God is Love

A Picture I took when I went to Occupy Wall Street

A Picture I took at Occupy Wall Street

Because the word “God” has so many different meanings, please understand that when I say “God” I mean Love:  the Love that we can experience, the Love that is universally available and that “never leaves itself without a witness,” the Love that flows to us, in us, and through us to others, the Love “in which we live and move and have our being.”

God is Love.  Love wants us to flourish, as individuals, as a species, and as members of an intact and integrated web of life.  We human beings cannot flourish if the earth is being destroyed and if the fabric of human community is being torn apart.  We cannot flourish if we allow huge, for-profit corporations to set the terms for public policy.  This truly is selling our souls to the devil.

The movement of Love is toward healing, flourishing, wholeness, new life, not just for us as individuals, not in a vacuum, but in the context of the great global challenges of our day.  The least we can do is claim our birthright as human beings and stand up for our own rights and the rights of “the least of these,” both human and non-human, who are part of the “beloved community.”  As Albert Einstein said, we must “extend our compassion to all living things.”

Jesus didn’t heal and set people free in isolation, but in community.  The “Kingdom of Heaven” was his way of talking about the “better world” that is possible, and staking his life on it.  Being a person of faith means staking one’s life on the Love that is renewing the world, no matter how impossible things appear.  It means waking up, taking responsibility, and getting in the game.

Climate Change Controversy

Global Warming Altar by Nevada City UMC Sunday School Children and Earth Justice Ministries

Global Warming Altar by Nevada City UMC Sunday School Children and Earth Justice Ministries

The reality of human-induced climate change is a matter of scientific consensus, yet the topic is presented in the media as controversial.  How can this be?

Since 2000, we have experienced nine of the ten hottest years ever recorded.  The 12-month period from July 2011 through July 2012 was the hottest on record, and featured tens of thousands of record-setting extreme weather events consistent with climate change predictions.  These included brutal heat waves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, and severe storms.  By  August 2012, more than half of U.S. counties had been designated disaster zones because of drought, with widespread crop failures.

All national and international scientific academies and societies agree with the assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which states:   “An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system… There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”

The controversy about climate change is not scientific, but political and ideological.  Oil, gas, and other companies that profit from fossil fuels deliberately sow doubt about climate change while lobbying public officials against regulation of their industry.  This energy lobby spends millions to dismiss global warming, downplay its significance, and deny that it is caused by human behavior.

Free-market think tanks also sow doubt about climate change.  The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank based in Chicago, worked with Philip Morris in the 1990s to question the science linking secondhand smoke to health risks, and now focuses on questioning the science of climate change.  The New York Times described the Heartland Institute as “the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism.”

Furthermore, the Religious Right is linking denial of climate-change to religious faith.  The cynically-named Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation has issued “An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming” that includes the following:  “We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.”

One of my primary reasons for writing is to alert people to the fact that we face a living hell on earth if we don’t turn around as a species.  As human beings living in this critical time, we are called to resist domination by institutions and ideologies that leave us feeling confused and powerless, exercise our God-given intelligence and freedom, and create new systems that are life-supporting.   We can join with 350.org and other grassroots organizations that are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by changing public policies.  We can also bring this conversation into our churches and other faith communities so people do not fall prey to anti-science ideologies.    

The weight of the evidence and scientific consensus show us that human-created climate change is not just theory, it’s fact.   Climate change is real, it’s here, it’s worse than we thought, and we must take decisive action now, for the sake of our grandchildren’s children and for all of God’s beloved creation.

Obama on Climate Change

Obama on Climate Change

I was glad to hear President Obama speak out strongly about a variety of issues dear to my heart in his inaugural address, including climate change.  Thankfully, he acknowledged the scientific consensus, the “overwhelming judgment of science” and reminded us of our obligations to future generations.  He even related climate change to faith, claiming that “our planet” is “commanded to our care by God.”  He said:

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

I trust that the president is speaking in good faith about his concerns and his intentions to address climate change.  He could provide strong leadership on this issue, but so far government action has been lukewarm.

Besides, no one person can do this alone.  It’s really we the people who need to rise to this challenge by taking strong grassroots action to counter the fossil fuels lobby, to highlight the urgent need to address  climate change, and to move government officials to establish policies that will significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses.

Such efforts include grassroots struggles against the Keystone XL Pipeline, fracking, mountaintop removal, and campaigns such as 350.org’s “do the math” campaign, which focuses on divesting from the fossil fuels industry.   You can plug into such efforts through http://350.org.

Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice

On Saturday evening, we got together for dinner with friends, then went out together to see Chasing Ice.  I’ve heard that this film makes believers out of climate change skeptics, but it also brings home the reality for people who know that climate change is real.

I’ve been speaking and writing about climate change for over twenty years.  I’ve got pictures of receding glaciers in my power point presentation.  Still, on the morning after seeing the movie I woke up with images in my mind from the movie’s time-lapse photography, of massive glaciers deflating and melting away.

The film made the point that so much other evidence supports:  Climate change is real and we can observe its effects.  The impacts on the earth’s natural systems are massive, and we must take action now.  The Chasing Ice website shows the movie’s official trailer, a film of the largest glacier “calving” event ever recorded, and actions that people can take to address climate change.

Chasing Ice is a human interest story as well as a movie about the warming of the planet and the melting of ice.  National Geographic photographer James Balog is a remarkable man, with other notable accomplishments.  This film shows his project, which involved setting up cameras in some of the most remote places on earth in order to use photography to document the effects of climate change on the largest ice structures on our planet.

James Balog hiked for miles in snow and ice, with a bad knee, sometimes on crutches, on some of the earth’s most rugged terrain.  He endured and pushed through in spite of disappointments and failures in order to film, photograph, and document climate change in action.

What motivated this remarkable man?  To paraphrase his words at the end of the movie, “When my children and their children ask, `What did you do when the climate was changing?’ I want to be able to say, ‘I did everything I could.'”

From the movie- the largest glacier calving event ever filmed:

Thoughts that Bless

Ruth Sheldon

Ruth Sheldon

I’ve read several times, “The only thing that will stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun.”  I’ve also been told, “If you protest our government’s use of drones, you’re helping the bad guys.”  Really?  Maybe the “bad guys” think they’re the “good guys.”  And maybe we’re not so “good” as we think.

Yes, it’s all relative.  “They” may be worse than we are.  “We” may think that if people would adopt our values and do things our way the world would be a much better place.  Religious groups are especially prone to this way of thinking.

But this view, at best, is partial.  At worst, it promotes arrogance, divisiveness, exclusion, prejudice, discrimination, and hate.

I can stand up and speak out for what I believe without maligning another person.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.”

I keep a picture of my mother, Ruth, on my altar, along with other precious reminders of the Love that has sustained me through life.  This morning I re-read one of her favorite prayers from Unity, “Morning Prayer,” by Ella Syfers Schenck:

Lord, in the quiet of this morning hour

I come to Thee for peace, for wisdom, power

To view the world today through love-filled eyes;

Be patient, understanding, gentle, wise:

To see beyond what seems to be, and know

Thy children as Thou knowest them; and so

Naught but the good in anyone behold;

Make deaf my ears to slander that is told;

Silence my tongue to aught that is unkind;

Let only thoughts that bless dwell in my mind.

Let me so kindly be, so full of cheer,

That all I meet may feel Thy presence near.

O clothe me in Thy beauty, this I pray,

Let me reveal Thee, Lord, through all the day.

I am grateful that my mother taught me not to judge or hate, but to see the good in everyone.  Yes, everyone.  She used to say, “We’re all the same on the inside.”  The dividing line between “good” and “bad” is within me.