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Christians First, Greens Second


We Jesus Christians are quickly developing a reputation as freegans, partly because we have been living pretty much as freegans for many years longer than the term has existed. We did not set out to be freegans, but we did set out to be followers of the teachings of Jesus. And even today there are a few technical differences between the two, i.e. between being green and being Christian.

There are so many good Christian teachings which have been turned into political platforms over the years and when this has happened, they have, as a result, lost their spiritual impact. The same can happen with Green/Freegan ideals.

As I said, we started out by trying to obey Jesus, in particular, his teaching about being "poor in spirit". We saw that phrase as meaning that we should try to live simply even when we could afford to live more luxuriously. But in the early days of our movement, our focus was more on conserving money than on conserving resources. That was a big mistake. We have environmental activists to thank for having shown us that a big reason for being poor in spirit is so that we do not destroy the earth through over-consumption. For most of human history this has not been an obvious problem; but now (perhaps too late) the world is seeing that our planet's resources are not infinite. We need to learn how to live simply, so that others can simply live.

Amongst ourselves we have observed a very simple illustration of the error we had made in our earlier interpretation of being poor in spirit. Fast food outlets in America are extremely generous with their ketchup sachets, often throwing a whole handful of them into a bag with even a single hamburger. Under our old rules this was an excellent way to cut down on the cost of buying ketchup; we would just take the extras home to be used in other meals. But the packaging of these tiny samples of ketchup is extremely wasteful. We now understand that restaurants with ketchup bottles that squirt directly onto one's food are more environmentally friendly.

So now (instead of asking for extra sachets from the counter) we are making more effort to rescue the sachets from trays and tables, where they are so often swept into the rubbish at the end of a meal. Rescuing these sachets, which are destined for landfill if we do not grab them, is consistent with green ideology, since, by that stage, the wasteful packaging is not the issue, but rather the waste of the contents.

The old approach saved us money, but was encouraging a wasteful practice on the part of the restaurants. The new approach also saves us money, but does not encourage waste.

But there are times when trying too hard to be politically correct can work against our calling as Christians. For example, in an ideal world, we would produce all of our own food and other necessities close to where we live, cutting down on shipping costs and the associated fuel consumption. We could drop everyting and adopt such a lifestyle right now. But Jesus has told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. We have, in fact, been specifically told by Jesus not to worry about such things as farming, because we have a more urgent calling, and if we will focus on that, our heavenly Father will take care of our food needs.

As Green activists it might be good for us to set up a permaculture show-garden, but as Christians we have a bigger goal. The Freegan/Green message needs to be spread through high-tech global outreach as much as, if not more than through local samples of how it would work.

Our understanding of Bible prophecy suggests that the world is not going to be saved from the greed that is presently destroying it. But we have a responsibility to preach loudly against that greed, even if it means using some of its resources to get that message out. We have utmost respect for people who choose to sit tight and minimise their own consumption, as one small contribution toward saving the planet. But there is also a need for people who will travel the world preaching the theory.

Because we believe that faith in God is fundamental to overcoming greed, our message is not just a political one. Governments certainly can do much to force the world to live sustainably; but we do not believe they will do it... at least not radically enough to save the world. What is needed are changes in the hearts of individuals... changes which will count for eternity even if they do not succeed in saving the temporal world.

It may be that we will eventually find ourselves just living on subsistence farms during the Great Tribulation; but for now we feel called to get out the theory to the masses in every way that we can, while we still have the means to do it. We will try to do so with as little damage to the environment as possible, and with care for the world's resources. But we will, hopefully, have at least as much care for what it is that God is asking each of us to do from day to day as well.
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