In Margaret Swedish ‘s amazing and disturbing and yet, hopeful book, this quote is but one of the instances where she expresses the feeling about the responsibility of the theological communities to awaken their people from “slumber” and out of the practical denial that keeps us procrastinating the measures we need to be instigating in response to the Climate Crisis. An article here and there just doesn’t cut it. AT ALL. “Better than nothing” is not an option. Talking about it as “an issue” doesn’t even cut it. IN some cases, it’s not even listed among the list of “issues” or “topics” (as is the case with the UMC.org “Topics” section on their
website. I pick on the UMC because I worked on that Website, and am a United Methodist for the past 25-30 years. ) But I have walked through that door and into a different place regarding the climate, where there is no going back into a prior sense of this crisis. It now looms as the greatest existential threat that humankind has ever faced. Some consider this to be hyperbole, but it is far from it. Charges of “hyperbole” come from within the vast denial with which we are ladened, which keep us from the kind of action we need. So let me allow Margaret to speak:
“Because I believe this is true, that living beyond the “end of the world depends upon the awakening, visionary leadership, and cooperation of religions across boundaries of traditions and or it is also urgent and necessary that this awakening be translated down with similar urgency to the communities inspired by, or dwelling within, those traditions.
This disconnect of which Tucker and Grim speak* (see below) is not only between our awareness of the crisis and our ability to change direction, but also between what many religious institutions and leaders know and write about the crisis and what is actually communicated in sermons, teachings, schools, bible classes, catechisms, and more, among their faithful. The language of “patterns of acquisition and consumption” needs to become concrete in the daily living out of our lives, in the choices we make about how we live, in how we reshape the politics of the country in keeping with the exigencies of the crisis and how the community of faith takes up the challenge set in the last chapter in the concrete witness of that community- to bring the ecological foot-print of the human species back into balance with the life systems of the planet while allowing billions of poor people to no longer be poor. Whatever one’s religious tradition, this should be at the very heart of the project of faith from here on out”
* There’s a puzzling disconnection between our growing awareness of environmental problems and our ability to change our present direction. We have failed to translate facts about the environmental crisis into effective action in the United States. We are discovering that the human heart is not changed by facts alone but by engaging visions and empowering values. Humans need to see the large picture and feel they can act to make a difference. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, “Daring to Dream: Religion and the Future of the Earth”, in “God’s Green Earth: Creation , Faith, Crisis,” Special issue of “Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry” Yale Divinity School (Spring 2007).
Margaret Swedish hits the nail on the head here when she points out how there are denominational leaders who write and speak about the crisis, but “what is actually communicated in sermons, teachings, schools, bible classes, catechisms, and more, among their faithful” is a whole other ball game. This HAS to change. I’ve been trying to communicate this to the UMC website folks, but thus far, what I’ve gotten are responses that indicate that the “crisis level” is the farthest from their consciousness it can be. “No time or enough staff” to cover it sufficiently, and this is all the more apparent when there is “other news” , which seems to the case in perpetuity. While there are certainly many people in the UMC who recognize the threat and the call that beckons from it, all of this remains in the background as far as the larger church is concerned. Nothing changes on the Home pages to give any indication that the church considers this to be of any grave importance. Some of us have been “conspiring” in conversations about how we might change this. One might say to “forget about denominations”, since they tend to be struggling for survival, or mired in political correct-ness, and put all our money on ecumenical effort. But we are going to need EVERYONE.