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Archive for the ‘Environmentalism’ Category


The other day my wife and I watched the fascinating and at times overwhelming documentary, “The Corporation.” (View the trailer on the “Education” page of our site)  This was the second time I’ve watched it and it was certainly more emotionally and intellectually digestible this time around than the first.  In the film there is a section that looks at the hormone rBST that is used on 1 in 3 dairy cows in the U.S.  This artificial growth hormone is injected into cows to increase milk production.  The drug works so well that it can do much harm to the cow–infections and immobility are chief among the resulting problems.  The FDA has approved its safety for us humans, but meanwhile it continues to harm cows and raise eyebrows around the world as to why we continue to use a questionable drug to increase milk production while our government gives subsidies to farmers to not produce it since we already have too much.  Having read an interesting article the previous day titled, “The Case Against Meat,” the question of what my Christian response to such things ought be was already on my mind.  And, after discussing these things with my wife over a delicious bowl of vegetarian udon, God solidified an initial response for me which I would be unfaithful to ignore…

1.  rBST does enough harm to cows that, where possible, I believe it is best to avoid purchasing the resulting milk.  “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest,” says God (Exodus 23:12).  God has compassion and love for all the finite beings He has created.  If we don’t, what does that say about our heart?  How well do we know God if we don’t show compassion and restraint in our use of the animals He created and entrusted to us?

2.  In the finite, over-fertilized, and increasingly globalized world we live in I believe that, where possible, it is best to eat lower on the food chain.  That is another way of saying: eating less meat is economically, physically, socially advantageous.  This is a hard one because I love eating meat.  Lamb, steak, sausage, hamburgers–I’m all about it!  But, with regard to chemicals in our food, can I really trust the FDA to know the long-term effects of the chemicals used to grow, clean, and process our food when the rest of the Western industrialized world usually disagrees with it?  Case in point: rBST is banned in the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada over human (and animal) health concerns.  It seems like as fast as companies are creating new chemicals to make our products ‘better,’ old chemicals that have been around for several years are getting banned because of their recently discovered dangers.  No one really can predict what a chemical, fertilizer, hormone, etc. is going to do to the human body or the environment until we’ve used it for a while (e.g. DDT, CFC’s, lead, asbestos, etc.)  My concern when it comes to the fancy new chemicals labeled “safe” by the FDA is one of stewardship of my finite body and our finite planet, and my realization is that we eat meat like we have an endless supply of grain, water, and land to produce it while being unconcerned and unaware of the amount of chemicals we’re ingesting and how they will affect us.  This is a complex issue which requires more of my attention but for now I need to be more serious about asking myself if I really want potentially-dangerous chemicals pumped into the ground, the plants and animals I eat, and subsequently into me?  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” says the scripture (1 Cor. 10:31).  Understanding how inextricably linked we are to our environment and to the rest of the world, I believe not purchasing chemically-treated plant and animal products, where possible, is a way to honor the God who made them.

Pondering this response I found myself staring at the same obstacles that I’ve faced in the past concerning these issues: Organic food is expensive; Cage-free meat/eggs is expensive; Can I really trust that food is “organic” or that meat was produced in compassionate ways?; I don’t know how many chemicals and hormones are used in meat and I have no idea how to find out, or how to learn if they’re bad for me; Does that mean I shouldn’t go out to eat anymore since I have no clue about the nature of a restaurant’s ingredients?; I like eating a variety of things and there are some flavors I would have a hard time not having in my diet anymore; All this takes so much time and effort!  As I thought about these objections raised by my pallet, wallet, and sense of comfort, I saw more clearly than ever what was at stake and that most of the objections amount to nothing more than desires for comfort.  Specifically, they have to do with preference.  The Euro-American diet that I have grown accustomed to over my life is one such preference.  The elements in this diet are what I, and most Americans, have an appetite for.  But, an appetite is just a preference.  Preferences are hard to change.  And, dietary preferences are especially hard to change when our appetite for the main elements of the Euro-American diet–eggs, meat, cheese, sweets, etc.–is reinforced by the overabundance of these products on the consumer end.  In order to overcome these obstacles I, and anyone else who feels similar convictions, has to be willing to question their preferences and be willing to redirect their appetite toward a different diet.

“The Corporation” makes the point several times that the business corporation is something that we invented and continue to allow to exist by giving it power.  At any time that power can be taken away and the business corporation model can be scrapped–just as slavery was.  Our laws were created by us.  What is “legal” was made legal by us.  In the same way, our concept of what a diet should consist of and what “tastes good” was created by us.  We are creative beings to whom God has given dominion over His planet–a planet that is endless in flavors, aromas, textures, and combinations thereof.  If we are scared or unable to make necessary changes to our diets, spending habits, entertainment choices, or anything else, it’s because we no longer have power over them; they have power over us.  I hope to make the shift toward a diet that is more compassionate, chemical-free, and sustainable, and I will change my preferences whether U.S. farmers and grocery stores help me or not.

