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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The American way and the ecological vision in the presence of fear [1]

Despite the outpouring of these days of remembrance, we remain strangely mute. Far, far too many words, yet few that reveal, ease, avail. We do not yet have that epistle of searing truth dispatched from the fires themselves—Wiesel’s Night, Bonhoeffer’s “After Ten Years,” or Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. September Requiem awaits its muse just as those whose grief or trauma hardly has any words at all, and even fewer notes, still await their own soul’s version of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Chile.” The Ground Zero psalm, the Towers hymn, a Manhattan prayer for the ages—all will eventually find their lonesome way from the heart. But for now, a year later and counting, they remain part of the vacancy that rests beneath the saturation of sound and image these days have borne like a yoke that is not easy and a burden that is not light.

An ethicist can supply none of these. But he or she can make connections that let us think more deeply about how we want to live. How ought we to live, what makes human lives go well—these are the perennial questions ethics owns.

September 11 and its aftermath have been cast in starkly moral terms from the time the towers tumbled. A clash of civilizations, a defense of basic values, good vs. evil, crusade mirroring jihad—terrorism’s war is a war of profoundly moral stakes. Yet essential connections that turn on vulnerabilities exposed by two Septembers—9/11/01 and the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, 9/02—are not being made, and ought to be. Both are about security in a tightly coupled world in the presence of fear amid new levels of vulnerability.

For all of this, what finally counts is not, all sentiments to the contrary, a change of heart or of values but of practice and a way of life. More precisely, a change of heart, values or emotional tone without a change of practice is “only another pointless luxury of a passively consumptive way of life.”[2] And of that we have had enough, both before and after September 11. It is in fact a major cause of our insecurity. I will also underscore that while interdependence in this tightly coupled world—very small, very round, with no exit ramp—is a given, security and sustainability do not turn on the fact of interdependencies but on the way they are organized. Here—the way interdependencies are organized—the ecological vision offers a practical antidote to real fear in a world far too vulnerable in its present constellation. At least that is the argument of these pages.

Our perils aren’t as new or novel as September 11 has taught us. At the service of remembrance in James Chapel on 9/11/02, the following from E. B. White was included:

The subtlest change in New York is something people don’t speak much about but that is in everyone’s mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition. All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm. It used to be that the Statue of Liberty was the signpost that proclaimed New York and translated it for all the world. Today Liberty shares the role with Death. [3]

That was 1948.

Nor is the redundant message of three Earth Summits (Stockholm 1972; Rio 1992; Johannesburg 2002)—the planet is a single oikos (house) and habitat—quite as new as El Nino, the deluge and drought of accelerated climate change, cell phones and the Internet, communicate. The year he was assassinated, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote this in an essay entitled “The World House” in a book entitled, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?.

Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: “A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.” This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a large house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace. [4]

And well before King, in the 1940s, Reinhold Niebuhr pondered chaos and community as alternative fates in an “age of technics.”[5] “The task of creating community and avoiding anarchy is constantly pitched on broader and broader levels”[6] in “the age of technics,” Niebuhr contended. More sophisticated technologies have entered “the fields of production and communications,” he wrote in 1945, after citing the atomic bomb as an example of “the progressive development of technics” for, in this case, the ominous development of weapons of mass destruction. The “ever increasing introduction of technics” overall, Niebuhr went on,

constantly enlarges the intensity and extent of social cohesion in modern man’s common life; and also tends constantly to centralize effective economic power. The effect of technics upon communications is to create a potential world community, which we have not been able to actualize morally and politically. The effect of technics upon production is to create greater and greater disproportions of economic power and thus to make the achievement of justice difficult. [7]

Niebuhr warns that greater concentrations of economic power tend “to destroy the more organic and traditional forms of community” within nations, producing “atomic individuals” and “dynamic [rather than static] inequalities and injustices.”[8] Since for him it was axiomatic that “disproportions of power increase the hazard to justice,”[9] this bode ill for community and a good held in common. “To be armed with power means that the temptation to do what one wants increases” and what one wants in the moment is “usually not the common welfare.”[10] His summary conclusion was that “the total effect of the rise of a technical civilization and an industrial society has been the destruction of community on the national level and the extension of conflict on the international level.” [11]

With these reminders from White, King, and Niebuhr that our present story did not begin with the new millennium, we return to the tale of two Septembers.

