In 1996, Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf published Exclusion and Embrace, a book arising from his experience in the civil war in former Yugoslavia. Quoting the back cover blurb,
Evangelical Christians have typically read Scripture as mandating the exclusion of LGBTQ people from the community, understanding their identities as a matter of "choice" to disobey sex and gender roles spelled out in the Bible. But this understanding is fraying, both on the organizational level with the very public demise of "ex-gay" ministries like Exodus International, and more fundamentally on the personal level as believers hear and relate to the stories of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends and family members - people they have known and loved, often for years. These personal stories don't fit with the exclusion narrative (Isaiah 49:15) and the discomfort this produces is creative, moving us towards a stance of compassion and embrace. It will take a while, but I have faith that love will win out here.Increasingly we see that exclusion has become the primary sin, skewing our perceptions of reality and causing us to react out of fear and anger to all those who are not within our (ever-narrowing) circle. In light of this, Christians must learn that salvation comes, not only as we are reconciled to God, and not only as we "learn to live with one another", but as we take the dangerous and costly step of opening ourselves to the other, of enfolding him or her in the same embrace with which we have been enfolded by God.
What has this all to do with sustainability and creation care questions though? I think that the same key question is posed to us: who is within our circle of concern, who is part of the community we see enfolded by God's love? In this case, though, we must apply the question to future generations, to people who are yet to be born (though they are still present to God - is this part of the meaning of 1 Cor 1:28?). If we live our prosperous lives in a way which we know (with reasonable confidence) will deprive future generations of the ability to prosper in the same way, are we not excluding them? What, in this case, would it mean to embrace them?
Of course there is a big difference between between these two examples. My heart can be softened by my personal encounter with my LGBTQ family member; but where is the opportunity for a personal encounter with someone from the future? Do we need a time traveler? Perhaps we are extrapolating from our love for our own children and grandchildren, or (with greater theological audacity) perhaps the Christian community, "on whom the end of the ages has come" (1 Cor 10:11) should somehow see the distinction of present and future collapsed in the Communion of saints? This is often posed as a question of "intergenerational justice", and I understand this formulation, but I'm trying to suggest that there is something more intimate than justice involved here as well. Ultimately, the question is one of love. How wide is the beloved community? Where are its borders in time - as well as in space?