Peace,
The Lord is God

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FORWARD

And there off in the final round of this Mr. Olympia 2008 competition…Jay Cutler goes for his last mandatory pose. He turns to the judges so that they can see his profile. He raises his heal to flex his calf. Hands clasped he pulls his front most arm with his rear arm across his chest and below his pec line. He raises his chest and expands his rib cage to complete a beautiful Side Lifted Rib Cage pose. Jesus Christ is up next. The Son of God slowly crouches to the stage. His Holiness’ knees bend and He places His palms flush against the stage and rests His face on the ground. This routine completes a marvelous Humble Before the Father pose. The crowd ohhhhh’s and ahhh’s. Jay Cutler has one last chance to seal his victory. Cutler makes his move. It looks as if we have the Incredible Hulk pose made famous by Lou Ferrigno. With his arms forward and down, he creates an arch in the front of his body. Firsts clenched. His traps pull up and his chest flexes to complete his Crab Most Muscular pose. But wait…what’s this? It would seem that Jay Cutler is…is…deflating right before the eyes of the judges. It appears as though Jesus’ pose has packed with it a prayer that has cast a defeating blow to Cutler’s pride. His immense boulder like shoulders have been reduced substantially and look smaller with every moment. His giant muscles have shrunk all over his body and he now looks scarily normal. Jay Cutler cries out in anguish with the thought that he will lose his Mr. Olympia reign just after 2 years of being on the top. The Mr. Olympia trophy is replaced with a crown at the last minute as a recognition of the amazing feats of Jesus at the 2008 Mr. Olympia competition. To top it off we now have a donkey on the stage and I am pretty sure they don’t allow animals in at the gates. Jesus has now hopped onto the donkey and is riding the thing right through the crowd. With fans cheering the crowned King onward out of the arena His donkey can’t help but leave behind some parting gifts for the onlookers. Watch your steps folks!  Can’t say you see that everyday.

BACKGROUND

The very first Mr. Olympia competition was held on September 18, 1965. Big names to come out of the competition have included the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “The Austrian Oak”, and Lou Ferrigno, who played the role of the Hulk in the 1970’s television series.

Bodybuilding, the art of displaying the muscles, is a recent phenomenon. Similarly, competitive bodybuilding, the sport, did not exist prior to the late 19th century. “Father” to the sport, Eugen Sandow from Germany, enjoyed displaying his physique and developed exhibitions where people would pay to admire his body. The spoils from these exhibitions blossomed into the first excercise equipment for the masses, which later inspired a culture of bodybuilding throughout the world. In 1901 the first bodybuilding competition was held in London, UK, known as the “Great Competition”.

Mr. Olympia competitions were originated and organized by brothers Ben and Joe Weider. The Weider brothers wanted to create a venue for the top bodybuilders to continue beyond that of the Mr. Universe competitions, which started in 1948. Winning the Mr. Olympia title is considered to be the highest accolade in the sport of professional bodybuilding. Taking the title has other incentives besides being the best in the sport. Since the conception of bodybuilding, the total prize money for a competition has increased from $1,000 to over $285,000 today.

TODAY

Jay Cutler is the current Mr. Olympia champion. He has won both 2006 and 2007 Mr. Olympia competitions. He will be competing at the September 25th-28th Olympia Weekend competitions in Las Vegas. He will be defending his title for the second time.

THE OBVIOUS INJUSTICE

Jay Cutler is 34 years old. His height is 5’9. He weighs 310 pounds in the off season. His 2008 Off Season Nutrition Strategy states that he eats 6 meals a day. His first meal of the day is 15 egg whites, 2 whole eggs, 4 slices of Ezekial toast, 1 cup of dry Ezekial and 1 cup of coffee. His second meal of the day includes a 10 oz. steak with 2 cups of rice. His third meal of the day includes 10 oz. of chicken with 4 cups of rice. His fourth meal consists of 10 oz. of buffalo meat with 2 cups of rice. His fifth meal, 10 oz. of turkey, one cup of Ezekial cereal and 2 slices of Ezekial bread. Meal six consists of 3 scoops of Nitro-Tech and 4 slices of Ezekial bread.