Two Presidents Bush drew the same line in the same sand a decade apart: “the American way of life is not up for negotiation.” George Herbert Walker made this statement upon his arrival at the Rio Earth Summit in September, 1992, George W. in the wake of that act of grotesque cunning that incinerated 2801 innocent souls in September, 2001. Yet the questions this American challenge raises went unasked by both father and son. They are these: In the presence of vulnerabilities that will not wane in a “world house” in an “age of technics,” what ways of living make for greater security when, in the same breath, you ask about sustaining the planet and the place of the United States? And what do the Earth Summits tell us that the current, non-negotiable, post 9/11 course does not?

From Johannesburg, as also from Seattle, Washington, Geneva, Genoa, and other sites of globalization backlash, it looks like this. If you want security, don’t create a society reliant on distant sources of food and energy that have to be secured by intimidation, costly incentives, great webs of regulation, or plain, brute force. Don’t overhear yourself talking about our critical oil supplies in the Asian republics or the Middle East, and about “American petroleum security” abroad. And don’t demand inexpensive, long-distant transport when that can only be granted by “cheap fuel, international peace, control of terrorism, prevention of sabotage, and the solvency of the international economy.”[12] Nor, if you want security, do you want to create highly complex or heroic technologies that require knowledge and skills possessed by a limited priesthood of scientists, engineers, and acolyte techies, technologies that have to be secured indefinitely not only against terrorists but against plain, old-fashioned common human error in a world not overly burdened with perfection. Neither do you want to see basic human needs of food, shelter, clear air, water, and sustainable livelihoods going unmet--ever. The think-tanks are right that there isn’t a simple one-to-one relationship between poverty, desperation, degraded environments, and back-breaking, Sisyphean toil, on the one hand, and uprootedness, violence, rage and terrorism, on the other. But a complex relationship among these will often yield much the same results, especially if powerlessness, mass humiliation and frustration are added. “The poverty of dignity,”[13] when wed to plain poverty, fires great resentment toward wasteful, arrogant affluence. And if you want security—another Earth Summit point—don’t do the good and vital work of attending to the health of democratic institutions, using police and military power in the interests of all, and fairly distributing wealth while neglecting the requisites of life upon which all these utterly depend—the protection and replenishment of soils, air, water, and biological diversity. Society’s health is always a part of the rest of nature’s. Real security has always been profoundly “socio-ecological.” Expanded human security at the expense of Earth’s requirements for its own regeneration is a guaranteed downward slope and eventual dead end. A “secured” clear-cut is not secure at all.

Nor, if you want security, should you design high-tech interdependencies for most all your basic systems, including security systems. In a high-tech world, low-tech means in the hands of martyrs, nihilists, or rebels with a cause are far more dangerous than high-tech means in a low-tech world, in anybody’s hands. Box-cutters combine with commercial jets to become Molotov cocktails from hell as human-guided missiles replace computer-guided ones. A few spores in a few gradeschool envelopes in a high-tech postal system evacuate the Senate Office building and the American Media building for months. Used pickups with fertilizer nitrates and diesel oil, dirty nuclear weapons you could stuff in a Land’s End backpack or ship in a carved trunk from an Istanbul bazaar, soda can-size bioterror, programmed disabling of communications networks, traffic systems, and industrial infrastructure traveling the speed of sound or light—all these are means available to the enraged, the disciplined, the few, the deranged, and the devout. And at a cost-effectiveness rate that should capture the cold respect of any beady-eyed business leader. A sum less than the price of a single tank, to say nothing of the annual skim of even one good CEO, has already been enough “to cause hundreds of billions of dollars of damage and seize control of western media for months.”[14] The Congressional Budget Office says the government has spent $37 billion over the last year and may spend $443 billion over the next ten.[15] Protection pursued as high-tech means in a tightly-wired world may in fact be the prescription for bank-busting insecurity. History has enjoyed ironies less delicious than this.

