by Scott Erickson, an award-winning humor writer. This article is an excerpt from his satirical novel The Diary of Amy, the 14-Year-Old Girl Who Saved the Earth
At this point in the story, our 14-year-old protagonist – Amy Johnson-Martinez – has just finished meeting with the leaders of LifeFaith Church about her appearance at the upcoming “Environment and Religion” conference.
I’m afraid the meeting didn’t exactly go as well as I’d hoped. I’m not sure what happened, it got off so such a great start.
I met with Reverend Robert McCallister and Reverend Susan Angleborg. They told me right away to just call them Bob and Sue, and not to be nervous because they’re just regular people even though they talk to God.
Reverend Sue asked me, “Amy, would you call yourself a religious person?” I had never thought about that, so I said just what came into my mind.
I explained that I’m not exactly “religious” in the sense of going to church. But I’m not “spiritual” like Tiffany is, because the word “spiritual” makes it sound like there are “spirits” running around, and I’m too scientific to believe that. But I don’t believe that molecules bouncing around somehow created life and all the beauty of the world and the universe. Everything is so amazing and beautiful that I know it’s kind of a miracle.
Reverend Bob asked me if I knew what the word “religion” means. I was excited that I could answer! I told them what I knew, about how it’s a Latin word that means “re-link,” and how religion started when humans got separated from the Garden of Eden, which is a metaphor of when we lived in harmony with nature. That meant we lost our connection with life and the universe and everything, so religion is how we “re-link” to that connection.
They looked at each other with very surprised expressions! Reverend Sue said that was a very advanced answer. She said most people define “religion” as an organized church that offers a community of people guidance in their relationship with God and a place to hang out on Sunday.
Then Reverend Bob said, “Well, Amy, we’re here to discuss the conference ‘Environment and Religion.’ What would you hope for the conference to accomplish?”
I said that I hoped the conference would encourage religion to become more “activist” in environmental issues, just like they were active in the fight to stop slavery and promote civil rights and all the other social justice issues they’ve helped with. Reverend Sue said, “Of course! How can we, as stewards of God’s creation, sit back when ‘God’s Country’ is destroyed?”
I was SO EXCITED at this point in our meeting. I said that since millions of people are religious, it would be great if all religious people became activists for the earth. I said it would be amazing to see huge marches of religious people demanding that we live sustainably and stop destroying ‘God’s Country’!
Reverend Bob asked, “What do you plan to discuss in your presentation?” I said that I wanted to talk about the Save the Earth Act and encourage all religious people to totally support it.
I was very surprised that they didn’t know about it! So I tried to tell them about it in a short amount of time which is not easy. But I was able to include the really important stuff about how we need to stop our addiction to economic growth, because there are many ethical religious reasons that the church would agree with, including things from the Bible.
I explained about how money isn’t evil, it’s the LOVE of money. Before our meeting I even researched exactly what it says in the Bible. It’s from 1Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
I said that those words are very wise, because they predicted thousands of years ago what is coming true now, that our addiction to economic growth is piercing ourselves with many sorrows, such as destroying the earth! We are forced to “covet after” money or else our whole economy will collapse!
I also explained about how for hundreds of years the church has been against loaning with interest, or what it calls “usury.” But then I realized how silly I was being. I said, “Oh, but of course you already know all that! It’s so good that you’re against it, because it’s the root of our addiction to economic growth.”
I also talked about Jesus being against the “money changers” which in the parable was just a few people destroying a temple in Jerusalem, but in modern times is the big banks that are destroying the temple of the entire earth. Back then, Jesus used a whip to “cleanse the temple.” Of course, now we can’t use whips – but we can use the Save the Earth Act.
I was very proud of myself for being so prepared!
Which is why I’m so confused that while I was saying all this, Reverend Bob and Reverend Sue had worried looks on their faces. Reverend Bob was the first to talk. He said, “Well Amy, I want to let you know that we are very committed to sustainability. For example, here at the church we’ve switched all our lights to compact fluorescents.”
I asked about supporting the Save the Earth Act, and they stopped smiling and started acting “weird.” Reverend Bob said, “If I understand you correctly, for the church to condemn usury now would be to basically condemn the entire economic system. Is that right?”
I said, “I’m so glad you understand!”
Then Reverend Bob started talking and he KEPT talking. (I think he was doing a “sermon.”) He was saying that the name of their church is “LifeFaith Church” because they are a church of faith, He talked a LOT about faith, and said they have faith in earthly things but ultimately their faith is in God.
I said that I couldn’t understand how having “faith” could help fix the economy.
Reverend Sue said they have earthly faith that people will figure out how to get the economy growing again, but we must pray for God for guidance on how to do it.
That made me VERY CONFUSED, because I just explained how economic growth is based on usury which the church is against! So I said, “What about passing the Save the Earth Act so we don’t need to depend on economic growth?”
Then both reverends were quiet for a minute and bowed their heads, like they were praying. Then Reverend Sue said, “I just asked God for guidance on that question, and God said he didn’t think so.”
Reverend Bob said, “Look kid, I’ll give it to you straight.” He explained that a reverend trying to be too radical has the same problem as a politician trying to be too radical. In both cases, people won’t vote for you. With a church it’s not exactly the same, since people don’t actually vote for you. But they can vote “against” you by walking to a church that’s less radical. He called it “voting with your feet.”
I figured out there was one more thing I could say that I was SURE would convince them to support the Save the Earth Act. I said it had to do with the name of their church, LifeFaith Church. We already talked about the “faith” part, but we didn’t talk about the “life” part.
Reverend Sue said they put a lot of thought into the name of the church. Including the word “life” was very important, because one of their core values is “to preserve the sanctity of life.”
I said I was SO GLAD to hear that, and I explained how the definition of “natural” is “according to life” therefore saving NATURE is actually saving LIFE because they’re the same thing. So all the churches that say they’re “Pro-Life” also have to be “Pro-Nature” because that’s two ways of saying the same thing.
As they were backing me out the door, they said they weren’t sure there was actually enough time for me to give my presentation in the conference, because suddenly the schedule got all full, but if there was a last-minute opening they would let me know, but they were pretty sure there wouldn’t be.
I’ve thought about this over and over, but I STILL can’t figure out what happened. I did my research and presented my ideas very clearly. What went wrong?
McPherson’s monthly essay for Transition Voice was posted Friday, 6 December 2013: Before it goes dark, let’s live
Going Dark is available from the publisher here, from Amazon here, from Amazon on Kindle here, from Barnes & Noble on Nook here, and as a Google e-book here. Going Dark was reviewed by Carolyn Baker at Speaking Truth to Power and by P. Schneider at Amazon. As with my other books, Going Dark will lose money even before I start giving away copies.