The following is an excerpt from the book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, by Ron Sider:

“A former president of World Vision visited the home of Sebastian and Maria Nascimento, a poor Brazilian couple whose home was a one-room, thatched lean-to with a sand floor. Inside, one stool, a charcoal hibachi, and four cots covered with sacks partly filled with straw were the only furniture. He wrote this heart-rending account about his visit:

‘My emotions could scarcely take in what I saw and heard. The three-year-old twins, lying naked and unmoving on a small cot, were in the last act of their personal drama. Mercifully, the curtain was coming down on their brief appearance. Malnutrition was the villain. The two-year-old played a silent role, his brain already vegetating from marasmus, a severe form of malnutrition. The father is without work. Both he and Maria are anguished over their existence, but they are too proud to beg. He tries to shine shoes. Maria cannot talk about their condition. She tries, but the words just will not come. Her mother’s love is deep and tender, and the daily deterioration of her children is more than she can bear. Tears must be the vocabulary of the anguished soul'” (p. 8).

THE CORRUPTED BODY

In the Bible, Paul urges Christians not to conform to this world’s pattern of evil systems and ideas. I think that warning is relevant today and is particularly important when we examine what is happening within America’s increasingly pro-enhancement culture.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world–the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches–comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever (I John 2:15-17 NRSV).”

Bodybuilding, as a whole, couldn’t be a more obvious example of loving worldly things. It is an ever present moment by moment expression of ones riches. Jay Cutler can afford to eat the way he does and therefore has a greater opportunity to express his riches through his massive body. As Alan M. Klein states in Little Big Men, “Bodybuilding is a subculture of hyperbole. In its headlong rush to accrue flesh, everything about this subculture exploits grandiosity and excess.”

Pride about our bodies is just another sinister agent waiting to harden our hearts to the suffering throughout the world and has been made all the more effective of a plot against humanity by the litany of legal and illegal enhancements (Cell-Tech, Anator P70 and Nitro-Tech just to list the ones that Cutler admits to taking). Shortcuts to feeling powerful every moment exist so why not take advantage of them? Lets look at this accumulation of bodily flesh for what it truly is–oppression. For men this is a particularly crucial issue and must be addressed with heightened urgency because there is more on the line than most realize.

THE HIDDEN INJUSTICE

Men are by and large most susceptible to this idea that buff and big is better. I personally have had to grapple with this underlying coercive force deeming my manliness by how much I can bench at more than a few junctures. I am 5’10. I fluctuate between 130 and 140 pounds, depending on what I am doing athletically. Most people like the joke that I am too skinny and need to fatten up. Only now have I realized the injustice layered behind the critiques about my body image.

Americans are accustomed to thinking that people who are skinny are unhealthy and people who are big and strong are healthy. There is an even more controversial myth as well that has been perpetuated by Americans underneath their very noses. The myth that it is our solemn right to be big and strong.

Humans have the God given right to sacrifice and to suffer for the sake of the oppressed so that good deeds may be done. We all have the choice when it comes to our bodies to pour out love and compassion by resisting the temptation to fill our stomachs with more than we need. We have the right to lessen our body size and to be less powerful to bring about shifts in resource accumulation and to free ourselves from the bondage of a body image centered society.

God placed in every human interesting eventualities that are too important to overlook and that help to understand the deceptive lies in “bigger bodies are better” rhetoric. When analyzed together we see that even within our very physiological compositions there exist mechanisms to help us live out God’s call to take care of those who have little:

Point # 1: As we age we need less calories because typically we lose muscle mass. A trend that people usually counter with strength building activities. Are we supposed to counter this process though? Why don’t we just eat less and eat healthier?

Point #2: More muscle mass means higher metabolism (which means you will need more energy/food which is contrary to our bodies natural survival mechanisms)

Point #3: Eating healthy foods in reasonable quantities and exercising on a regular basis is the most efficient use of food intake for our human bodies.

FLEX FOR THE KING

Filling out your shirt with you new muscles is a great feeling. Strength gains does an immense work in raising self esteem and well-being. I love to work out and to work hard. God wants you to be fit and ready to join Him in any adventure, even ones that are demanding on your body. Yet, we all must resist the temptation to let society tell us what is fit. We must resist the enhancement culture of the United States of America and deem for ourselves what is readiness for the good works that God has for us. Men, don’t let society bring you down to the simplistic understanding about eternal truths. These bodies will fail and will not last us in the end. Do not line up for yourselves expressions of your riches through your body, but line up instead treasures in heaven. Do justice by resisting excessive and glamorized versions of yourself today.

