Monday, February 04, 2013

Same Sex Marriage and Radioactive Waste

On 18th March 2012, the Labour MP for Copeland, Jamie Reed tweeted the following:
“7 years as an MP. Still waiting for a 'Christian' to send me a letter on child poverty. Plenty on homosexuality and abortion.”
Remarkably, almost a year later, the tweet is still circulating on Twitter. It clearly resonated with a lot of people.

As a Christian who was also an active member of Copeland CLP, I often found myself engaged in these kind of discussions. I have meant to blog about it for some time. Oddly enough, the recent decision by Cumbria County Council to reject moving to Stage 4 of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely process, provided the impetus.

You see, I believe that there are reasons why God has strong opinions about how we conduct our sex lives. It is because He loves us, cares for us and doesn’t want to see us get hurt. I also believe – and this is abundantly clear from the biblical narrative – that God also loves and cares for our children, our children’s children – in fact, all our descendants. We can really mess up the lives or our descendants if we conduct our sex lives without giving any thought to them. If you don’t believe me, go and work in a Family Law office for 12 months.  Seen from this vantage point, I do sometimes wonder whether God perhaps has bigger fish to fry than same sex couples wanting to get married. And besides, I’m not entirely convinced that West Cumbria’s biggest problem is that there isn’t enough homophobia.

But if we agree that, as Christians, we should live our lives conscious of our impact on future generations, how much more should Christians living in the shadow of Sellafield care about what happens to the radioactive waste stored there? We should care about threats to their health from radioactive substances – but those threats should be real not imagined. We should care that we bequeath the beautiful landscape that we have inherited – but not as a mausoleum or a playground for the wealthy. We cannot allow the landscape to become an idol at the expense of the prosperity of its people. Nothing scars the landscape – or our consciences – more than those left by multiple deprivation.

It is a common fallacy in Christian circles to believe that God only cares for our spiritual well-being. This sort of asceticism is as old as the Christian faith itself - even St. Paul criticized the Colossians for it in the Epistles. Moreover, Christians are explicitly exhorted to care for people’s physical needs:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2: 15-16)

It is wrong to believe that it is acceptable for West Cumbria to decline economically provided it revives spiritually. When the Israelites were carried off to Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah exhorted them to:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Jeremiah 29: 5-7)

Babylon was hardly a Godly nation – they were the enemies, but God’s people were exhorted to work – and pray – for Babylon’s prosperity. If God cares for Babylon’s prosperity, how much more does He care about West Cumbria!

West Cumbria faces numerous threats to its future viability as a local economy. It has faced these threats for at least the last fifty years – and will continue to face them for many generations to come. The decisions we make in this generation – for good or evil – will determine the prosperity of future generations of West Cumbrians. It will determine whether they are even living in West Cumbria. A geological disposal facility could bring an additional £20 billion to the West Cumbrian economy; a new nuclear power station could bring many billions more.  It is possible that these may not be the right answers but it is the duty of every West Cumbrian Christian to labour for a more prosperous future.

Rachel Burgin

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