Year 4, Month 1, Day 10: The Moans Of The Damned

The Whittier Daily News (CA) speaks about the question of faith and the environment:

Throughout all of California and the rest of the country, the faith community has been working for many years to preach the gospel of good stewardship of our shared environment.

Amid theological differences, we have fostered a shared sense of purpose and urgency that unites us in solidarity with our local and global communities, especially those most vulnerable to climate change.

The action that results from this shared sense of purpose goes far beyond a congregation’s four walls. People of faith bring shared principles – such as working for the common good, caring for our neighbors, and working for economic justice – into the public policy arena.

For example, the California faith community strongly supported the passage and implementation of Assembly Bill 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This bill, which was fully implemented on Jan. 1, 2013, aims to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, addressing both global -climate change as well as regional air pollution.

But even policy change in itself is not enough to address the crisis we are currently facing as people of faith struggle with the power to indelibly alter God’s Creation and affect the lives of many generations that come after us.

The environmental crisis is at root a spiritual crisis. To remedy this we must begin to build a new relationship with the earth. That means answering the call to be good stewards of Creation and understanding that the “environment” is not a nebulous “out-there” reality; rather it is intimately connected with our lives and our spiritual development.

This value system is not incompatible with economic growth. On the contrary, the clean technology sector is a major factor in building California’s economy. According to a recent Next 10 report, the clean tech sector grew by 53 percent from 1995-2010, while jobs in the wider economy grew by 12 percent. When we care for the environment, we are caring for the health, livelihood and economic situation of our neighbors and ourselves.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning. Sent January 5:

Attempts to reconcile the demands of long-term sustainability with Christian theology are more complex and problematic than they seem at first blush. While many modern Christians have rejected the notion of Armageddon, a substantial number still advocate for a final apocalypse; a concluding spasm of terrifying violence yielding to a paradisical afterlife for true believers.

The sustainability so desired by environmentalists is predicated on the notion that humanity’s future is open-ended, that our species has a place in the web of Earthly life and a part to play in the long-term history of our universe. These wholly laudable concepts are on a collision course with the notion that the world is destined to end conclusively and explosively, providing an eventual reward for the faithful. For the “faith community” to credibly preach environmental stewardship, it must direct its attention to the many self-described Christians who still hew to End Times theology.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 21: The Air, The Air Is Everywhere

The Jakarta Post opines that the faithful are motivated to do something about climate change as a consequence of their beliefs. Okay, if you say so…

The Green Bible is a 2008 edition of the Christian holy book, published by HarperCollins. There are more than 1,000 references to the Earth in the Bible, and this 2008 copy is printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink.

Likewise, Islam’s Koran also contains numerous surahs (chapters) that both enlighten and command Muslims to use and not abuse the natural bounty the Earth provides. “Do not commit abuse on the Earth, spreading corruption.” (Al-Ankabut 29:36) is just one example.

Meanwhile in Bali, adherents to Hinduism, the island’s majority faith, believe in the trihita karana. This is the belief that happiness derives from the relationship between people and God, the relationship between people and people, and the relationship between people and nature.

Religious writer and scholar Fachruddin M. Mangunjaya raised a profound question in a recent paper on climate change and religion: Who were the first environmental campaigners? Answer: Followers of the world’s religions.

Fachruddin, a lecturer in biology at the National University in Jakarta, told a September 2012 climate change writing clinic for youths in Jakarta that religion had been a major mover, which had established numerous world civilizations.

Now with environmental crises and the impact of climate change casting threats on human civilization, people are returning to religious teachings and reassessing their meaning of and obligations in life.

I’ll believe it when I see it. Oh, wait… Sent October 14:

When it comes to taking meaningful action on climate change, many followers of the great religious traditions find inspiration and motivation in their beliefs. But it is a grave error to assume that all religiously-driven individuals will be receptive to the scientific facts of the climate crisis. In the United States, many devout Christians decided long ago that science could only be regarded as an enemy of their faith — and this antipathy towards scientific method and results carries over into their attitude towards environmental problems, which are strongly identified with the scientists who research and describe them.

A significant minority of Christians also adhere to doctrines which preach the imminence of a “day of judgement” in which the Earth as we know it will be destroyed and afterlife preference given to “true believers.” It is self-evident that such a belief is antithetical to any notion of sustainability as a desirable goal.

If we are to reconcile the directives of faith and the long-term requirements of our planetary environment, religious leaders must work with scientists in the interests of our civilization, our species, and the web of life of which we humans are a part.

Warren Senders