Friday, October 15th, 2010...4:46 pm
A Theology of Water & Justice (Blog Action Day 2010)
Every year, change.org sponsors its Blog Action Day, where they take an issue of world importance and try to get as many bloggers writing posts about as possible, hoping for a viral effect that can influence larger political structures. This year’s topic is global access to clean water. I had known this was an issue, and an issue of importance, but it wasn’t until I signed on to write this post and started researching it that I realized what all it entailed.
“Social Justice-y” issues are in style right now. As globalization and social media collide, our global neighbors are feeling ever and ever closer, and our awareness to global issues is rising. What’s your little pet issue? Women’s rights? Children’s rights? Animal right? Poverty? The Environment? Global conflict and wars? As the change.org website points out in its suggested post ideas page, this clean water access issue is a primary factor in all of the above areas. Unclean and unsafe water is the primary cause of 80% of all disease and it kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. 90% of all of these deaths happen to children (source). Many global wars, including the conflict in Darfur can find their root in water access (source). The hours spent finding, carrying, and distributing water–and not going to school or working–are so numerous that it is a major source of poverty in the world (source). Indeed, there are even more implications for this most basic of issues, and they are well-catalogued on that “suggested post ideas” page, but these were the issues that struck me most.
Why people should care
Water, as the U.N. agreed in July, is a fundamental human right, as it’s lack prevents one from the enjoyment of life and every other human right. As the world becomes smaller, we are more dependent upon one another in nearly every way. It is becoming more impossible to ignore our “neighbors” and their welfare. Should not the deaths of 3,800 children every week stir us towards some sort of compassion (source)? To see the disparity between how easy it is to address this issue and how little the developed countries are contributing to its solution, is shocking, to put it mildly. But this doesn’t just have moral implications for us. As economies become ever more entwined, developing and developed countries are becoming more dependent on one another, and the issues of one cannot help but affect the other. It is in the interest of our long-term economic vitality to address this issue head-on and see this task to some sort of completion.
Why Christians should care
Water is an essential and mystical part of the Christian story and message, giving them unique motivations and resources for addressing this issue. From the opening chapters of our Scriptures, water is seen as a a major source of conflict and depth when untamed; but when handled by God, it becomes a source of life and redemption. The Israel story begins with God creating the world out of the murky depths. The Israelite people are set free from bondage to a prince of death and find their redemption by passing through a Red Sea, which previously would have held certain death and return to bondage. Israel enters the promise land in a similar fashion. God promises to sprinkle clean his people with the waters of redemption. It is by more than one water well that Patriarchs find their wives and Christ finds a woman in need of redemption. It is in the world to come that the Tree of Life is seen once more, and a River of Life flows from its roots offering life and salvation to all who drink. And perhaps in the greatest place that God meets His people–in the waters of Baptism–they find their Identity, his Covenant, and their Inclusion into the Family of God.
Water is essential to the story of Christianity. According to the sacrament of Baptism, God, in a very real sense, communicates Himself to His people through, of all means, water. Of all the substances He could have chosen to make Himself present in and through which to visibly identify His people, He chose water. Christians should care about water. As the visible representations of the hands, feet, and mouth of God, the Church has a powerful opportunity and responsibility to communicate the presence of Christ by subduing the chaos brought about by untamed and unsubdued waters and thereby bring redemption, wholeness, and healing to entire communities, nations, and regional economies.
When Jesus came and died, he died as the culmination of the history of the Israelite people–but not just that. As a product in the line of Evolution, within the body of Jesus was the entire evolutionary history of the cosmos and humanity. This being the case, when he died and was raised, he did not just bring a resurrected humanity, but a resurrected creation as well. And because of that, Christians were given the task of spreading this resurrection and redemption even to the natural world around them. They have failed much in this, but may I suggest that this is a way that they may return to their initial call to subdue that which is out of order in this world?
What we can do
The first suggestion offered by change.org for those stirred to action is to sign the petition found here to encourage U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to further the U.N.’s efforts to address this issue. But, as has been explored by greater thinkers than I, we cannot separate our moral lives from our economic ones. And for that reason, if we care about this issue at all, our personal economics will express this. There are so many things someone can do for very little money. There are two main ways that change.org offers to begin fundraising. One is through charity: water, through which a $20 donation can give someone clean water for a year. The other is through water.org, where a $25 donation can give someone clean drinking water for a lifetime. Both of these sites have many other ways to get involved as well.
As I looked into this issue (for the first time, really), I was astonished not only by how big the problem is, but how simple the solutions. May I challenge all of us–Christians, Atheists, and those of other faiths alike–to take charge of an issue that is so tangible, so attainable, and so basic for us all.