Posted by: Philip Rushton | March 24, 2010

Sustainability and Spirituality

“At what age did I start to think that where I was going was more important than where I was already? When was it that I began to believe that the most important thing about what I was doing was getting it over with.” Colin Beavan “No Impact Man,” Pg 37

This quote comes from Colin Beavan’s book documenting his year of living with a minimal impact on the environment. Julie and I found this book to be enlightening regarding some of the unsustainable practices that plague our consumerist culture. I was especially struck by the fact that 60% of the world’s waste comes from things that are used for less then five minutes (ie bags, coffee cups etc.) Time to get out that travel mug before heading to Starbucks!!

However, this book is more then just a how-to manual on living sustainably. This book delves into philosophy of life stuff. As Beavan attempts to live more sustainably he is forced to slow down. Instead of hopping into a car he walked, instead of picking up a pizza for dinner he got his food from local farms and cooked homemade meals every night. As the quote above points out, his change in lifestyle forces him to confront the hectic rhythms that our consumerist culture has imposed on him.

It is interesting to consider how our spirituality is implicated by the larger cultural forces that we are caught up in. How does our consumerist fast-food culture interfere with God’s desire to form in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control – (Galatians 5:22-23 ‘The Fruits of the Spirit’). Perhaps our spiritual development requires more then just a half hour of bible study in the morning. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate the very assumptions that guide our everyday rhythm’s.


  1. Phil,
    Thanks for your comments. The whole idea of sustainability is a difficult change of mindset when we are so blessed with natural resources and think we deserve it all.
    What is the “American Dream” (or the “Canadian Dream”) that we so earnestly have strived for so many years and how does that relate to us seeking first God’s kingdom? This could be a tough mindset to change (I know it is for me). I think we need a community of folks who will work on this together.

    • Hi Randy,

      Thanks for the reply! You took this conversation in a great direction. I think you are right that there is a need for a change in mindset for Christians regarding the environment. A change in mindset is exactly where things need to start. Luckily there has been some great developments within the evangelical Christian tradition regarding the environment.

      It used to be that Christianity was viewed as one of the enemies of the environment. If you go back a couple decades evangelical theology was named by environmentalists as one of the biggest dangers to the environment next to big business. The reason for this was because evangelicals were plagued with a dualistic worldview that cared only about saving souls for heaven. This was coupled with a view of the end times that pictured the world being destroyed. The argument was that if its all going to burn why care about it.

      Things are changing though. There has been some positive steps in reclaiming a more holistic vision of the kingdom where all creation is made new and redeemed. Romans 8 is a key text, which talks about all creation groaning for redemption.

      Part of our job as Christians is to to participate in God’s kingdom coming to earth in the hear and now. We are not just trying to save souls for heaven, we are praying for God’s kingdom to ‘come on earth as it is in heaven.’ God is seeking to create a new heaven and a new earth. As N.T. Wright likes to say, the acts of creation care that we engage in are ‘sign posts’ we set up in the world of what God is seeking to do.

      A Rocha Internation is a Christian conservation organization, which has done a lot of great groundwork on this issue. So there is already a great community of Christians that have started to work on this. There are some great resources to help us in our mindest change!

  2. I pray that your ideas will fly with younger people than me. I”m afraid that I would need a very structured, close knit and local community ( there is that word again) to help me go against the flow of every thing around me. I am talking friends, neighbors, family and my own personal journey, lo these many years.
    At least Christians are talking about these issues, contrary to thinking that the great Western dream was the same as God’s will for us
    …………….Peace, gil………….

  3. Thanks Gil,

    The idea of living in a more sustainable way is indeed a very daunting undertaking.

    I wonder if we would be more motivated if we understood the impact that unsustainable living is having on us personally. There seems to be a change in the environmental conversation lately focusing on how the problems we are creating have major impacts for us as people. Julie just finished reading the book “Death by Rubber Ducky,” which exposes the amount of toxicity our bodies are exposed to in our plastic addicted culture. Julie summed up the book by saying that we basically need to just live like people did about 60 years ago and we’d be much healthier.

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