SUBURBAN SINS by Perry Mann

SUBURBAN SINS

What is God’s will? Often, it seems, His   will is the will of whoever defines His will. Many say that the Bible is the fullest expression of God’s will but usually only in so far as it accords with how they interpret it. Sociobiologists, have concluded that God’s will is nature’s message encoded in the genes of man and that that message is discerned by man as conscience; and further that the message’s sole design is to perpetuate the species. That is, morality is the evolutionary creation of nature, a genetic legacy, for the single purpose of assuring the health and welfare of man and of the environment that sustains him. Thus, to live in harmony with it is virtue, to live in dissonance with it is sin.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) said that man’s body is a temple and every decision made by the mind of that body is a moral decision. So the life of Thoreau was the sum of its decisions, a reflection of his morality, the essence of which morality and philosophy was “Simplify, Simplify.” And was there ever a man who followed his philosophy, it was he. If Thoreau, who said that man only needed to labor six weeks to provide all his needs for the year, were to return suddenly unaware of what “progress” has come since his demise, he would be shocked stone still, if not lifeless, when he looked upon the intensity of the rage to haste, the extent of the rape and pillage of the land, the obscene luxury in which many live, the outrageous superfluity dubbed necessity and the gross waste in the wake of the wealthy.

For hundreds of years Christians have been indifferent to the fate of the environment, owing principally to Jehovah’s injunction that man multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Never has a command so thoroughly, energetically and enthusiastically been heard, read and rendered. And Adam’s progeny oblivious, amoral and dumb as dice, continue apace to multiply and subdue and subvert the very origin of their being and in the process commit patricide and matricide in order to fill barns with stuff subject to moths, rust and thieves, dedicating as well their hearts to the treasures in their barns.

But there is a voice in the wilderness, a Christian minister who questions Genesis, and has the temerity to say: “We either support this life-giving, nurturing presence of God’s spirit or we make everything act against it.” And he further opines: “Sin in the Bible is anything that is against God’s holy will. And God’s holy will is to nurture and to enhance life.”

The headline of the article from which the above quotes come is: “Thou shalt not… drive an SUV?” The writer of the headline believes that one can reasonably infer from the minister’s concept of God’s will that driving a gas-guzzling vehicle is detrimental to the environment and therefore wrong. If the minister’s reading of God’s will is correct and the writer’s inference is logical, then one can argue that driving an SUV is a sin, maybe not a mortal one, but a sin nevertheless — which is a conclusion that carries a can of corollaries.

If a SUV is an abomination in the eyes of God, what is an ATV or a snowmobile or a watermobile or any other kind of mobile that requires the polluting the earth to furnish fuel for it and further pollutes the earth in the operation of it? What about aircraft and the observation that if God wanted man to fly He would have provided him with wings? What is man’s hurry? If he hadn’t in his greedy mind converted time to money, he wouldn’t need to rush around the world burying nuts here and there until he has no need of nuts or anything else.

And then there is the question of food. If God’s will is that man do nothing that does not nurture and enhance life, what is a reasonable guess as to God’s judgment regarding a Big Mac or MacThis or a MacThat or any of the many other bun-caressed meat patties lavished and larded with libido-loving layers of whatever , all of which, if nothing else, tend to distort the temple that is man?

And what about drink? — aside from alcoholic beverages, which have long ago been declared evil. Surely, in the beginning water was the beverage of choice, primarily I suppose because there was nothing else to drink. Adam and Eve had no wine cellar. But look at now. Who drinks water, except prissy men and women who can afford to import it from some sequestered spring in the Alps? From the Alps because man has polluted the springs everywhere else? Athletes drink Gatorade, a man-made liquid touted to be far superior to God’s drink, and boys and girls drink oceans of Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and a dozen other brands of pop, all of which do little to refresh, nurture and enhance life. At least, not my life and I suspect not theirs.

What would Thoreau think of a man who spent $40 million to build a house for him, his wife and so far two children and after it was built decided it needed an addition? When I ask this question I have in mind that Thoreau built and lived in a house that cost him somewhere in the neighborhood of a few $100 in today’s money. Consider what would be the impact on the earth if every family on it had at least a million-dollar house with all that goes with it. Think of the heating, the cooling, the sewage, the pollution, the degradation of the environment in the building and the upkeeping of it all. Think of sins and of a multiplicity of them.

Diogenes, the philosopher who roamed the earth looking for an honest man, had an estate that consisted of the clothes on his back and a wooden bowl. He cast the bowl away as superfluous when he saw a child cups his hands to drink. He taught that man’s happiness is best promoted by the decrease of his wants, rather than the increase of his income. Only Christ and a few others strange souls would hear Diogenes and not consider him insane. Certainly, suburbanites would have him in a straight jacket with little delay.

I for one am elated to learn that the church fathers at last have begun to see that nature is God’s supreme creation, that its maintenance is indispensable to the nurture and welfare of man and that any act that degrades it is certainly an affront to God and against his will. And a sin. Amen.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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