Oil Spills and Spiritual Insight

I haven’t blogged about the oil spill yet … I’ve been out of the country for much of it, and have been staying informed from a distance, feeling the same dread and heartbreak you’ve probably felt. Like you, I’m sickened by the whole situation. I see obvious connections between “too big to fail” banks and “too big to be regulated properly” oil companies – and coal mines (recalling another recent disaster which is too quickly forgotten). I feel disgusted as I consider how much all of us are complicit in the sick “casino” financial system and the sick “cost-externalizing” energy system on which our society runs.
The best response I’ve seen so far to the catastrophe is that of Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Quotable:

There is no place to go “away” from these consequences; there is no ultimate escape on this planet. The effects at a distance may seem minor or tolerable, but the cumulative effect is not. We are all connected, we will all suffer the consequences of this tragic disaster in the Gulf, and we must wake up and put a stop to the kind of robber baron behavior we supposedly regulated out of existence a hundred years ago. Our lives, and the liveliness of the entire planet, depend on it.

Her words recall the themes I addressed in Everything Must Change a few years ago, and more recently I argued for a new sense of narrative in A New Kind of Christianity. We need a narrative that orients us not toward a single bottom line of financial profit, but toward a high calling of creation, reconciliation, and liberation, because we are all connected in God’s sacred ecosystem.
Dealing with symptoms – plugging leaks, putting out fires, bailing out failed banks – keeps us busy, so busy we can neglect to deal with our deep spiritual diseases 5000 feet beneath our societal symptoms. The race is on: will we bankrupt ourselves dealing with one surface symptom after another, or will we choose in time to deal with our deeper, hidden problem, a mile beneath the surface … a spiritual problem of narrative, values, purpose, meaning, origin, and destiny.
And will our faith communities continue to obsess on their short-list of mobilizing (and often polarizing) issues, or will they turn to the deeper issues that underly them?
Greasy, slimy, toxic, deadly sludge is a fitting metaphor for what the Bible calls sin, foolishness, and injustice – which mean, at heart, violating our essential connectedness. True religion, true spirituality, authentic gospel, real communion – they’re about recovering that sacred connection, at the deepest level.