Living Into The New Story

“ I’m not afraid of storms, because I’m learning to steer my ship. “

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Let there be light ! Let there be power !

                                     You may have noticed that this summer has been hot.  According to a recent article in The Atlantic:

                                      July is shaping up to be the warmest July on record—and probably the warmest month ever measured, since July is the hottest month of the year,” Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth observed, “Obviously, we still have half the month to go. But so far, it’s on track.” (Since most of the planet’s land surface is north of the equator, and since land heats up faster than the ocean, the Northern Hemisphere’s summers are the hottest months of the year for the whole planet.)

If that mark is realized, then two months in a row will be the hottest of their type ever measured, since last month was the hottest June ever recorded   

July 2019 Is ‘Shaping Up to Be the Warmest Month Ever’ – The Atlantic › science › archive › 2019/07 › july-2019

           Extremely warm temperatures will damage crops in the field, stress air conditioning systems, and cause asphalt to melt.  Several of these consequences due to hot weather have been witnessed this year, especially in Europe.

               Psalm 24: 1-5 proclaims:  

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior.


                          There is increasing awareness that as the temperatures rise due to greater levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, that the waters will rise as well including ocean front areas. Already there have been reports regarding  flooding of streets in Miami Beach, Fl  during high tide. Also, high water has caused roads to overflow at the Norfolk Naval Station, Norfolk, Va.  The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World By Jeff Goodell

                           Changes in our climate are causing not only consequences for people and for agriculture, but animals are suffering as well. 2011 produced a very hot summer in Texas and with that there were high losses in livestock and with wildlife.

14 States Suffering Under Drought JULY 11, 2011 – The New York Times › 2011/07/12 › 12drought

                          What can people do in the religious community, especially the liberal religious community, regarding the changes that we are witnessing in our climate ?   Sometimes the reality of  changing weather patterns can feel overwhelming, can make us feel numb. About fifteen years ago, a former President remarked:

                         “ Don’t worry, we’ll all be dead by then. “

                            United Church Of Christ minister and author Jim Antal in his book “ Climate Church, Climate World “ has noted:

                            “ I just don’t understand why religious leaders failed to recognize that the conflict over climate change was a moral conflict-a conflict of values. Was it a lack of personal  courage ? Did they really think that religion had more to do with personal salvation and little if anything to do with collective salvation ? Was the uncritical acceptance of personal gain so universal that it was unthinkable for a pastor to insist that everything we have comes from God, however known ? Did the blasphemous idea that God gave us the Earth to plunder for our own benefit become so embedded in our economy that our obligation to future generations was forgotten or dismissed ? “  ( P.P. 44-45 )

                           Well, I will remind you that a military chaplain once told me during a conversation we were having about world overpopulation.

                           “ Don’t worry, Alaska is not full yet ! “


                         How can we, as liberal religious people, be effective as advocates for a healthy planet ? Perhaps, the first step is to cultivate wonder. Perhaps, the best way to do this is to embrace what both Emerson and Thoreau  realized:

                        “ We are immersed in beauty.

                        One of my favorite places in the world is Cannon Beach, Or and majestic Haystack Rock.

                        The huge rock on the Pacific Coast has been there for centuries. Different kinds of birds will nest at the top of the rock. At the bottom, there are tide pools with all kinds of crustaceans to discover. Each tide pool is a universe unto itself.

                        This year, I discovered to my shock and sorrow that Haystack Rock is slowly crumbling.  Pieces of the rock are literally falling off, some the size of cars. According to an article published in The Oregonian Haystack Rock will be eroded away during the next 3000 years.  

Erosion is changing the face of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach … › pacific-northwest-news › 2019/04 › erosion…

                      There isn’t a great sense of urgency about this; maybe it’s another form of “ don’t worry, we’ll all be dead by then.”

                       Some manifestations of conservative Christian theology have asserted  that the physical life is not important but it’s the spiritual life that counts.  People aren’t encouraged to form an attachment to the natural world, rather the focus  is upon the spirit, the realm of God. There are, of course, religious communities where there is emphasis upon the earth and upon life in the here and now. These communities would do whatever is possible to remain connected to the earth and to nature. As Rachel Carson put it years ago

“ Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. ( Climate Church, Climate World, P. 123 )

                       The story of the earth and its climate, thus far, has been marked and ravaged by exploitation. Raging fires in the Amazon, mining on sensitive federal lands, pipelines traversing delicate ecosystems-all in the name of financial profit-does not model appropriate stewardship in order to promote sustainability for all life.

                        What would it be like if the faith community, including the liberal faith community aggressively confronted the climate crisis ?


                      There have been hits and misses in this game.  A prominent church in Houston, TX plans to install solar panels on its roof to generate power  and to promote self-sufficiency. They are turned down by the city due to zoning regulations.

                     Another church in Maryland ( Suburban Washington, D.C. ) follows the same proposal, installs solar panels on its roof, becomes sustainable and now sells excess power generated back to the utility.  University Park

             Six years ago, the New England Regional Environmental Ministries ( NEREM ) convened a “ Climate Revival “ in downtown Boston, Ma on the common involving twenty-two denominations. Over 600 people attended the gathering. This event provides a powerful model for house of worship in any town or city to lead on climate action ( Climate Church, Climate World, P. 108 ).

            Of course, there will be those who say this type of action is far too  political. As Jim Antal reminds us:

            “ Political”  refers to the way a government shapes a society; “ partisan “ means one- sided, focused upon the values of one part of society. That’s a distinction that everyone of our congregations needs to understand, especially now, since climate change affects us all. ( P. 105)

             All of us, including the religious community, can write a new story regarding a restored  and sustainable earth. We can live  into a new story, a new reality where photo carbon emissions will be reduced, where water and air quality will be improved and where the dramatic changes in temperature, water levels etc. will be minimized.

           Louisa Mae Alcott said:

            “ I’m not afraid of storms, because I’m learning to steer my ship. “

            A new story can be realized. Will we have the character and the courage to make it happen ?

           May It Be So.


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