Clergy say oil spill a reminder of our place in creation

Charita Goshay

What, if any moral or spiritual lessons does the Gulf oil spill hold?

Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton of the Northeastern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said it’s important to frame any discussion about the spill and any lessons from it by first understanding humans’ place in creation.

“Lutherans understand the creation to be a gift from God,” she said. “In Genesis, God calls the creation ‘very good.’ We understand that the creation does not belong to us, but to God.

“Humankind has been given the honor and responsibility of serving in and tending God’s garden. We are stewards, not the ruler, the owner or the master of creation.”


Eaton said that because human beings are part of creation, “We are not separate from the created world. What happens to the earth happens to us.”

“The Gulf oil spill represents a conflict with nature,” said the Rev. Wilbur Allen III, pastor at All Saints Temple Church of God in Christ in Canton, Ohio. “The end result will be devastation to the gulf waters and a myriad of species. Reckless economic activity isn't justification to engage in such destructive practices.”

Allen notes that in the Genesis account of creation, humans are given a dominate role in maintenance of the earth.

“Chapter one, verse seven indicates that humans were created in the image of God,” he said. “Given this reality, the first man and woman lived in concert with the environment. The divine imputed a balance within the ecosystem — a coexistence. Chapters one and two provides the original intent of God regarding environmental concerns.”

The Rev. Scott Rosen, senior pastor of First Christian Church in Plain Township, Ohio, said the spill has triggered spiritual conversation about a worldly dilemma.

“It calls us back to the basic need of caring for other humans, and recognizing that we’re living in a fallen world,” he said. “We’re caught in a worldly system where some people are about greed, and some people are about caring, and the two will never meet. But it doesn’t negate our responsibility to care about the Earth and people.”

Imam Nader Taha of the Islamic Society of Kent & Akron said Islam prohibits any form of pollution of the environment. Preventing harm is seen as an act of worship.

“Islam as a way of life is established on the concept of good,” Taha said. “So, in Islam, protecting the environment is obligatory, since such protection is good by itself. The Qu’ran states, ‘He who so good an atom’s weight will see it. And who so do ill an atom’s weight will see it.’

“Man is the trustee of God on earth, and God created everything so it will support his mission. So, it is the responsibility of man to preserve all those resources for the use of all coming generations.”

Who's to blame?

“If we want to blame someone for this catastrophe, look in the mirror,” said the Very Rev. Daniel Rogich of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Canton. “Our nation is the biggest consumer of oil on the planet. The oil spill in the Gulf is all our moral fault. Every animal that dies, or lost job, destroyed beach is on our hands. We are all complicit in this problem.”

Eaton agrees.

“It is important that all of understand that we bear some responsibility for the oil spill,” she said. “It’s not just BP or Big Oil or the government. We need oil. I live 75 miles from my office. I need oil to get to work every day. I need oil to visit the parishes in our synod. I am part of reason why BP was drilling in the Gulf.”

Rogich said that even our hobbies are complicit.

“If you're a supporter of motor sports you're guilty,” he said. “Indy 500? NASCAR? Guilty. Motorcycle races? Monster-truck races? Guilty. Internal combustion engines burn gasoline made from oil and our complicity allowed companies like BP to ‘drill, baby drill’ in a mile deep of water. Our oil addiction is like a smoker finding out he has lung cancer and blames the cigarette companies.”

Will of God

Rosen said it’s important to get past the anger in order to find a workable solution, saying, “The disaster ... calls us to respond more directly in ways that we have not. I’m not smart enough to have the answers, but we must pull together, as in any crisis.”

Rogich said he supports President Barack Obama’s emphasis on alternative energy.

“This issue is to me not a political or economic one only; it is a moral issue too,” he said. “I think ministers have every right in the world to address it as an important moral crisis of our time.”

“There are other forms of energy that are environmentally friendly and more effective,” Allen said. “It is key to embrace the majesty of the cosmos — this is the will of God.”

Taha said that because God has subjected the universe to man, we are obligated to keep it “As pure and magnificent as Allah has created it.”

“Lutherans appreciate sin but we also cling to the possibility of repentance,” Eaton said. “Perhaps we need to rethink a culture and economy so dependent on non-renewable fossil fuels. Now might be a good time.”

The Repository