Our Hot Mess: WWJD
A little over a month ago, I was at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby regional conference in Philly, and I sadly couldn’t make it until Saturday evening due to musical practice. But alas, I made it to the comedy portion of the day, so all was not lost. Now I love listening to comedians, but to say I was doubtful of this man cracking actually laughable jokes about one of the most serious and pressing subjects is an understatement.
It should not come as a terrible surprise that my prejudgement was wrong. Peterson Toscano was wittily uproarious, targeting the sensitive subject as a self-proclaimed "quirky, queer Quaker" and explaining the unique ways to approach people about climate change. He brought up one of the most important yet constantly missed detail, a detail outlining how to bridge the gap between the environmental activists and the environmental inactivists.
“I’m not an environmentalist, but I’m concerned about climate change from a ______ perspective.”
That line won me over. It’s brilliant. It puts down the posters and the Birkenstocks and the multi-colored shawls and allows a conversation to take place that doesn’t involve the stereotypes of "The Environmentalist". It creates common ground and, even more importantly, curiosity. After all, the next question the other person will ask will be, “Well… Why?” And conversation about a previously untouchable subject occurs. Now, I recognize this is a long introduction to a different topic, but that line deserves a history. So, after all of that buildup:
Even if I weren’t an environmentalist, I’d be concerned about climate change from a Christian perspective.
Curious? People of faith have long had opportunity and interest in righting great injustices for the greater good with their strong sense of morality and devotion to a higher power. As I type this article, I’m looking for examples in history of this occurring, but the search suggestions are more telling:
Here in Lancaster, we have a gold mine of passionate churchgoers, an activist's dream. However, most are content with the passive and peaceful way of life, and understandably so. But, taking environmental action is as much of a Christian duty as attending weekly service.
The morals of the Christian faith are fairly straightforward. Jesus replied to an inquirer of these moral laws that the greatest commandment is “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (NIV, Matthew 22:37- 40). So love, right? Love God and love His people. From these basic morals, we derive our outward expressions of these laws. This leads to unbelievably positive outcomes like political activism and social change and evolution of society towards morality. Take the rise of mission trips, for example. The religious movement of Evangelicalism inspired the surge of missionary work and missionary societies in the 19th century, eventually leading to the application of gospels to social, political, and economic issues in the 20th century ... all because a group of people recognized the the importance of taking action.
But why climate change? The words climate change cannot be uttered without some discussion of morals.
It is a moral argument.
Perhaps more than anything else. Please check out a previous article from Our Hot Mess for a detailed explanation on why: essentially, the poorest and most helpless people are being impacted the most by climate change, and they need a voice that’s stronger and more powerful than their own. Think of these third world countries being put under water by rising sea levels. Think of the future generations that have rights to clean air and water and stable economies. Think of the beautiful world we have an obligation, as its stewards, to protect.
If none of these thoughts inspires you as a Christian, consider this:
"Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture?
Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet?
"Is it not enough for you to drink clear water?
Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?"
- Ezekiel 34:18 (NIV)
Of course no article talking about religion and climate action would be complete without Pope Francis and his encyclical:
“[W]e have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
Living a comfortable, complacent life is much simpler than leading one of an activist. You ruffle far fewer feathers that way. But still, you don’t need to lead marches around the streets of Lititz to actively fight for environmental justice. Do it with your words. Be open to others about this subject and approach it from your very relatable religious perspective.
And remember, don’t be trashy!
--Elke Arnesen, LSNews.org Columnist