People working together for peace, justice and the restoration of the community of life.
ďHealth and the Environment: A Prophetic ChallengeĒ
A Reading based on Hosea 4:1-3, assorted other sources,
Reader 1: Karl Barth said that to really understand the Bible, you have to read it with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
Reader 2: Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 29, 1997: According to the National Cancer Institute, the cancer rate among children has been rising at the rate of 1 percent per year for several decades. Childhood leukemia has increased by 27 percent; brain cancer by 40 percent. Today, a newborn child faces a risk of about 1 in 600 of contracting cancer by the age of 10. Studies link exposure to toxic chemicals to the increase in childhood cancers.
Reader 3: Why is she [or he] telling us this here in worship? We have to see these things all the time in the paper and on t.v. We donít come to worship God for this!
Reader 1: Well, how do you think people felt when prophets like Hosea spoke to them the Word of God the people needed to hear? The people didnít like it, and some of the didnít listen, but he spoke anyway. But it wasnít just out of the blue that he spoke. He was talking about current events!
Reader 4: Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel; for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land.
Reader 2: Reuterís news service, April 16, 1998: the number of Americans who suffer from asthma has risen by 75 percent since 1980. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 15 million people now suffer from asthma; including five million children. The number of children ages 19 and younger dying from asthma rose by 78 percent between 1980 and 1993. The dramatic increase is related, at least in part, to pollution in the environment.
Reader 4: There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land.
Reader 2: The Center for Public Integrity, 1996: Today there are 74,000 human-created chemicals in our environment, most of which did not exist before World War II. Each year over 2,000 new chemicals are introduced into the environment. All of us are exposed each day to much more dioxin and other toxins than the government says is safe.
Reader 3: Well, surely the laws protect us, and the chemicals are safe.
Reader 2: We have made some progress. Thankfully, the government has recently agreed to test chemicals that are in circulation, to see if they disrupt hormones. Pesticides are regulated, but that does not mean that allowable levels are safe.
Many chemicals have been in circulation for a long time, and are not covered by regulations. For most new chemicals, our protection is simply the assurance by companies that they think the chemicals they are introducing are safe. The EPA has just 60 days to challenge this. Most are not challenged because 60 days is not long enough to do adequate testing. And these are tests only for acute toxicity. They do not include tests for long-term effects. The interactions of these chemicals have also not been tested. Many chemicals that we know to cause cancer have not been banned and are still widely used.
Reader 3: You mean we have given chemicals civil rights? That chemicals are innocent until proven guilty? It sounds like we are living in a toxic soup. We should at least use precaution, and consider the effects upon future generations of changing the very chemistry of Mother Earth.
Reader 4: Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Reader 2: USA Weekend, February 14, 1998: Hundreds of synthetic chemicals found in our food, environment and everyday products have proven harmful to wildlife and lab animals. In 1997, the EPA concluded that certain hormone-disrupting chemicals can lead to disturbing health effects in animals, including cancer, sterility, birth defects, and developmental problems. There has also been a sharp increase in certain hormone-related diseases and disorders, such as plummeting sperm counts in men, a dramatic increase in the defect of the penis of male babies in the U.S. Studies are underway to determine whether this rise in hormone-related diseases and disorders are caused by these toxins.
Reader 4: Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish;
Reader 2: Other diseases and health problems that are on the rise include: infertility, endometriosis, miscarriages, depressed immune systems, and others. Also included are various forms of cancer, especially hormone-related cancers, including breast cancer, which has risen from one in 20 women to one in 8, and prostate cancer, which continues to rise each year.
Reader 3: I work with people who are sick. From now on, every time I visit someone who has struggled with cancer or these other problems, I will think about these things. No wonder we are getting sick. We might prefer to avoid learning about this issue and dealing with this reality, but we canít. Our prophets are warning us. We must face it and begin to change now. Future generations will be too sick.
Reader 4: together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing.
Reader 1: But surely there is hope! Why else would the prophets have spoken out?
So that people would turn to God and find ways to turn things around. Other people around the world are hearing and understanding what is at stake and responding to the challenge. If we join together, perhaps we can turn things around. Especially if we join together with God. Letís pray a prayer from the United Nations Environmental Sabbath Program, remembering that people all over the world are also praying this prayer:
All Readers: Great Spirit, give us hearts to understand,
Reader 1: never to take from creationís beauty more than we give,
Reader 2: never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed;
Reader 3: never to deny to give our hands for the building of earthís beauty;
Reader 4: never to take from her what we cannot use.
All Readers: Give us hearts to understand
Reader 1: that to destroy earthís music is to create confusion;
Reader 2: that to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty;
Reader 3: that to callously pollute her frangrance is to make a house of stench;
All Readers: that as we care for her she will care for us. Amen.