Upon hearing that the oil leak will probably last till August, fisherman Tom Young of Plaquemine Parish is quoted in an Associated Press story as saying "I was just sitting here thinking our way of life is over. It's the end, the apocalypse"
Many of us in the state of Louisiana have been watching in shock at the events that have transpired on the gulf. At first we were all anxiously waiting to hear from our people that worked offshore, to make sure that they were not on the rig that exploded. After getting confirmation that "ours" were safe we were saddened that others were not. Then the news broke that oil was leaking into the gulf.
After Katrina, Rita, Gustav, & Ike, all natural disasters, now we are facing a purely human made one. As the oil continues to pour into our gulf we wonder and wait. Most of us feel powerless and even the non-religious among us are praying because that seems to be all we can do!
As a pastor in a congregation with oil workers is difficult to know what to say. The economy in this state is dependent on some interesting, some might say mutually exclusive, interests. Oil company along side fisheries, rigs along side boats. All trying to make a living.
So when faced with this nightmare, it makes sense that we speak about it in biblical terms. I think of Romans 8:22 "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now."
When is our "until now" going to come for the people of Louisiana? When is the oil going to stop pouring? When will the devastation of our wetlands turn to renewal of them? When will we stop blaming and start working together towards effective solutions? When are we going to find ways to make sure that this does not happen again?
For now the whole creation groans, our wetlands are groaning, our wildlife, our people.
Today another hurricane season begins and we find ourselves more anxious than usual. The fears are well grounded. What would an oil loaded hurricane do to our state?
Once again we are at the mercy of others. At the mercy of a corporation that at times seems to not get the extent of this devastation. At the mercy of government that at times seems slow and weak. Frustration builds: at corporate wrongdoing, at politics being played, at the lack of a clear solution.
The biblical story gives language to us once more. Creation groans and we groan with it! Those of us centered on the Christian faith might pray these words from Walter Brueggemann:
"Teach us how to weep while we wait, & how to hope while we weep, & how to care while we hope"
(from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, p 69)
May we weep today, for creation as it is decimated by this disaster, for those who have lost their livelihood, for lives lost . . .
May we hope today that an answer will be found, that creation will be restored, that livelihoods will be found . . .
May we care by providing hands to clean the wildlife, clear the wetlands, and meet the needs of the unemployed . . .
This is my prayer, for my people, my neighbors, friends, and fellow sojourners. This is my prayer because my Christian faith proclaims a God that makes order out of chaos, light out of darkness, life out of death.
I know that many questions still remain. We need to have honest conversations about our dependence on oil, our care and responsibility for creation, and the role of government (of the polis) in regulating corporations. I pray that we can have these conversations in a way that transcends polarized thinking and ideological dispute but instead are centered on our mutual understanding on the importance of creation as God's work and our role as faithful stewards of the created order.