December 28, 2009

Thomas said to Him, “Lord…how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:5, 6

A shout out to my cousin Beth, who called my attention to an Utne Reader blog post by Keith Goetzman entitled “Don’t Be a National Parks Bagger.” This is what he has to say about the attempt by people to see all 58 national parks:

What’s wrong with visiting all the parks? Well, for starters, doing so would leave a massive carbon footprint…If we burned the auto and airplane fuel it would take to visit all the parks, many of which are in remote and hard-to-reach locations, we’d emit a huge amount of CO2 that ultimately would work against the very places we’re trying to preserve…For another thing, “park bagging,” as I’ve heard it called, is ultimately an elitist pursuit, a game that very few can play. Face it, only the wealthiest and luckiest among us has the vacation time, the money, and the means to have a chance at ticking off all 58 parks, and even announcing your achievement to the world can come perilously close to bragging about what an amazing fortunate life you lead—not the sort of message parks advocates should be sending.

Mr. Goetzman suggests that instead of a “collect ‘em all” mentality, national park lovers should instead adopt a “better, nobler impulse,” that is, to acquaint themselves with just a few parks very well rather than “attempt to superficially survey them all in baseball-card-collector fashion.”

Here’s part of what Kurt Repanshek of National Parks Traveler has to say in response:

Hopefully the folks who are members of the National Park Travelers Club don’t catch wind of his column. This group celebrates travelers who look at visiting as many of the 391 units of the National Park System not as something that’s elitist but rather something that’s both a challenge and a great way to celebrate and appreciate the national parks movement in the United States…
Indeed, if all you seek to attain is a National Park Passport stamp, then yes, “park bagging” is over-rated and denies those involved in such an endeavor a tremendous opportunity to see fantastic landscapes and get at least an introduction to different ways of life and cultures.
..Many people do fall in love with a small handful of parks, and visit them time and time and time again, which can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. But let’s not be so self-righteous as to ridicule those who want to see as many of these magnificent landscapes and soak up the rewards they offer.

All of this back and forth about carbon footprints and elitism is certainly thought provoking, and I tend to side with Mr. Repanshek’s more conciliatory position. The parks are enjoyable both as day trips, and as longer, more involved expeditions. Environmental impact is a consideration, but it’s really not for one person to say which is the “right” way to see our national parks.

Unfortunately, many people apply that same reasoning to faith. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere,” is the prevailing sentiment. “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” To believe Jesus’ claim In John 14:6, that there is one truth and one way, is seen these days as intolerant and elitist in the extreme.

I mentioned one response to this point of view in a previous post, so for now I’ll just look at it from the “exclusivity” angle. If we start with the concept that there is a God who is our Creator (and establishing that fact is a whole ‘nother discussion for a whole ‘nother day!), then He has the right to set the rules: “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’” (Isaiah 45:9).

Does that make God elitist? Hardly! Jesus makes it plain that He came for the whole world (John 3:16), that whoever seeks Him finds Him (Matthew 7:7-11, Revelation 3:20), whoever is thirsty for Him can be satisfied (Isaiah 55:1-3, Revelation 22:17), and whoever believes in Him receives forgiveness (Acts 10:43). Scripture is full of “whoever’s!”

What God does not have tolerance for are the religious “baggers” who are only interested in the “stamp” assuring them of heaven. He makes it clear in Revelation 3:15 and 16 that superficial, lukewarm faith just doesn’t cut it.

But for those who fully fall in love with the Lord, who acquaint themselves with Him, who “visit” Him time and time and time again, and celebrate and appreciate all He’s done for them, a rewarding experience awaits (Hebrews 11:6).

Yes, a life dedicated to God can be a challenge, but the benefits are more fantastic than even the most exquisite landscape, both now and for all eternity.

And no worries about the carbon footprint!


  1. Nature Girl, April says:

    Yep, even Job who was found by God to be a ‘righteous man’ tried arguing with God. God sure gave HIM a stern talkin’ to! Ha! Hey, one man can’t set the rules for visiting national parks or for salvation (unless His name is Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!) If I had the money and the time, I would visit every single park and stay awhile. Good post, Penny!

  2. julie coleman says:

    Great writing, Penny. I like your chosen theme and the way you have used it on this site. The Lord certainly deserves more than a passing glance of our efforts in our relationship with Him. This is a great picture of how intentions make a huge difference in our actions.

    Keep up the good work!

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