Oil Theology

Oil Theology
by: Maria Kirby (from the Jesus Manifesto)

There is this black sticky substance that fuels our empire. That motivates us to go to war and have military bases all over the world. We feed off of it. We use this black sticky substance to supply our every need and desire. It energizes our greed and chokes out the life God made. This black sticky substance has even oozed into our religion and our theology; our thinking has become so black and sticky that we try and use the Bible to justify its use.

Our thinking has become so darkened that all we consider is ourselves. We have fallen into the hubris of pride and tell ourselves it is our God given duty. We believe that “God gave man the stewardship of the earth, to look after it and to use it for our enjoyment while living from its benefits. Plants, animals, fish, and fresh water. Minerals, such as coal, copper, gold, silver to make things and earn a living,” including that black sticky stuff.

We can be sad and shake our heads at the damage that black sticky stuff causes; the creatures that gasp and drown, the trees that fall, the mountains that crumble, the water that’s poisoned, the air that’s polluted. But we don’t have to do anything different, after all, we need that black sticky stuff and God gave it to us to use for our enjoyment.

Instead, we can blame the problems on someone else’s greed. Never mind the fact that they were only trying to make a living off of supplying our own greed; making so we can go where we want when we want; making it so we can eat what we want when we want; making so we can wear what we want when we want; feeding our insatiable desire for something new, whether or not its really better, whether or not what we had could be fixed.

We can be sad and shake our heads at the damage that black sticky stuff causes, because after all “the earth we inhabit is not a permanent planet. It is, frankly, a disposable planet – it is going to have a very short life. It’s been around six thousand years or so – that’s all – and it may last a few thousand more. And then the Lord is going to destroy it.” If what we do causes a little damage here or there, that’s regrettable, but in the long run it doesn’t really matter because it’s going to get destroyed any way.

The only thing that really matters is if “I confess with my mouth to be a believer and accept Jesus is Lord and I believe in my heart that he died for my sins and God the Father raised Jesus to life after his death. Romans 10:9” Since our salvation depends on faith and not works, black sticky stuff can still ooze into our lives and serve our every whim, even at the expense of other parts of creation, even at the expense of other human beings.

We can criticize our societies for having “departed from a Biblical worldview to that of a Humanistic and post modern one,” filled with “those who reject Jesus”. While at the same time we can believe that humans are God’s pinnacle of creation, that creation is here to serve human needs, and whatever the reality of global warming might be, it is subject to individual interpretations. The word that became the flesh of earth and sky, beast and bird, we reject as separate from God. And what we do to the least of creation is divorced from our beliefs in Jesus.

We can criticize our Jewish forebearers for not obeying the Mosaic Law, or listening to the warnings the Lord gave them of removing them from the land (Deuteronomy 28) if they apostatized. We can sadly shake our heads that the children of Israel did not listen and came under judgment – the Northern tribes falling to Assyria in 722 B.C., and Judah to Babylon in 605 B.C. In our Bibles we read how God designated the Babylonian captivity as a seventy-year captivity to rest the land for all the Sabbath years that Israel violated (cf. Leviticus 26:33-35; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21). And yet we never stop to think about giving our own land a rest.

We think we are smarter than the Israelites because we practice crop rotation, we have chemicals that fight off pestilence and weeds, and we have black sticky stuff that makes it so we don’t have to follow the natural rhythms of the earth. We have black sticky stuff that we can pump out of the ground every second of every hour of every day of every year. We never rest from pumping, shipping, refining, buying, selling, using and burning. We are so dependent on our black sticky stuff that we feel threatened whenever someone suggests we stop using it.

Instead we vilify environmentalists, claiming that because they serve creation, they worship the creature rather than the Creator. We vilify environmentalists for wanting to undermine the power our empire feeds upon. How dare they try and impose upon OUR freedom! How dare they suggest that our black sticky stuff could be irrevocably damaging the planet we live on! God’s in control and he would never let human greed and pride to murder millions of innocent people, not to mention many more plants and animals. This is just part of the natural cycle of things, over which we have no control. We are just innocent bystanders waiting to be raptured away.

And while we wait, we silence the groans of creation with pavement. We drown out its cries with our own noise bouncing through the airwaves, surrounding ourselves with incessant introspective chatter. We refashion creation according to our will and for our profit. All with the power of this black sticky substance.

By the power of the black sticky substance, we build bigger and better churches; we draw parishioners from afar off; we send our hand-me-downs and surplus to those who suffer from the poverty of supplying standardized products and services to a capricious market driven by fad and celebrity. By the power of the black sticky substance we proclaim the word of God louder, with cameras, lights, and action. By the power of the black sticky substance pages and pages of scripture, commentary, and devotion, are cranked out in version after version, language after language, until they weigh down our bookshelves, and overflow into our waste baskets.

I agree with those who claim that “we have collectively become ignorant and neglectful of God’s promised wrath on the children of disobedience.” We do not seek to put God’s kingdom first, his kingdom of the lowly worm, the humble donkey, or the peaceful dove. Instead, we worry over what we will eat and what we will wear. We worry over what the Jones will think of us instead of what God thinks of us. We emphasize the love of God to the exclusion of the coming day of reckoning.

We do not recognize the disaster we are bringing upon ourselves, our children, and their grandchildren. We believe that when things become difficult, that we will somehow escape the consequences, either by divine providence or by being raptured away. We do not recognize that the black sticky stuff that has oozed into every area of our lives has become the ipso facto god of our lives -a god that is destroying our lives down to the very core of our souls, a god that has imprisoned us in a web of catastrophic behaviors and blinded us to our own folly.

God is not deceived by our greed. Our God is a jealous God and will not settle for second place -not now, not ever. He will not settle for a second rate kingdom, despoiled of its natural beauty -not now, not ever. We have been hiding in the garden, donning the symbolic fig leaves of prosperity to hide the nakedness of our souls. He calls us out, and asks us what have we done?

Let us not try and pass the blame, but humbly repent with changed actions. Let us forsake our comfortable lives bought with the power of the black sticky god, and instead receive the new life bought with his blood. Let us pick up our crosses and follow in his footsteps, giving up our lives for new life of his creation -all of his creation. Let us rule creation as he rules: not with a scepter but a towel; stooping as he stooped to care for the needs of his subjects.

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The quotes used in this article were taken from comments left on a blogpost by Kurt Willems and from the article “Evangelicalism and the Environmental Movement ” written by John MacArthur. These quotes are typical of many discussions I’ve had with believers about the environment and are not used in order to single out certain individuals for criticism.

Love Wins