Differently said, if we actually wanted to create a system vulnerable to terrorism, sabotage, or war, or a system friendly to fear and free-floating anxiety, we would design one that is global in extent, technologically complex, economically and demographically centered in dense metropolitan areas, and crucially dependent on a relatively few kinds of limited and concentrated resources. Then we would organize protection on a national military basis [16] and be willing to go it alone as an imperial power when the allies didn’t rally. Yet this is the kind of security/insecurity we have. Its proponents argue that it is indispensable to a way of life that’s “not up for negotiation.”

What about sustainability in the world house, that growing preoccupation of the planet since the Rio Earth Summit? There is much you would not do, if sustainability is the goal. You would not, for example, design a way of life that:

put billions of pounds of toxic material into the air, water, and soil every year;
measured prosperity by activity rather than legacy;
required thousands of complex regulations to keep people and nature systems from being poisoned too quickly;
resulted in gigantic amounts of waste;
put valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved;
eroded the diversity of biological species, cultural practices, and ways of life intricately fine-tuned to place; [17]
considered fossil fuel freedom a fundamental right and consuming an act of patriotism.[18]
But we have, and the hard message of the summits is that the industrial paradigm in either capitalist or socialist forms is, from the point of view of Earth’s well-being, fundamentally flawed. The downsides to an immensely successful generation of wealth and well-being for millions and millions have given rise to unsustainable, rather than sustainable, development as the present course. Simply put, we cannot live in ways that deny Earth’s well-being as primary and ours as always and utterly derivative. “Sustainable development” must replace unsustainable. We must live with, not against, the grain of nature.
The Earth Summits have also been gathering places—“Union Squares,” if you will,[19] --for what are becoming truly massive efforts to find reform and an alternative way. We will turn to that good news as soon as I get an op-ed piece off my chest.

