Tuesday, May 27, 2008

altered

There is something fascinating going on with the invention of 4 dollar gas. It’s a discussion really that has surfaced and every once in awhile takes hold for a short burst. It’s more of a psychological experiment if you ask me. As a trip to the gas station begins more and more to resemble the cost of a nice night out with my wife, talking heads are beginning to wonder, “what’s it going to take?”. What exactly is the tipping point from which normal people will veer from their normal behavior? In other words, how high will it have to go for people to alter their driving?
In my opinion, if anyone cared to know, the answer to this would be the same as the answer to the age old question “How much is enough?” The answer of course is, “Just a little more”. We are always a bit in denial I think. We are always of the opinion that “it can’t get higher”, or “things can’t possibly get worse” and then they do. We treat politics like this. We treat relationships like this, and we certainly treat economics like this. It is especially true when considering personal economics. That being said, I think that I’ve reached my limit. I should say that “We”, as in my gorgeous wife and I, have reached our limit.
We have altered our behavior. It’s not an earth shattering shift and certainly not one which would show up on a Shell executive’s radar screen, but we’ve altered just the same. We have begun to take more advantage of the place that God has put us in here in our urban village. We have access to at least some form of mass transit. We have cool ways to travel like the water taxi across the bay. If all else fails, we have our feet. We have even considered, from time to time, doing the unthinkable and selling our car. I’ve had a car from the moment I turned 16. This is no small matter. To be honest, my motives aren’t purely economic. Some are personal. I have an issue paying increasingly more on everything oil related because of the whole supply/demand rhetoric while those producing the rhetoric are finding it more and more affordable to fill their own tanks. Profitability isn’t something that I can affect in large measure, but I can sleep nights knowing that I’m not contributing to theirs. If you ask me, I’d say that we are edging towards a Mel Gibson, “Mad Max” kind of destiny.
The deeper question in all of this for me as a pastoral artist has little to do with the price of gas, but it has everything to do with incentive for altered behavior. I believe in the power of a Jesus centered faith to produce life transformation in the lives of those who claim that faith. I’ve seen it in my own life and the lives of so many with whom I have had the privilege of sharing life together. The question though is why in some but not others? Why is it that for some who claim it, patterns are altered and decisions are made which are transformational, yet for so many others who claim it this is not the case at all? To be honest, one reason it matters to me is purely selfish. They make me look bad. They make my faith look bad and they make my profession look less than admirable. They are like the SUV laden environmentalists that I see all over my home in the “green” northwest. They are like the “I’d not be caught dead carpooling” people who protest carbon gas emissions. I just want them to shut up.
I can totally empathize with people who want Christians to shut up and “stop trying to legislate morality” while not seemingly being able to define it in their own lives. I feel your pain. If my home were true to its own stated values, we’d be the most green friendly, car intolerant, leader in mass transit that this world has ever seen. But we’re not, and I just want them to shut up and alter their selfish lives to walk the talk. So the question remains, “what is it going to take?”. Whether driving or living, it’s the same elusive question. What is the tipping point from which lives will be altered?