Outreach Coordinator for Earth MinistryDear friends,
At Earth Ministry's 19th annual Celebration of St. Francis, Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda addressed the Christian calling to resist structural evil by unlocking our power for justice-making love. The talk resonated with the values of St. Francis, the Patron Saint of Ecology, who preached about the intersection of the goodness of the world with human sin and called for people to identify as part of God's good creation that requires responsible stewardship.
So, who are we anyways?
Dr. Moe-Lobeda started with this grand existential question, framing her talk in the reality that we are paradoxically structural sinners as well as bearers of justice-making love. Wait, what? Don't worry, we'll break this down.
We considered Luther's definition of sin as the self curved in on the self to understand the magnetic pull inward of our sinful nature. This self-centered mindset far too often acts as a blinder to larger structural sin and social injustice, such as environmental racism/classism and climate imperialism. Structural sin is especially dangerous because it is easily invisible to to those not suffering from it and it continues operating unaffected by the moral standing of the people involved.
For example, as Americans we comprise 5% of the worlds population, yet we are responsible for 25% of the world's energy consumption. The dangers are found in how we seldom stop to think about how the developing world suffers the consequences when we get in our car or turn on our lights. Perhaps more daunting is the reality that we can be individually striving to be morally sound, yet this structural sin remains embedded in our society and functions regardless of individual perceptions of good or bad.
I know it is tempting to get up right now and walk away, despairing in a sense of powerless insignificance. We all feel like this from time to time. But before you lose hope lets take a look at the other side of the situation, one filled with the promise of hope!
Dr. Moe-Lobeda shared the good news that, while we are inherently subject to sin, we are simultaneously lovers! Love acts as the most powerful counterpart to structural sin; and it is this force that reminds us that, as bearers of God's divine loving spirit of justice, we will prevail as God works through, among, and with us.
Two promises assure us of this outcome. First is the belief that God's will for abundant life for all creation will ultimately be fulfilled. In a powerful personal story, Cynthia shared a quote from a pastor who reassured her with his conviction that "I know the end of the story," which is life raised up out of death and destruction. Second, we must remember that justice-making love is truer and deeper than our sin and that it will ultimately prevail. This can be seen in the original grammar of the commandment to love your neighbor in which the verb form of this "love" is the future indicative, expressing finite assurance in its fulfillment.
So with this hope in mind, how do we free ourselves from sin? Referencing the wisdom of a famous resister to social evil, Dietrich Bonheoffer, we must not simply "bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself." Dr. Moe-Lobeda provided the following steps to do just that:
1. Remember who we are! We were created from this Earth and our survival remains dependent on the web of life.Therefore friends, do not despair! But also do not be complacent! Instead, focus on embracing your identity as a justice-making lover through take action to battle the structural injustice in our world. We thank you for doing just this by supporting Earth Ministry and joining us in the fight.
2. Strive to acknowledge our entanglement in structural sin, recognize and repent while we lament collectively.
3. Feed and water the part of ourselves that is the bearer of God's divine loving spirit, the life force that will overcome death.
4. Create practices that feed our being as justice making lovers, especially as communities gathering and working together.
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, I highly recommend Cynthia Moe-Lobeda's book Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation. If you purchase the book here or from the link to amazon on the right of this page some of the proceeds will go to Earth Ministry!