Empires, like Achilles and other fabled heroes of war, stand and move on small supports, like heels. Or, like flamingos, they display glorious, exotic color but have similar knees and legs. The United States, which laid out a full-blown rationale for empire in “The National Security Strategy of the United States”[20] (September, 2002) is not exempt from such vulnerabilities. Our addiction is fossil fuels and our captivity is a massive import- and export-dependent economy. The addiction and captivity are sufficient to engage in the kind of moral hypocrisy and moral relativism that has undermined many nations and empires. Certain values of present Western civilization are worth putting oneself in harm’s way to defend: freedom, tolerance, openness, human rights, equality and women’s rights, religious pluralism and the right to worship as you wish, or not at all. But it is morally hypocritical to say the reason for waging war on terrorism is to defend these and offer the world a democratic Afghanistan, a democratic Iraq, and a democratic Kuwait or Pakistan, when the subtext is energy security and your allies are regimes that oppose those very values. If you want truly to flirt with moral relativism, then defend friendship with Saudi Arabia but use the Bush terrorism doctrine to go after Iraq. Oil riches are used by the Saudis to maintain feudal elements and stave off democracy, resist education and enhanced roles for women, dismiss religious and cultural pluralism, tolerance and free exchange. There are moderate Saudis who press for some semblance of democracy, but it is the ruling family, and not they, the U. S. supports. In a policy that does not hold for anyone else, to my knowledge, the U. S. does not even collect intelligence on its own in Saudi Arabia, but ask the Saudis for it. We have identified persons we are convinced are part of the terrorist system but on whom the Saudis have not provided information, even when asked. Furthermore, it is demonstrable that the money trail for Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups leads to wealthy Saudis. [21] USA Today reports that even since June, 2002, “nearly 80 percent of the hits on a secretive Qaeda Web site…have come from addresses in the country that also spawned nearly 80 percent of the 9/11 hijackers.”[22] Yet not only Bush, but every U. S. president since Carter has hailed the Saudis as indispensable allies with whom we have an “eternal friendship.” The truth is that our utter dependence on oil, our huge consumption of fossil fuels generally, our failure to develop alternative energies and wean ourselves from these addictions, and our massive need for markets lines us up with autocratic regimes whenever and wherever we need them. So we will go easy with China, because it is such a huge market, even as its own growing dependence on oil finds it ponying up to axis of evil nations like Iraq and Iran. We supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, apparently at a time we knew he was poisoning his own people. We supported Osama and the Taliban in their war against Russia, and we embrace General Musharraf as he unilaterally amends the constitution of Pakistan so as to stave off a threat of democracy and as he refuses international inspection of Pakistan’s nuclear installations. Because our non-negotiable way of life consumes inordinate energy and demands imports, exports, and resources everywhere in the world, we end up telling the rest of the world they must join us in the war on terrorism at the very same time we don’t have to join them in battling global warming or setting time tables and targets for shifts to renewable energy. We also insist that free trade is the proven rode to prosperity and the companion piece to democracy while we, who hold more power than others in the bodies that make the rules, break the rules and rig the trade when it doesn’t work in our favor. This is, in any case, not about free trade at all, as the poor testify from experience. It’s about free investment access for corporate capitalism, a very different matter. We should have been suspicious when the “free trade” agreements establishing the World Trade Organization ran to 25,000 pages. President Bush is right that some evil people hate us for who we are and that they are enemies of truly priceless freedoms. But he needs to worry far more about good people disliking us for what we do and the hypocrisy it entails. [23] And he needs to explain why we single out one card-carrying evildoer—Saddam Hussein—when other evildoers are among our friends and also possess weapons of mass destruction that could find their way into terrorist hands. Moral credibility is essential to effective policy, and foreign policy is as dependent as domestic policy on a moral minimum. That moral minimum is two-fold: that you will not betray by the means you employ the very values you proclaim as the reason for your cause; and that you will not use double standards and argue in effect for U. S. American exceptionalism. I am not naïve about this and I have heard the case made for pragmatism and realism over and again. But pragmatism that has no moral vision or principles is crass opportunism, and realism that will project power without moral constraints ends up defeating itself in the way empires often do. In any event, squaring democracy with more imperial power than you should trust with angels while you ally with autocratic regimes is fuzzier math than most people will accept, just as is squaring democracy with a military doctrine of pre-emption that is subject to veto by no one. And oil dependency that overheats the earth and binds you to tyrants is addiction, not realism. Bush’s answer—more Arctic drilling, perhaps more fuel-efficient cars sometime and eventually a possible hydrogen alternative, and energy policy written by unnamed energy corporation leaders meeting in private—hardly suffices. The trouble is not that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, or we are dumb. The trouble is that they and we think the rest of the world is, if we expect them to believe that we are fighting for what we and they cherish—those democratic values and freedoms and “the single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise”[24]—rather than the exacting requirements of American affluence as a way of life. The exacting requirements of American affluence are the non-negotiables. “Democracy and free enterprise” is the way we justify to ourselves whatever it takes to “secure” that affluence.

All this was nicely captured on the occasion of the Johannesburg Earth Summit itself. President Bush, among the world’s leaders, personally ignored it altogether. He sent one of the few multilateralists in his largely unilateralist administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell, who, like Bush’s father in Rio, was present at the Summit for one day. Most of Secretary Powell’s trip was instead given over to courting African nations (Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea) with a precious resource—oil. (No U. S. Secretary of State had previously visited Gabon.) In parallel fashion Congress and the Pentagon have increased exchanges with these and other West African countries about establishing a military presence. Only a little later, and as a follow-up to President Bush’s meeting with President Putin in May, 2002, the U. S. and Russia announced high level discussions on “energy cooperation.” The U. S. has its new ally, Russia, in view as a major supplier of crude oil to the U. S. [25] That the Earth Summit was the occasion for diversifying America’s oil-import sources captures perfectly American priorities and commitments. It also shows how carefully addicts treat their pushers while still considering most any means to secure their supply.

There is a personal factor at work. George W. Bush was elected president in 2000. But he became president on 9/11 and hasn’t dismounted since. With intoxicating vocational and moral clarity, [26] and with unintended thanks to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, he has found the mission and focus of his presidency and his own place in history. It is as a war-time leader. And it is now so important that he probably needs the anti-terrorist campaign and cause to hold his support in the face of other tenacious and gathering problems. It is no consolation that his kind of Christianity supports this intoxicating clarity—clear, simple, private, and direct—is the kind of faith that is often of real help to converts from alcohol and loose living to God, domesticity and physical fitness but is also the kind that performs badly as a mentor for the messiness of world affairs.

