The Climate Crisis and COP 27: Conflicting Worldviews

 

Published November 28, 2022 by United Methodist Insight:  The Climate Crisis and COP 27: Conflicting Worldviews

The recent climate conference, COP 27, ended with mixed reviews from climate campaigners. United Methodist Agencies were represented in the talks, and their reports from the Conference and other reports about the climate negotiations are available below. In the following excerpt from her newest book, Sharon Delgado draws from The first chapter of First Corinthians to frame the ongoing conflicts that have prevented the international community from charting a clear course towards a stable climate and a just world, and points to Jesus’s passion for the reign of God as a model for our participation.

Excerpt from Sharon Delgado’s new book: The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World

According to the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), average global temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The report says we must limit this warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent the most catastrophic impacts, which means cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half globally by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050, which will require rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society. Or in a slogan from the climate justice movement, “System change not climate change.”

Climate justice advocates demand policies based on the science that will help bring about systemic change. Such policies include ending fossil fuels subsidies that the International Monetary Fund says amount globally to $10 million per minute, providing “loss and damage” payments to poor countries that have been impacted most and have contributed least to climate change, immediately transitioning to justly and sustainably sourced renewable power, and banning permits for long-lasting fossil fuel infrastructure projects like pipelines and offshore oil drilling rigs that will cause pollution and keep the fossil fuel party going for decades. The bottom line is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

The problem is that there are powerful interests working to keep the dominant system intact. They propose complex carbon-trading schemes and postpone action based on the hope of untested carbon-capture and geoengineering technologies. They promise to move to net-zero domestically sometime in the future while continuing to increase fossil fuel exports. Many government and industry leaders see the magnitude of the dangers but won’t go against the conventional wisdom of today’s system of corporate-dominated globalization, which is built around profit, powered by fossil fuels, and backed by police and military power.

Meanwhile, the movement for climate justice is strong and growing. These struggles are often led by people who are marginalized in official decision-making processes— people from island and low-lying nations experiencing sea-level rise, drought-stricken nations facing famine, frontline communities being turned into sacrifice zones by fossil fuel extraction and processing, Indigenous people whose lands are being polluted by pipelines or confiscated to plant tree farms to supply polluting corporations with carbon credits, and young people whose lives and futures are at stake— and they are supported by environmental groups, labor unions, and other civil society groups, including churches. Together, these groups make up the global movement for climate justice. They call for climate change to be treated as the emergency that it is and for governments to take immediate action. Participants are not just saying no to fossil fuels but yes to a transformed world, and they have plans to get us there.

These are two completely different approaches to the climate crisis: an approach that leaves our market-based global system intact and an approach that calls for a widespread social and economic transformation. They represent two conflicting paradigms and opposing worldviews.

Perhaps the answers to our search for climate solutions will come in ways that we least expect them. Leaders in struggles for climate justice are not high-status official representatives of the domination system, nor are they wealthy or powerful according to the wisdom of this world (1 Cor 1:20). But it may be that these will be the very people who will save us from climate catastrophe by opening our eyes to another worldview, by pressing for systemic change, and by demanding commonsense solutions that will keep fossil fuels in the ground. They may be considered “weak” and “foolish” (1 Cor 1:27-29) by the world’s standards, but they are organizing and networking together to build grassroots movements that have the power necessary to bring about the widespread social, political, and ecological changes that are necessary to transition to a more just, compassionate, peaceful, and ecologically regenerative world. Churches could amplify these movements by joining such campaigns and coalitions as respectful allies. In the words of climate justice organizer Bill McKibben, “The main way to counter the malign power of vested interests is to meet organized money with organized people.”

The word of the cross (1Cor 1:18), as weak and foolish as it may seem, allows us to glimpse a new order, an alternative to the dominant culture and its values based instead on the compassion, justice, inclusivity, and nonviolence that characterized Jesus’s life and (as we now know it must be) on care and concern for all creation. Martin Khor of the Third World Network speaks of something similar when he says that there are two paradigms at work in our world today: the top-down system of corporate globalization, backed by violence, and an emerging alternative system that is community based, people friendly, earth centered, and nonviolent. He points out that as we work within the dominant system to make it fairer, more just, and less ecologically destructive, we must also nurture seeds of hope to bring alive the second paradigm and “infuse it into the first paradigm as a kind of transition.” This worldview offers an alternative to the domination system that is consistent with traditional and contemporary Indigenous views and is supported by the understanding of God as not only transcendent but also immanent within creation. It recalls Jesus’s proclamation of the reign of God and its contemporary secular counterpart that proclaims that “another world is possible.”

