Expanding your footprint in a helpful way

A Christian Science perspective: Prayers for the environment.

With the climate change talks in Paris still in the mind of the public, many may be thinking of reducing their carbon footprint – using more public transportation, buying a hybrid car, or making their house greener by becoming the caulking king or queen of their street. But is it possible to think in terms of increasing a particular type of climate-changing output that can be beneficial in healing our environment?

The founder of this publication, Mary Baker Eddy, fully aware of the unlimited capacities of each of us, wrote: “As an active portion of one stupendous whole, goodness identifies man with universal good. Thus may each member of this church rise above the oft-repeated inquiry, What am I? to the scientific response: I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 165).

Starting from this basis, we can examine what we are imparting or emitting mentally. Is it envy, greed, selfishness, or dishonesty? Or, through our thoughts and actions, are we increasing the world’s goodwill, happiness, and progress?

It may seem unusual to connect what we’re contributing mentally to the world with climate change, but consider this: An editorial in The Christian Science Monitor identified a direct link between corruption and climate change – citing Volkswagen’s publishing false numbers about its cars’ greenhouse gas emissions as one instance. Giving several other world examples, the editorial points out that “an arrogant dishonesty lies at the root of much of the world’s environmental problems” (“Coming clean on corruption’s links to pollution,” CSMonitor.com).

If an “arrogant dishonesty” is at the heart of many environmental problems, could qualities like humble honesty be a part of the solution? Even if selfish thoughts and actions didn’t affect the physical environment, they would still need to be overcome in order to bless and uplift those around us. Thus, a cleaner environment in a deeper sense is the effect of each of us becoming more spiritually minded, which would include being more selfless and loving.

Christian Science shows that a spiritual understanding of God can have a transformative effect that leads to improvement of character. It starts with the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, where it says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). This means that each of us, in our true, eternal identity, reflects the all-powerful, all-loving, all-intelligent God, who is pure, unopposed goodness and light! Beginning with this viewpoint gives us the courage and strength to be more thoughtful, loving, and, yes, more considerate of our neighbors in our global environment. We can follow Jesus, the perfect example, by listening for pure thoughts that come to us from God – thoughts that reflect the divine nature, thoughts that can contribute harmony and goodness to the mental atmosphere.

Some years ago my wife and I wanted to move out of our apartment and build a straw bale house – a sustainable housing option that has worked in many different climates. We found an architect who knew the concept. Because we wanted to continue to bike and walk for our transportation, renting a car but occasionally, we needed to live centrally in the city. The architect explained that straw bale houses take a lot of room so we would need a fair-sized lot, for which we would have to outbid inner-city developers. Even if we managed to buy the land faster than the developers, the purchase would require at least the money that we had saved for a down payment, and we’d have had no money left for the construction of the house.

We knew that there had to be a way for us to pursue environmental values relative to our home, and that turning to God would help us. We understood that the laws of God were supporting us as we strove to “impart” goodness and bless others, which was what we wanted to do with our home.

As it turned out, the architect was sympathetic to our environmental efforts and suggested that we “reuse” an existing house and modify it. He looked at houses with us, advised us on a purchase, and designed an addition to the house with built-in space for some six bicycles. And he didn’t charge us very much. The 1884 home, which we continue to make as energy efficient as possible, has met our needs, served to bless our extended family, and has also been a place to host neighborhood meetings for the benefit of the community.

Truly the good that each of us expresses from God can contribute to the improvement of our environment – in our own lives and the lives of our neighbors around the world.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.