That op-ed piece out of my system, I turn to the hopefulness that has accompanied the Earth Summits but that has not yet penetrated serious strategic thinking about security. It rests in an emergent ecological vision sometimes named “sustainable community.”

Most discussions of “sustainable development” assume the globalizing economy of corporate capitalism and seek to green that eco-efficiently with improved technologies. We can do better and do well at the same time is the contention, by utilizing a managerial approach to environmental problems. Catalytic converters on car exhausts, CFC-free aerosols, carbon dioxide scrubbers on industrial smokestacks, recycled plastics—these and more are the technical adjustments in the hands of an instrumental rationality that permit affluence to continue without disruptive, much less fundamental, changes. Such soft utopianism is the U. S. stance even when, as in Johannesburg, it infuriated everyone with its refusal to set targets and times for achieving environmental goals, or solidly commit to budgets. “Sustainable community” by contrast asks how the economy and environment together are wrapped around local communities and bio-regions and their indigenous assets. In contrast to the ways of globalization as current corporate capitalism, even greened, sustainable community tries to preserve or create the following: a world weaned on a regional basis from fossil fuels and powered by renewable ones; greater economic self-sufficiency locally and regionally, with a view to the bio-regions themselves as basic to human organization; agriculture appropriate to regions and in the hands of local owners and workers using local knowledge and crop varieties, with ability to save their own seeds and treat their own plants and soils with their own products; the preservation of local and regional traditions, language, and cultures and resistance to global homogenization of culture and values; a revival of a sense of the sacred, vis a vis a present way of life that leeches the sacred from the everyday and has no sense of mystery because it reduces life to the utilitarian; the repair of the moral fiber of society on some terms other than freedom of consumer choice; resistance to the commodifying and patenting of all things, including knowledge and life forms; the internalization of costs to the local, regional, and global environment in the price of goods; and the protection of ecosystems and Earth’s “vitality, diversity, and beauty” as “a sacred trust .”[27] All this is global democratic community, not nativist localism. It does not ask whether to “globalize” as citizens of King’s “world house,” but how. And its answer­democratic communities democratically arrived at­is global community by virtue of its planetary consciousness and the impressive networking of citizens around the world made possible by electronic globalization. It is also democratic by virtue of its emphasis upon the self-organizing, self-provisioning, and self-governing capacities of people in their communities. And it is democratic in its efforts to move from the pyramided powers of the global economy Niebuhr worried about to more broadly dispersed, shared, and accountable powers. Granted, it is not the democratic vision often associated with the American Way—a society with virtually unrestricted liberty to acquire and enjoy wealth that renders the right to property and its uses more basic than the right to use government as an equalizing force. It is rather democracy as the process of democratizing social, political, and economic power for a common good that is shared with the more-than-human world. Sustainable community is attentive to questions that global capitalism, even as sustainable development, rarely asks: namely, what are the essential bonds of human community and culture, as well as the bonds of the human with the more-than-human world; and what is the meaning of such primal bonds for a healthy and robust way of life? What is cultural wealth and biological wealth and how are they sustained in the places people live with the rest of the community of life? And what is security as the protection of all that is required for the Community of Life, security as patterns of production, consumption, reproduction and protection from harm, security that safeguards Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and local well-being? A society with many nuclear reactors, for example, or other power grids that stream electricity from big installations, some of them far away, some too close, is more vulnerable than one using decentralized solar, wind, biomass, or other regionally appropriate and regionally-sustainable energy technologies. We don’t know the future price of nuclear power or oil. We do know the future price of sunshine and wind—it’s zero. And compare the fallout of attacking a nuclear facility with the fallout of attacking your neighborhood wind and solar farm! Or, to continue, urban communities like ours would be less vulnerable if we were far less dependent on foreign oil and all other fossil fuels, and more dependent on the technologies of a solar-hydrogen economy for the longer rides—and bicycles and wheelchairs for the short ones! A society fed by mono-cropping mega-farms in the hands of industrialized, high-tech, high fertilizer and high pesticide input agriculture tended by farmers who do not own them and who never see the people they feed, is more vulnerable to food insecurity than many relatively smaller and more dispersed, indigenously-oriented and locally owned and operated farms such as those of the Community Supported Agriculture movement. And in general, communities are healthier when their community prosperity is an expression of community assets and the circulation of finance and skills in a vibrant local and regional economy of interlocking neighborhoods. Differently said, problems of resource use—both material resources and talent—are best solved when points of production and consumption are relatively close together. This is not anti-free trade at all. It is anti-rigged trade and it is trade centered in regional choice and decisions, rather than the trade of an export-dependent economy or an import-dependent one. As the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and millions, yes, billions, of people have painfully learned, free trade always brings freedom and prosperity, except when it doesn’t; and it works best of all for the richest fifth of the world’s peoples. Johannesburg reported that eighty countries had per capita incomes lower than they were a decade ago. [28]

