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Archive for Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Speaker encourages Americans to avoid confusing patriotism with consumerism

February 5, 2002

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Americans should stop shopping till they drop. Never mind what George Bush says.

That was the message Monday from an Orthodox Christian theologian who drew a crowd of about 125 people to the Ecumenical Christian Ministries luncheon forum.

They came to hear Bishop Kallistos Ware, an internationally known scholar and lecturer on Eastern Christian spirituality, talk about Christian thought and the importance of protecting the environment.

Citing an-cient Scripture, he said nature is a gift from God. And to "misuse" God's gift, he said, is a sin.

"Nature is sacred," said Ware, a former chairman of the theology de-partment at Oxford University in England.

Christians, he said, should love the environment as they love their neighbors.

Ware bristled at recent calls for Americans to spend more money to offset the Sept. 11 attacks' effect on the nation's economy. Spending more, he said, creates wants that can only be satisfied by taking more from the environment.

It's unfortunate, Ware said, that most Americans believe that "What I want, I need," and that having enough money gives them the right to the fulfill those needs.

Ware said he was "appalled" by politicians connecting patriotism with consumerism. As the world's richest nation, the United States, he said, should take less and share more.

He challenged the audience to consider how the call for Americans to spend more was viewed in the "less fortunate nations of Africa and India."

Ware's message struck a chord with Thomas Heilke, an associate professor of political science at Kansas University.

"Unfortunately, it's a message  'Walk more lightly while on Earth'  that most Americans aren't very receptive to," Heilke said. "But it's one that needs to be heard."

Ware spoke again Monday evening at Kansas University.

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