The compassion and passion for the reign of God that motivated Jesus may yet save us, as his risen Spirit lives and loves through us and empowers all who give themselves to this crucial work. As we become willing, God breathes new life into us, inspiring us to speak truth to power and empowering us to participate in God’s reconciling work to all creation and in the ongoing story of the universe.

Sharon Delgado is a United Methodist pastor, speaker, writer, and activist who has been working on climate justice and related issues for over 30 years. She is on the Coordinating Committee of the United Methodist Creation Justice Movement and is Chair of the Cal-Nevada Climate Justice Ministries Task Force. Previous books include Love in a Time of Climate Change:  Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice (2017) and Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization (2007, 2020). Sharon’s blog is at sharondelgado.org.

 

Other resources from COP 27

 Listen to representatives of United Methodist Agencies–Global Ministry, Church and Society, Westpath, and United Women in Faith–share their perspectives on events at COP 27.

Part I, November 10: United Methodist Agency Perspectives at UN Climate Talks.

Part II, November 17: United Methodist Agency Perspectives at UN Climate Talks.

Read The World Council of Churches Statement on COP 27

Rev. Richenda Fairhurst from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference has produced two articles with videos that elaborate on faith-based climate advocacy related to issues of COP 27:

Nonviolent Direct Action: Why Youths are Walking Out and Organizing

Loss and Damage: A Necessary and Moral Response

Video from Democracy Now: Indigenous Activists on the Link Between Colonialism & Climate Crisis

Articles

“Let’s Try Something New,” Naomi Klein Calls for Boycott of Next Climate Summit

‘Abdication of Responsibility’: Fury as COP27 Draft Omits Oil and Gas Phase-Out

Is COP27 Already Too Lost and Too Damaged?

United Nations Environmental Program Faiths for Earth Resources:

COP 27 Outcomes Faith for Earth Presentation

List of Faith-based engagement at COP27

Follow Sharon’s blog and receive a notification when she posts by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right. Share with the Social Media buttons below. Read other blog posts related to climate change here. Check out Sharon’s books.  Contact Sharon to request a presentation, to request a free chapter of one of her books, or to order discounted bulk copies.  Discussion guides and video introductions of her books are also available.

 

 

 

 

Video Preview of the Cross in the Midst of Creation

Hi, friends. Today I want to tell you about my new book, the Cross in the Midst of Creation.

Two things motivated me to write this book: my love for creation (and that includes our human family) and my love for the good news of Jesus, the gospel.  If you love creation and are distressed by seeing it harmed and degraded and undone; if you love the good news of Jesus and are distressed at seeing it distorted and misused to cause further harm…   Then this book is for you.

The cross is the primary symbol of Christianity, but it means different things to different people. That can be very confusing both for people who consider themselves Christian and for people who don’t.  What does the cross mean to you? What does Christianity mean to you:

The good news of a God of love and inclusion and nonviolence and compassion and transformative justice as Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated?

Or the bad news of Empire and colonization and patriarchy and white supremacy and ecological exploitation and Christian nationalism as some portray it today?

Clearly, the cross and Christianity itself can mean either or both.

This book is a remedy for the confusion and frustration and apathy and disempowerment that comes from trying to sort out all these mixed messages. The goal of The Cross in the Midst of Creation is to help you find clarity about what you believe and what you don’t believe and to encourage you in finding a faith that is true to the teachings and example of Jesus and is relevant for today.

The subtitle is “Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World.” This book is geared toward people who feel drawn to following Jesus. If you’re not, you might still want to hear a good word from Christianity. Besides, we are all going to have to work together if we’re going to build a movement strong enough to counter the powers that be, to bring systemic change, and to transform the world in the direction of justice, peace, and the healing of creation.

The bottom line is this: Even though the crucifixion of Jesus took place long ago, there is a sense in which the crucifixion is ongoing. Institutionalized powers very similar to those that crucified Jesus are still at work today, bringing suffering and death to people and the earth. At the same time, the resurrection is ongoing as people rise in courage and set on a path of both personal and social transformation. For followers of Jesus, that means trusting that the Spirit is at work in us and in the world even now, bringing light out of darkness and life out of death.