To put it in one sentence: as a rule of thumb, local and regional sufficiency is the surest, safest and least expensive way to live, at least when equity, economy, and environment are respected as an interlocking cluster. Such shared sufficiency is not possible on our present course, given that reigning habits are deeply institutionalized in systems that oppose collective regional self-sufficiency and given an administration that is retrograde about the requirements of Earth itself. So the steps are necessarily incremental even though the needed changes are fundamental. But this de-centralized sufficiency operating on the basis of subsidiarity [29] is already underway in a million small ways in a million different places, as visits to the summits, the internet, the neighborhood, or Time magazine’s summit feature, “How to Save the Earth,”[30] testify. The ecological vision is the practical antidote to real fear in a world far too vulnerable in its present constellation.

This effort to link 9/11 and Earth Summit lessons closes with what seems a tag-on but is not. Making the case for the ecological vision should garner support from Christians for numerous reasons that count as reasons of faith. The doctrine of human sinfulness understands that injustice flows from disparities of wealth and power and that shared economic, political, and social power in a world where each one counts as one, as precious children of God all, is far likelier to be more secure. The simple baselines of certain biblical themes about our material well-being are also relevant: the world as created by God is abundant, sufficient for all if appetites are restrained and requirements for earth’s regeneration respected; disparities of wealth and power are not “natural” but the result of life going awry; and the prophetic call to redistribution and reordering of society is good news to the poor and a periodic necessity incumbent upon people of faith. [31] Then there is that daring contention that we put the enemy’s welfare—and enemies are real—in the same moral framework as our own and judge all by the same standards. In a world where a wall, a mountain range or an ocean could separate antagonists, loving enemies would perhaps count as worthy moral admonition and on principle the right way to live. But in a world house we all inhabit at close range, loving enemies and blessing those who revile is fast becoming survival’s own mandate. Lastly, while the ecological vision of sustainable community is a far better direction and a realizable one as well, in a high-tech world vulnerable from so many different sources we will no doubt continue to live in the presence of fear. Sustainable community, while better, is, in any event, no panacea. There are no panaceas, chiefly because human nature hasn’t lurched permanently to something better than that to which Homer, Moses, Prince Siddartha, Jesus, and any reading of scriptures testify. Life, as Luther and all sages have known, has always been a dicey, uncontrolled experiment and sin has always been the effort to organize a security that cannot be had in life as we know it. It is certainly not less so in an age of vastly expanded human powers that fail to carry equally expanded virtue or wisdom. Peace will thus remain the great venture, not of the hunkered down and the over-armed, but of those who risk in faith that a different world house can come to be in which the welfare of enemies, who are real and who are dangerous, is part of the same complicated structure as our own. Justification by grace through faith, splashed about at the font and renewed at the table, is one way to name that odd, unguarded security that allows, even invites, this kind of risk and venture. To be free in this way is good news for those who work for sustainable Earth communities in the presence of fear and do what they must and can to re-negotiate an American way of life that is only “sustainable” on terms that should not be accepted on either moral or material grounds.



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