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Home » Environment & Creation Care » It’s Time to Build Eco-Friendly Houses for the Kingdom of God!

It’s Time to Build Eco-Friendly Houses for the Kingdom of God!

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Stylized Earthship model

Stylized Earthship model

Building stuff is very Biblical: Jesus our Lord and Saviour worked as a carpenter, Paul was a tent-maker and the whole people of Israel were commissioned to build cities and villages across Canaan after they had colonized it in a not very pacifist way (I’m really looking forward to Greg Boyd’s book on how to deal with Old Testament violence that’s coming out soon). God realizes that shelter is important, He does not want us to be homeless.

1 Tim 6:8 is often translated as “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that”, and even though Paul’s point clearly is that we should live simply and reject wealth, he isn’t saying that we should be content with homelessness. The word used for “clothing” is in Greek skepasmata, which literally means “coverings”, which can both refer to clothes and shelter. Similarly, the word translated as “food” literally means sustenance.

Historically, the church has indeed built a lot of stuff, but have we really built the right things? As you may know I’m very critical to church buildings, for various reasons that I give in the video above. In Europe where I live, we have hundreds of thousands of church buildings, most of which stand empty at night. We also have four million homeless people, and millions of refugees are expected to seek refuge in our rich subcontinent during the coming years.

In Sweden, the authorities find it difficult to house all the newcomers (even though we’re one of the richest countries on earth and the 150 richest Swedes own a quarter of the Swedish GDP). The pope has exhorted European Christians to open their churches and houses for refugees. I support that whole-heartedly, and think that we should also start to build more eco-friendly houses.

See, besides showing hospitality we Christians are also called to care for God’s creation, which European Christians generally suck at doing. If everybody lived like the average Swede we would need 3.7 planets! Our consumption of electricity, fuel, meat, electronics and stuff is not sustainable. What if we could build simple, cheap houses that are good for the environment and that can house Christian communities that live like in the book of Acts with community of goods, and/or house refugees and homeless people?

Eco-village in Ireland

Eco-village in Ireland

The concept of eco-villages is not a new one, many exist already around the globe. Eco-villages are intentional communities that seek to be self-sustaining, organic and healthy. There are many different designs of facilities used in eco-villages, and one of the most interesting I have found is the Earthship design. These houses are to very large extent built by re-using materials like tires and bottles, and decreases the need for external providence of electricity and water by using renewable energy, smart ventilation, filtered rain water and a greenhouse.

Earthship houses are also built to be resistent to natural disasters, and this combined with the low price for building them due to the materials mainly being recycled, has made them popular in for example Haiti:

Church leaders should defenitely look at this. What if Christians became known as standing in the frontlines for social, sustainable communities that both help the poor and care for God’s creation? I think it’s a problem that we often talk about (church) buildings as “glorifying God” due to their aesthetics or how much money we’ve put into them. What if the practical tents that Paul constructed for his fellow human beings carried more of the glory of God than the temple of the old covenant? What if an earthship that houses a Christian community is more glorious than a cathedral?

Update: Here’s a list on cheap house models than one can build.

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5 Comments

  1. D_Bo says:

    The Eco-house. Where is the electric backup? It would come in handy for so many days each year. Those 4-5 days in a row of cloudy, overcast weather with 0-5 mph wind. It is a nice dream, but if it was really possible, people would have jumped on this idea decades ago. What would be the initial cost of a house like this vs an all-electric house/natural gas house of the same square feet.?

  2. D_Bo says:

    The more I look at that design, the more I am convinced that there is very limited living space, a hillside is necessary, the labor cost would be enormous, and no wife that I know of would want to live in such a ridiculous structure. One commode? And where is the shower/tub? I think a normal house with 2 baths, 3 BR, kitchen, living, etc., would cost about 1/2 as much as this arrangement—which is little more than a very sophisticated , expensive, caveman’s cave. Houston is very flat. No hillsides. I see very few customers.

    • Hello Bo! Thank you for your questions.

      I guess that hardcore ecomaniacs would simply not use electricity when elecricity is not provided, but in most cases a conventional power grid is plugged in and used when the house’s own electricity supply is not enough.

      The “if this really was good everyone would do it”-argument is always a bad argument simply because it’s false. It’s inevitably good to not smoke, ride bicycles with helmets or not committing genocide, yet people do it. In this case, what’s lacking is information, eco-friendly focus, and decentralized house building. But it’s still possible for those who have the will and Spirit.

      As they explain in their videos, earthships don’t need hillsides since the “hills” are built from scratch by using mud and plain dirt together with tires, cement, bottles etc. It does requires lots of labor, but not many machines, which is why committed volounteers have managed to build these things in a couple of months.

      The showers are in the bath room obviously. You can see them on the maps in the videos.

      Blessings!

      • D_Bo says:

        Thanks for the reply. Actually, the statement, “if it was a good idea, everyone would do it” is NOT false. The masses pursue or follow any idea that works….meaning affordable, practical, and, aesthetic appeal.
        This is pie-in-the-sky that only appeals to a few individuals who would ever live like this. ====> I would be one of the few that WOULD live like this!!
        You are asking people to go backwards and get along with MUCH less.
        and that will never be considered by more than 5% of any population..
        I have built several conventional houses, including my own, and the structure shown is a LOT of work….just to get a small cabin.
        This “home” would be more like camping out in an elaborate tent.

  3. Hi,

    I’ve left you an email other day about the community of good matter, you please can take a look on that. Thank you =)

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The author

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Check out my YouTube channel!

A Living Alternative

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