Me and You and the Gulf Oil Spill

The oil spill has been going on much longer than any of us have wanted. Not surprisingly, there has been a lot of discussion about who is to blame. Certainly there are a couple of large targets to take aim at: BP, Halliburton, Transocean, the Minerals Management Service, the Department of the Interior, the President, and I have probably left someone out.

Last month at the Presbyterian Bloggers site, I suggested that Christians have a distinct perspective that we bring to our debate and discussion on the oil spill. One perspective we bring is a view of the world that is larger than our particular narrow interests. Another perspective we bring is our understanding of sin and its pervasiveness.

In some Christian circles, talking about sin is not “popular”. In some Christian circles it is, but the emphasis is on individual sins. When we talk about “sins” we tend to focus on what might be called rule breaking. Thats not what I want to talk about.

I want us to think about sin in a bigger sense. Sin that separates us from God and sin we cannot disentangle ourselves from. As Augustine said, “non posse non peccare”- it is not possible not to sin.

It is easy enough for us to point out the sins of others in the Gulf oil disaster, regulatory agencies who didn’t do proper oversight, businesses that cut corners or tolerated sloppy and dangerous practices. It is more difficult to think about the ways each of us is entangled in this sin.

Of course if you don’t use fossil fuels, I suppose you’re off the hook here. But who among us doesn’t use them? A very small number of us, I would imagine. Modern life in the US is thoroughly embedded in fossil fuel use. It’s inescapable. Non posse non pesccare.  And so, without even trying, you and I are part of the problem.

I’m not suggesting that you and I bear the same responsibility as BP. I’m not suggesting that BP and other shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. But I am saying that we cannot simply point our fingers and wag our heads at others as if we had absolutely nothing at all to do with this.

Because we are all involved we need to think and act on two levels. We do need to think personally about our energy use. Some would say the problem is so large that the actions of an individual can’t possible matter. But we can all think of individuals who have made good and important contributions to the common good. Friends, we need to use less energy and we need to encourage our neighbors, towns, and workplaces to use less also. We need to think creatively about our particular situations.

We also need to think systemically. We need to think about the social, environmental, and governmental implications of the ways we use energy. We need to think globally. We need to think about our responsibility to the world and future generations. That’s a big topic and its easy to get confused and disoriented by all the different claims. But stay with it, read, learn, talk, pray and eventually some clarity will come.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago I asked, “Do you think this is what God had in mind when God gave us responsibility  for the earth?”  


 We know the answer. We know pointing fingers at others is not an adequate response.


Non posse non peccare.

We all bear some of the responsibility for this. As Christians part of our responsibility is to speak up and acknowledge our part of the responsibility. We need to encourage others to accept their part of the responsibility. Most importantly we need to work toward a resolution that is not simply punitive but also restorative.

What does restorative justice look like when oil is spilling into the gulf? 

How do we live in ways that are less damaging to the creation?

I’d like to know, what do you think?

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