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04 April 2014

Drawing a line in the sand

Drawing a line in the sand

As I wandered through our estate on Monday morning, I wondered who must have been excavating or sandblasting. That was my glib presumption based on the fact that every car on the street was covered in spotted brown dust. Even the 'Boris bike' saddles were smeared in the stuff and you couldn't wipe it off without some effort.

So when I arrived in Westminster and noticed that every car was similarly covered in the stuff, I was startled. Something was not normal. Of course most of us now know the explanations that emerged over the course of that day, and sitting here on Thursday morning I can still only vaguely see Big Ben from my window because of the haze.

It's one of those weeks where it is worth stopping to 'clock' the magnitude of what is happening. It is incredible. Right now there are specks of dust on my finger that were previously in the eyes, or under the feet of Moroccans, Nigerians or Algerians.

If we needed any more confirmation of our connectedness as a global village, we now have it in spades – even though brushes have thankfully sufficed thus far.

This week we also learned that the UK is being sued by the EU for failing to meet our emissions targets on air pollution, and most telling of all, the new International Panel on Climate Change report left nowhere to hide for anyone still clinging to the ridiculous hope that this 'climate change' thing was an overblown trendy fad.

The apostle Paul's travels and collections make it clear that our responsibilities to brothers and sisters do not stop at national boundaries. His words also make it clear that God's mission and therefore ours includes all of creation, not just the human element of it.

We are beautiful, yet broken people impacting a beautiful, yet broken planet. Our lifestyles are right now affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions, and putting many more at future risk. Yes, we need political leadership to combat climate change, but more than anything we need a change of heart. One of our mantras at Christians on the Left is that we need to be a people where policy and lifestyle meet. We need a fundamental recalibration of what is enough. Through the genius of advertising and the power of peer pressure, we have allowed wants to be presented as needs, and occasional luxuries to sneakily become regular necessities.

Sadly where we have arrived is almost inevitable. As theologian Walter Brueggeman often describes, once we stake out our autonomy as individuals, we leave no room for a belief in the abundance of God, and then: "The autonomous person, beset by anxiety, can only resolve to do better, to get more, to arrive at full control of the future by full control of the present. The propulsion to greed in an effort to control generates ravenous acquisitiveness, so that life becomes a passionate pursuit of every form of security and self-worth, most particularly through more money."

So we see why those with a lot believe they don't yet have enough, while those with less are left to find ways to mimic them. This toxic collusion produces subprime mortgage crises, payday lenders, overconsumption and climate change. We are all "tearing down barns and building bigger barns" (Luke 12:18) until we are all as Brueggeman says: "Participants in autonomous, anxious acquisitiveness who end as 'fools' engaged in self-destructiveness."

So rather than burying our heads in it, surely it's time to draw a line in this sand. If this week's warnings aren't enough, there are the freakish weather conditions that the UK and US have both been exposed to the last few months, but most importantly the testimonies of brothers and sisters in places like Bangladesh where homes and lives are being lost right now because of climate change. I've met some of them. This is real. Could we start to redraw what 'enough' looks like? Not just for the good of others, but for our own health as human beings. And I am very much speaking to myself here too.

But I hate it when things are left in the abstract. So what about…
Growing some veg
Only eating meat at weekends
Mostly just drinking water
Sharing tools and household equipment between families
Sharing CDs and DVDs
Cutting out chocolate and crisps
Sharing food with neighbours to avoid waste
Buying local to avoid food miles
Creating our own fun - playing more games and telling more stories!

For as this desert has come to town, let's remember it was in another desert that another people struggled to accept the enough of God's provision. Will we allow manna to satisfy us, or allow our greed to blind us to the joy and abundance awaiting us in a promised land where generosity and contentment reign?

Andy Flannagan is a singer-songwriter, political campaigner and director of Christians on the Left