“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
Exodus 20:8-11 (ESV)
The Sixth Commandment makes it pretty clear; followers of the Lord Jehovah are to set aside the seventh day; don’t work, don’t make your kids do your work, don’t make your slaves do your work… No working. By extension, you don’t do anything that will make work necessary for others.
As Christians, we’ve altered the seventh day thing to the first day; lots of reasons behind that, and I won’t go into that right now. The point is that we as followers of God are to set aside one day of the week and make it holy. We’re not to fill it with stuff that will distract us from the holiness of the day, and we’re not to create an atmosphere where others will be distracted from the holiness of the day. The trouble is that in today’s society, the Sabbath Keeper is in the extremest minority, and the world around us goes on as if Sunday is just another day. And all of that makes keeping the Sabbath more than just a little difficult; it seems that even if we do keep it holy, it just doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. Given Yvonne’s line of work — a labor and delivery nurse — she occasionally finds herself working on Sundays. Babies don’t know the difference between Sunday and Monday; they come out when they’re good and ready.
And even if we do little more than go to church, then return home, have lunch then nap all afternoon, we’re still using electricity, which is produced at electric power plants that are manned 24/7, we’re still using water, which we get by way of the water treatment facility that is manned 24/7, we’re still driving places using public streets which are maintained by crews that are working 24/7 and policed by cops 24/7. And we live in a city/state/nation that is protected by the world’s finest military, which is of course on duty 24/7. And on, and on, and on, and on…
I was reminded of all that in reading about a guy in New York who has decided that he and his family are going to live for the next year with zero impact on the environment. My first thought is, “this guy is full of you-know-what.” In one of his blog posts he says,
… we’ll get as close as we can to creating no trash (so no takeout), emitting no carbon dioxide (so no driving or flying) and pouring no toxins in the water (so no laundry detergent), as well as mitigating impacts we can’t avoid (so planting trees). Not to mention: no elevators, subways, buying products in packaging, plastics, air-conditioning, TV or toilet paper.
First off, that was written in a post about how he and his wife now have worms in their apartment to take care of some of their organic wastes. Cool; I have actually looked into doing that for my family. But the question is, how did he get those worms? Probably by mail or internet order. And how did those worms get to his apartment? He definitely didn’t go down to Central Park and dig them up, so they likely were delivered by USPS, UPS or FedEx via a relay of planes & trucks, and probably wrapped up securely in a plastic package to keep the worms & their bedding nice and moist. And although they probably walk to the store to buy their food — that’s possible, and almost necessary, in New York where almost no one owns a car — how does that food get to the conveniently-located store? Through a similar relay of fossil fuel burning vehicles, of course.
The problem for Mr. Beavan is similar to that faced by the Sabbath Keeper; the deck is severely stacked against him. The only way for the “no impact man” to succeed is to travel back in time to the time of his conception and somehow stop it from happening. To try to live with zero impact in urban America in 2007 is as impossible as being a true Sabbath Keeper in 2007.
Given the futility of doing either — attempting to live a zero impact or attempting to keep the Sabbath — is it truly futile? I guess it comes down to true motivations and true intent. If I do what I can to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, God will see my efforts and will be pleased with that. And keeping the Sabbath will bring me closer to God. It won’t increase my chances of getting into Heaven — that’s already assured by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus — but it is obedience to what God has commanded, which pleases God. And when I don’t do the things that I do on other days, I focus more on Yvonne and the kids. Finally, by extension, my actions — or inactions — will be seen by others who may follow suit, and if enough people follow we can perhaps affect the social environment in which we live.
And while I don’t agree with Beavan’s viewpoint that his actions are necessary to save the planet from global warming (more on that later), I have to congratulate him for going against the grain and doing what he sees is right, regardless of how difficult it is. There isn’t a parallel spiritual aspect to what he is doing, but this approach is getting plenty of attention, which will likely result in other people following suit. Sure, I think there is a bit of grandstanding going on, which is effectively increasing his environmental impact, but he is doing what he can to do and helping others to do the same. Reducing his environmental impact won’t save the planet, but using less is always good, and reading through some of his blog posts shows that his experiment is definitely having a positive impact on his family, and that is always a good thing.