May you walk in the light of the Spirit of the risen Christ, today and every day.

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 Check out the Initial Endorsements and the Table of Contents of The Cross in the Midst of Creation and Contact Sharon to request a free PDF chapter of the book, to request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.

5. The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God

Fifth Post in a Blog Series on the Christian Right

This series of posts on The Christian Right includes excerpts from my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World. If you Contact me with the words “free chapter,” I will send you a free chapter of the book.

The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God

“Whether one is oppressed or privileged, structures and spirits like white supremacy, patriarchy, and domination are within us, embedded invisibly in our psyches. Name them and pray them out.”                                             Bill Wylie- Kellermann

The conventional wisdom, or “wisdom of this age” (1 Corinthians 2:6), is based on the values of status and hierarchy, the idolatry of money, and belief in worldly power backed up by violence. These often-unconscious values are at odds with those of Jesus; they express the opposite of his teachings and example, yet they are pervasive in our culture, including in our churches. They are promoted by the Christian Right and used to support Christian Nationalism, expressions of Christianity that are characterized by authoritarian, anti-democratic, and imperial designs.

As followers of Jesus, we are challenged to identify the “structures and spirits” of domination that are within us and to “name them and pray them out,” and we are invited to join the growing number of people who share the values of inclusion, equity, and nonviolence and who are working to build a more compassionate, just, and peaceful world. Surely this is what it means in our time to follow the one who came so that we “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Many Christians today are engaged in denominational efforts and participating with ecumenical, interfaith, and secular organizations in critiquing the underlying values of the current system, challenging the dominant worldview, resisting idolatrous institutions that harm people and the earth, and supporting movements for social and ecological transformation.

Once such movement is the Poor People’s Campaign, led by Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis, based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of the “Beloved Community,” modeled after King’s original Poor People’s Campaign. It works with leaders of the varied faith traditions and centers the stories and leadership of those who suffer most under the weight of damaging government policies: people who are poor, people of color, and others who are vulnerable to discrimination and injustice. It is an example of a diverse coalition that does the footwork to coordinate a successful campaign, including laying the spiritual foundation, honing its message, listening and sharing people’s stories, choosing songs and symbols, engaging in political advocacy, working with the press, and preparing for coordinated nonviolent direct actions. The slogan that animates this movement is “Forward together, not one step back.”

Even as the death-dealing powers continue their assaults on creation, Christ is risen and the Spirit is alive wherever compassion and justice reign: in peoples’ hearts, in social movements, in transformed people and societies. Living a resurrected life means joining in solidarity with all who seek justice, peace, and healing, especially those who are most vulnerable. By courageously following Jesus, we participate in the ongoing resurrection through actions that reflect the love that brought us into being, the love that can’t be extinguished by any empire, the love at the heart of the universe.

Those of us who choose to bear the cross of Jesus must join with those who are already giving themselves to this sacred struggle for the new world that is possible. By doing so, we demonstrate God’s love for creation and embody hope for the world.

In contrast to the conventional wisdom, the wisdom of God is anti-imperial. It reveals the futility of the wisdom of this world. Worldly status does not confer virtue. Wealth does not signify divine favor. Might does not make right. This is still a subversive message, as it was in Jesus’s time. This is still good news.

In this blog series on The Christian Right, which includes excerpts from my book The Cross in the Midst of Creation, my goal is to bring clarity to this discussion. The other blog posts in this series are:     

  1. Christian Nationalism
  2. Two Crosses: Divided Christianity
  3. US Civil Religion: Heretical and Blasphemous
  4. The Christian Right’s Authoritarian God
  5. The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God (This post)

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 Check out the Table of Contents of The Cross in the Midst of Creation and Contact Sharon to request a free PDF chapter of your choice, to request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.

4. The Christian Right’s Authoritarian God

Fourth Post in a Blog Series on the Christian Right

This series of posts on The Christian Right includes excerpts from my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World. If you Contact me with the words “free chapter,” I will send you a free chapter of the book.

The Christian Right’s Authoritarian God

The belief in an authoritarian God lends validity to hierarchical belief systems, such as the belief systems of the Christian Right, which place God at the apex of dominating power. Such belief systems may assume Christian superiority, justify religious discrimination, and support Christian hegemony as good, right, and normal.

