Does anybody really care? Have you heard of the term, “Body Burden”? It is a term that describes the impact of the accumulation of toxins in our bodies – the pollution that permeates everyone in the world. You carry a certain level of “body burden” just from the fact that you breathe air, walk on carpets, cross streets, eat food, drink water and have permeable skin.
In 2005, a group of researchers at two major laboratories tested umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. The 10 children in this study were chosen randomly, from among 2004's summer season of live births from mothers in the Red Cross' volunteer national cord blood collection program. They were just a random, American sample of blood collected by the Red Cross after the cord was cut.
Well, the tests on the umbilical cord blood of these 10 children revealed some 287 chemicals found in the blood among them. They harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage. Among the chemicals were eight perfluorochemicals used as stain and oil repellants in fast food packaging, clothes and textiles, dozens of widely used flame retardants and their toxic by-products; and numerous pesticides. Of the 287 chemicals detected, 180 are known to cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. And the real trouble is that the dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied. This 2005 study represents the first reported cord blood tests for 261 of the targeted chemicals and the first reported detections in cord blood for 209 compounds.
In short, we live in a time where we are born polluted.
And it is such a quiet, invisible pollution, isn’t it? It’s not like smoke from a smokestack or dead fish by the side of a river. Births still look like births. Babies still smell like babies. It’s hard to know how the clock is ticking on this. It’s hard to know what time it is about this – whether there is urgency or not, whether we should be doing something now or not. That’s how it often is, you know. The political and social debate surrounding these kinds of things is not really about whether this sort of thing is good or bad – no one likes pollution. The debate is around what time it is – how urgent and pressing? How much priority compared to other things? How demanding of action? Is it time to stand up and shout or wait it out for a future solution or better time? Is it time to deliberate, distract and deny? Or, recently - Is it really the time to focus on jobs to the exclusion of all else?
Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is? This brings to mind an encounter Jesus had in Herod’s temple with his disciples. In Luke 21, we find a crowd of people admiring the temple – Herod’s beautiful temple, build with stones literally as large as busses – 10 feet high, 20 feet long, stacked one upon another. An enormous building, seemingly as permanent as the earth itself. To big to fail. Too endorsed by God to ever meet destruction. Certainly a safe place to invest one’s entire heart and soul and that of your children and your children’s children. A structure with plenty of time.
Jesus stops to teach a different viewpoint on what time it was: “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
The question Jesus wanted his disciples to ask was, “What time is it here?” What time is it for this temple and the people in it? How should one live in such a time as this?
The church is always been challenged with this same situation – what time is it? Is it time for repentance? Is it time for quiet prayer and waiting? Is it time to take a stand for some form of justice or some toxic reality? Is it time to resist a change, accept a change or promote a change? When we look around at our world today – what time is God saying it is? What hope and perseverance are we called to maintain in this day, and what good are we not to grow weary of doing? This is a crucial question for the church in our day. If the church could just agree on what time it is, in it, it would find ways to unity, purpose and vital mission.
Let Us Agree Upon the Time I would like to propose that it is now time for the church to open its eyes and hearts and hands to the next generation of living things on this planet. I would like to propose, in view of Jesus and the Temple in Luke 21, that life as we have known it, and this planet’s hospitable ecosystems, are not too big to fail as a place for future human habitation.
If we would but open our eyes to what time it is, the seeds of these challenges in this present day could infuse new life into the stewardship of our Christian lives, our time, our health, and our relationships. If we but lend our hands to the tasks this present time demands of us, we will find a path to righting our upside down values and restoring right relationships to ourselves, each other, and those beyond our doors. If we would but let this present day speak to us about what time it is, we would find clarity for our gospel message and a renewed relevance for the church in the world.
We would discover ways of recovered holiness, and find, from the Holy Spirit, the power to choose lives of meaningful simplicity and reverence. We would find ways to bridge the gap between the generations about what church is for and why we might bother to come at all, and agree upon how to connect with relevance, validity and authenticity.
The churches opportunity is not just change light bulbs and recycle trash, but to change our language, change our faith priorities, recycle our worn out habits, renew our sense of mission, plant not just trees but ideas, clean up not just the water but our complicity in consumption, and love ourselves by loving all our neighbors – the two legged and the four legged, the finned and the rooted.
So, what says the church? Is now the time?