we still struggle with the reality of global climate change.
Our actions (or inactions) place us into a place of conflict with God. In other words, we as a people are in a perpetual state of sin. The consequences will be grave this time. The immediate concern in stopping this seemingly never ending underwater volcano of oil is legitimately our top priority.
The only way to reconcile with God, though, will be to stop this madness and act like the true stewards we are called to be. God is calling us to stop acting like adolescents and act like grow-ups should: with responsibility, with justice in our hearts, and a mature understanding of the difference between right and wrong.
Prayers for the Gulf from The National Council of Churches
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Creator God, author of life, source of all meaning, you made a universe of infinite complexity and beauty and entrusted us humans with the care of a tiny jewel called Earth. With the passing of time we came to believe we were owners, not fellow creature dwellers, of this bountiful planet and its extravagant web of life. We have used God’s creation without regard for the impact our rapacity had on the other creatures with whom we share our earthly home. We have acted with craven disregard for complex ecosystems we barely understand. Our self-deception has led us to assume we have the capacity to manage environments we exploit to sustain lifestyles that defy the intrinsic interdependence of all life. Now we face the consequences of our idolatry. We thought we were gods; but our recklessness has brought us to our knees, to ask for your mercy and forgiveness for the chaos we have brought about. We pray for the oceans and all the creatures that dwell in it. We pray for the forests and the abundance of life they nurture. We pray for the very air we breathe, now laden with the toxic gases we produce. We pray for our children whose earthly home we have so imperiled. Loving God, have mercy on us, grant us forgiveness and the strength to make amends.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
There are no sins so great that the mercy of God cannot forgive. Go with God’s grace to make amends. Embrace lifestyles that will help restore balance and harmony to our Earthly home. Care for those whose environments have been destroyed by our actions and inactions. Amen.