What an Addict Needs

Shift ItTwo years ago our president admitted that we are addicted to oil. Now that gasoline is headed to $5.00 per gallon many of us are suffering from the symptoms of this addiction.

What is the solution?

There are many saying we need to open up a new vein.

Newt Gingrich, explaining why we need to drill in environmentally sensitive areas gasped in horror–

“They want us to drive small cars . . .”

“They” referring to Jimmy Carter sympathizers who think the solution is to waste less and conserve more. (Why is it that conservatives are so frightened of the word “conserve”?)

Others say we can find a synthetic substitute; we can make oil out of soybeans or ethanol out of corn.

Maybe the problem is not that we are addicted to oil

We are addicted to cars.

I just returned from Europe, where the price of oil was the equivalent of 8 or 9 dollars per gallon–it’s probably over $10.00 now that oil is approaching $150.00 per barrel.

The Europeans love to drive as much as we do. But they also drive more efficient cars, and they balance their use of cars and public transportation. They will walk or take the bus to work Monday through Friday and save their cars for a weekend road trip or special outing.

A simple short-term solution is to use alternatives when you can.

Walk, ride a bike, car pool, avoid unnecessary trips, have fun at home. Use your car when you need to use it; when it’s time to trade, buy a more efficient car.

What does this have to do with faith?

People of faith should ask themselves two questions:

1. Am I being a good steward? I as an individual didn’t make the policy choices that got us where we are. But the daily choices I make now do affect other people. They also affect me. If I drive when I could walk or bike, I’m hurting my health.

2. Is my car an idol? Do I find my identity in my automobile? Is it a status symbol or a tool?

The Europeans love their cars, but they know there have to be alternatives. In London they are encouraging people to ride bikes. In Lithuania you can ride from Russian territory to Latvia on cycling paths that run through beautiful forests and along the coast.

My American friends noticed how slim the Europeans typically are. Part of the reason is because they walk so much.

Idolatry 1

I want to begin a series of posts on the topic of idolatry. The fact that idolatry is considered a sin in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity–maybe in some forms of other religions too–raises several interesting questions.

First, I want to point out what monotheism and the rejection of idolatry does not mean, at least in the religion of the Bible. It does not mean intolerance.

A few years ago, in an address at Harvard, Gore Vidal made this remark: “The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism.” Why? Because, in his view, monotheism is responsible for intolerance and therefore war and strife among nations.

The world has seen it’s share of religious intolerance, hatred, and war. The point I want to make, though, is this kind of intolerance is not based on the teaching of the Bible.

First, in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament–the commandment against idolatry is given to people who have voluntarily entered a covenant relationship with the God of Israel, who is also the universal God of all people. When Israel is unfaithful to the covenant with God, God sends prophets to call them back to faithfulness. These prophetic indictments against unfaithfulness and idolatry are not given to other nations.

When the prophets speak to other nations, they call them to universal standards of justice and human rights. The prophets do not condemn other nations for practicing the wrong religion, but for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The New Testament does portray the mission of the early church with the apostles calling people from all nations to turn from “vain idols to the living god.” They use persuasion, not force to proclaim the good news. The Gentiles who worship their own gods defended the apostles: “These men are not blasphemers of our goddess.”

I am not saying that the Bible teaches tolerance for idols in the sense that serving idols is just as valid as believing in the God of Israel and of Jesus Christ. I am saying that it does not encourage violence against those who practice other religions.