Published: April 2011
Related Topics: Social Justice
Twenty years ago, an interfaith group of Niagara church-goers did their best to save the planet by inspiring fellow Christians to see God's creation as a precious gift. We lobbied for political change, developed environment-focused liturgies and encouraged individuals and churches to reduce, recycle etc. The 90s were "the turnaround decade"—hence our urgency. Before long, we lost momentum, and news reports on the environment grew still more terrifying. We stopped paying attention.
The March 2011 Anglican Journal has a front-page article entitled, "Lack of political will at heart of climate crisis." Yes, but what is at the "heart" of our faith? Does it inspire both a spiritual and a political will? What have we done for the environment and what have we left undone?
We have learned to expose the big lie that we must choose the economy over the environment. We now see that choosing short-term economic prosperity benefits the rich minority in rich countries but condemns every person and every species to greater hardships in the future. Likewise, arming ourselves in gated communities will not work indefinitely. And such behaviors that cut us off are surely wrong. If Jesus were among us here and now, which side of the gate would he be on? Which side is he on?
Second, high on the list of collective sins condemning the human race in our time is abuse—of individuals, of groups and of planet earth. Churches are beginning to realize that one reason people are leaving is our bullying. Finally we are taking steps to create "safe" churches for all members of our church communities. We have learned that when any abuse occurs, it involves everyone—we are either abusing or stopping abuse. We can't pretend to ignore it for that is to be complicit in the abuse. Our abuse of other species results in their actual extinction. And knowing the interconnections of every thing on earth, and believing that God creates and sustains it, we can no longer shrug, saying that other species are less important than ours and hence dispensable. As the crying child in the corner is the responsibility of every other person in the playground, so too is it the job of each human to protect each species and each habitat of the earth.
This is where we stop, overwhelmed again by the enormity of the stewardship required of us. We keep on polluting, desecrating the earth, even when we know that we are making the future less stable, less livable, for our children and grandchildren. What stops us is, at one level, "a lack of political will." It is also a lack of faith that our work has real effect. We could take to the streets like the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, gathering in non-violent protest until those whose power is abusive are replaced by those working for justice for all. What will it take to activate a comparable change of direction in terms of climate abuse? We need public, political action to persuade the silent majority that there is a crisis that we must and can tackle. While we repent our past complicity, our laziness, our hopelessness, we proclaim for the future our faith, hope and love in God our Creator and Sustainer.
As Christians we have motivating us a sense of responsibility for God's Creation that should make us leaders of the secular community. The fact that we aren't undermines our credibility. As followers of Christ who promised to be with us always, we know that to believe is to be brave and to have faith is to do good works. These spiritual resources are our contribution. We won't have to worry about whether the Church will survive if, in our environmental actions, we can use our ancient strengths as an act of worship. Surely God is with us, and we can do no other....
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