People working together for peace, justice and the restoration of the community of life.
“Hope for the Earth in an Age of Globalization”
A Sermon by the Reverend Sharon Delgado
Bible Passages: Psalm 104:1-4, 10-24 Matthew 6:19-21, 24
A couple of years ago, I invited our grandson Jimmy on a walk down to the creek near our house, a beautiful creek surrounded by redwood trees. He was 9 years old at the time. He rummaged through the kitchen cabinets, found an old cottage cheese container, and eagerly announced, “I’m going to catch frogs.”
Jimmy was my guide. I followed him along the creek, walking on whatever path we could find, crossing on big rocks and getting our feet wet. “Where would they be?” he asked several times, trying to figure out where frogs would be hiding on a beautiful fall day like this one, using a stick to sir up the water under an overhang or under a moss-covered rock.
But as it turned out, there were no frogs in this creek at all. The creek is so polluted that it cannot sustain life.
The saddest part of this story is that this is not just happening in Scotts Valley. I know you have serious pollution of the groundwater here in the Silicon Valley. 40% of lakes, rivers, streams in US are unsafe for fishing, swimming, drinking. And frogs and other amphibians are dying out all over the world. Some scientists think it’s because of global warming, or the thinning of the ozone layer, or because of widespread pollution of our waters. Some think it is a combination of these things.
As you know, the loss of species around the world is accelerating. Many of our best-loved animals are endangered. Amphibians and reptiles, mammals and birds, butterflies and bees—so many species are dying out. What does this mean for children like Jimmy? What does it mean for the children you love?
Psalm 104 gives us a vision of the world as God created it to be: filled with diverse creatures, including human beings--each with their own habitat, each given food and water, each cared for and loved by God. Our fellow creatures fire our imaginations and keep us company. Without them, as Chief Seattle said, “humans would die of a great loneliness of spirit.” I could sense that loneliness of spirit in Jimmy. And within myself.
Chief Seattle also said, “Whatever we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves.” As we know, climate change and thinning ozone threatens human beings as well as frogs. And the toxics that are so pervasive in the environment lodge in the tissues of our bodies as well. Many scientists believe that toxic chemicals are behind the rising rates of cancer and other illnesses. God’s creation is being destroyed, and human beings are suffering because of it.
If there is hope for the earth, for the human species and for all the creatures we love, it will have to be global. We need a vision of hope that will encompass the whole world.
We are living in an age of globalization. “Globalization.” It sounds like a friendly enough term. The United Methodist Church is a global church –we have missions and ministries around the world. We support the United Nations, its treaties and humanitarian work. And God knows we will need global cooperation in order to solve the global challenges of our day.
But the term “globalization” doesn’t mean the same thing as global community or global cooperation. What people usually mean by the term “globalization” is economic globalization, that is, free trade and investment across borders, without government interference. That’s what the World Trade Organization and NAFTA and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas is all about: getting governments off the back of the corporations on a global scale. Economic globalization means letting the Market, rather than governments, decide how money flows around the world.
Let me tell you a little about the promises of globalization:
Globalization will integrate cultures, bringing shopping malls, freeways, cars, and fast-foods to people all over the world. Globalization will generate wealth and raise living standards of everyone, from the poorest to the richest. As the world’s economic pie gets bigger and bigger, there will be more pie to cut—no one will have to take a smaller piece, and yet there will be enough for everyone. Advances in technology will solve the world’s environmental crisis and get rid of world hunger. And globalization will bring peace. Nations that are cooperating together economically will have the incentive not to go to war with each other, because war is bad for business. Any problems that come up can be taken care of through the magic of the Market. With this vision, it is important to privatize government services and deregulate everything, in order to let the Market rule.
This is globalization’s vision of hope for the earth. But it is not as good as it might sound. Because corporate-led globalization is not about creating a global village based upon respect for diversity of culture, shared values, and concern for the common good. No, it is only about creating economic links, links of money. A few people are getting very rich, but many are being left behind, because everything about this vision is based on the Market. The problem is, the Market doesn’t deal with needs. It only deals only with “wants,” with demand. It only measures what people can afford to buy. Whole parts of life are left out of the Market economy: the value of the environment, the well-being of children, subsistence gardening, unpaid work of any kind, the work of most of the world’s women—doesn’t count. The vision of globalization is not about creating a global village, but a global shopping mall.
And behind this vision is an economic ideology that is pervasive-it’s everywhere. It’s been called “Economic Orthodoxy.” It’s been called “Market Fundamentalism.” It functions as a religion, a secular religion based on faith in a Higher Power, the Invisible Hand of the Market that will take care of everything. The goal of this religion is to generate profits, to keep the money flowing and the global economy growing indefinitely, without limits.
But this is yet another version of the worship of the Golden Calf. Golden Calf or Golden Arches: either religion is idolatrous. And if we go along with it, we have made the mistake as Midas, who wished for the Golden Touch. He wanted everything he touched to turn to gold, and when he got his wish, for a time it made him happy.
But gold, money, wealth, profit are not of ultimate value, and if we make them so, we lose what is dearest to us. As Jesus said, “You can’t serve God and money.” Through glorifying profit and economic growth and by making them the foundational values around which we organize our lives, we have succumbed to the religion of Mammon, which only calculates the economic value of God’s creation and human life.
Midas, when he saw that his little daughter had been turned into gold, realized that the Golden Touch was not a blessing, but a curse. When it was removed from him he was grateful and joyous, able to appreciate the living, breathing, joy of his life, his daughter, and all the other precious things that he had so taken for granted.
Hope for earth in this age of globalization is not to be found by siphoning off the wealth from the earth and from the poor and redistributing it up to the top. Or by any scheme that organizes life around money.
As United Methodists, when we are baptized we vow to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they may present themselves.” I am convinced that we are called to join with others in resisting any form of globalization that does not incorporate respect for all members of the human community and all parts of God’s creation.
And, indeed, resistance to corporate-led globalization is growing, and the church is a part of that resistance. In fact, at Annual Conference, we passed a resolution opposing the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a proposed extension of NAFTA. (There are copies of the resolution in the back of the room, as well as a sign-up sheet if you want more information.)
Hope for the earth in this and in every age, is to be found in God: The God who created the earth and all its creatures and gave them each a home; the God who created each one of us and works through us; the God who works through history in ways that are sometimes miraculous, the God who raised Jesus from the dead and can raise us up to bring about God’s purpose for the world. This is the God we are called to love and serve with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Hope lies in people who are willing to stand up and take risks and act in new and creative ways. Hope is found in people who are empowered, passionate, aroused, and full of hope; people who are willing to face the darkness and see the light, people who join hands to work together and who will never give up.
This is not an imaginary or vain hope. People are living into it right now. Millions of people around the world have been working for years in groups that focus on the environment, on labor issues, on peace and social justice. These groups have been forming coalitions that have now come together to form a global movement of resistance and renewal. The movement is world-wide, it is strong and growing. I believe that it cannot be stopped.
Whatever is going on around us, whatever our hurts, whatever challenges we face, we are called to resist whatever would diminish life.
We are called to turn our back on false hope and false gods. We are called to allow the Spirit to work through us in creative and life-giving ways. We are called to place our hope in God, even in this age of globalization. And so we can go through life, trusting and praising God, as our closing hymn says,
“Sing praise to God who reigns above, the God of all creation.
The God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation...”
And it ends with these verses:
“Cast each false idol from its throne, for Christ is Lord and Christ alone, to God all praise and glory.”