Much love,

Brish

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…and so did I!…along with everyone else who didn’t buy a GM EV-1 back in 1996…aaaaaand so did the auto industry, oil companies, the California Air Resources Board, the federal government, and even the hydrogen fuel cell movement! The only thing that apparently DIDN’T kill the electric car according the 2006 documentary, “Who Killed The Electric Car?” was…well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

This is a movie I’ve been meaning to watch since it came out. Thankfully, I finally got around to it last weekend. As the title implies, it really is an investigative type of documentary, which I appreciated. It presented a fairly balanced point of view on the whole thing too, which I also appreciated. So, I commend to you: GO WATCH IT! You’ll be glad you did.

The movie brought up a lot of interesting issues and helped educate me a lot on things I’ve been interested in for a while. One of which is the limitations of the U.S.’s power grid to actually handle a nationwide switch to electric cars. I recently read in Popular Mechanics that, basically, our grid is too old and doesn’t pump out enough power for everyone to be charging their electric car whenever they wanted to. It was suggested in the article, as well as in the documentary, that if everyone charged their cars at night then we could do it. But, Americans aren’t that disciplined. It seems like it’d have to be a law for that to really be feasible.

The second issue I found really interesting was the whole hydrogen fuel cell idea. According to one expert/author in the film, it would take overcoming 5 major hurdles for hydrogen cars to become a reality: 1. Currently, fuel cell cars cost around $1 million each; 2. There is no known material that can be used to store enough hydrogen in a car to give it the mileage range comparable to current gas cars; 3. Hydrogen fuel itself is extremely expensive; 4. We’d need a massive fueling infrastructure to be built–just like the network of gas stations all over place that we take for granted; and 5. Competing technologies (gas/electric hybrids, biodiesel, solar, etc.) can’t improve otherwise they’ll beat hydrogen cars in the quest to replace gas cars before they even get off the ground. So, basically, the thesis is that the best alternative, right now, is building on what works: hybrids.

More compelling to me than those two important issues was that the film clearly illustrated a dangerous characteristic of human nature: the fundamental desire for comfort. Check out my not-so-fictitious line of reasoning based on the events that took place:

“…OK, so gas is expensive and it comes from the Middle East and it’s destroying the planet. So, we should stop using it now! Ah ha! Instead of having to get rid of all our cars and everything, let’s use ELECTRICITY to power em instead! Yeah! Oh, wait a second…if we do that then our entire economic system will have to change cuz the oil industry produces so much money for the economy and provides jobs for millions of people. So, we’d have to figure out a way to keep all that stuff in tact cuz then our standards of living might go down and our way of life would have to change so much. Hmm, on second thought maybe we should just compromise somewhere. Gas is no good and everything, but losing all that money and stability, well, that’s even worse. OK, so what if we just sloooowly make the shift away from gas instead of making a drastic shift? That way we could develop the infrastructure and jobs and everything that would basically keep the status quo…and maybe even IMPROVE it! Bingo! That’s it! So, we’ll have hybrid cars, alternative fuels, etc. Man, this’ll be great! We’ll be free from gas by, like, 2090 at least!…”

“Wow, you’re pretty idealistic to think we should just drastically and immediately stop using petroleum powered cars and start using something else, buddy,” you might say to me. My point is, while whether or not oil is destroying the planet and starting wars might be somewhat debateable, the rationale we use to keep on using oil when there are probably better alternatives available is wrong. The movie demonstrates that we prefer gradual change over radical change because it’s more comfortable.

Radical, drastic change is inconvenient, risky, and scary. Even if we know the change is right, good, and better, our desire for comfort will squash our drive to change. I’ve witnessed this in myself, in others, and in the sky-is-the-limit culture of the Silicon Valley. However, when God points His finger on an area of your life and says, “that…change that.” Is gradual, comfortable change an option? Is there such a thing as a process of repentance? Jesus said, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:30) Nothing gradual about that! When we know we’re doing something wrong there are no excuses, it’s time to change. Unfortunately, just like changing to electric cars would have had a very uncomfortable short-term ripple effect for America, changing our individual behavior can too.

This is what is so hard about living justly in the U.S.; we have to give up so much comfort and convenience and let our standards of living fall a bit. Whether it’s giving more money to the poor of the world, buying only organic and fair-trade products, taking public transportation, working for a non-profit instead of a big corporation, doing community service, getting educated on global issues, sharing a Christian worldview with co-workers, praying a lot more, and all the other difficult things God may urge us to do, doing the right thing often requires change, sacrifice, and discomfort. But, like 12-Step Program participants must do, we must first be humble enough to admit we have a problem and need to change…and then not forget the rest of Jesus’ thought: “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” It definitely is.

Peace,

The Lord is God

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