In a 2020 book, Christ and Coronavirus, high-profile preacher and best-selling author John Piper described his views on the pandemic, purportedly to offer perspective and comfort to his readers. In it he argues that (1) God is sovereign and in control of everything, that nothing is outside of God’s will; (2) God sent the virus as punishment for sinners, some of whom will be infected with the disease, and as a wake- up call to others to be ready for the return of Christ; (3) God’s sovereignty is a mystery, so don’t try to understand it; and (4) God is the rock under our feet that can never be shaken. He summarizes his views by saying, “The coronavirus was sent, therefore, by God. This is not a season for sentimental views of God. It is a bitter season. And God ordained it. God governs it. He will end it. No part of it is outside his sway. Life and death are in his hand.”

The book has over a thousand reviews on Amazon.com, which indicates the popularity of John Piper. It has an average star rating of 4.5. But the lower-ranking reviews include some biting critiques, including the following, with which I agree:

  • For Piper, the secret story of the Bible is that Jesus was wrong. God’s will actually is being done always and everywhere—we just can’t see how everything evil really is good in the end.
  • If God sent the virus to the world as Piper here argues…, then it is hard, nay, impossible, to avoid the conclusion that Piper’s “god” is evil.
  • Piper ascribes to God such a hateful and vengeful nature as to send a virus as divine judgement.
  • Of course, if you accept Christ and ONLY if you accept Christ you’re worthy of his tiny little god’s love.
  • Worshiping a God who has personally orchestrated every death in human history is vile and ridiculous. It is this rank absurdity that made me reject Christianity.

Note how different the tone and message of Piper’s book are from the teachings and example of Jesus. Yet many forms of conservative Christianity promote similar ideas about the nature of God and God’s relationship with human beings.

Throughout history, many have understood God to be a divine king or judge, a patriarchal authority figure at the top of the world’s power structures who keeps people in line by rewarding, granting privileges, and doling out punishment. Like the God in John Piper’s book, this is a God who directly controls and deliberately causes everything, even great suffering. Sadly, it is not only privileged people who accept this view of God but also many who are sick, poor, or in unjust circumstances. This compounds their suffering and may lead them to blame themselves for their misfortunes or to accept them as the will of God.

Seeing God as a father who demands absolute obedience may be used to justify domination, violence, and abuse. Envisioning God as a king at the top of the world’s power structures may support views and policies that promote unquestioning obedience. Seeing God as a judge who declares everyone “guilty” of eternal punishment, saved only if they accept Jesus, may lay a foundation for cruelty or scapegoating. Believing that God has granted absolute dominion to human beings over creation justifies destructive exploitation of the earth. But the teachings and actions of Jesus point in a completely different direction: toward a God of mercy, inclusion, justice, and love.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to the Christian right. There are many ways to view the Christian message without rigid dogma and to experience the gospel message of forgiveness, freedom from guilt, spiritual connection, transformation, empowerment, and the unconditional grace and love of God. By following Jesus, living by his Spirit, and being true to his message and vision, we become familiar with the healing and transforming power of the God of love that Jesus both revealed and proclaimed.

In this blog series on The Christian Right, which includes excerpts from my book The Cross in the Midst of Creation, my goal is to bring clarity to this discussion. The other blog posts in this series are:     

  1. Christian Nationalism
  2. Two Crosses: Divided Christianity
  3. US Civil Religion: Heretical and Blasphemous
  4. The Christian Right’s Authoritarian God (This post)
  5. The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God

Follow Sharon’s blog post by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right.

 Share with the Social Media buttons below.

 Check out the Table of Contents of The Cross in the Midst of Creation and Contact Sharon to request a free PDF chapter of your choice, to request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.

3. US Civil Religion: Heretical and Blasphemous

Third Post in a Blog Series on the Christian Right

This series of posts on The Christian Right includes excerpts from my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World. If you Contact me with the words “free chapter,” I will send you a free chapter of the book.

US Civil Religion: Heretical and Blasphemous

Congressional hearings on the Capitol insurrection have included the actions of Secret Service staff on January 6th and their actions leading up to and following those events. Yesterday’s hearing brought up the Secret Service’s role in forcibly clearing peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020.

On June 1, 2020, then-president Donald Trump walked from the White House through nearby Lafayette Park to Saint John’s Church, accompanied by an entourage of senior administration officials. Just minutes before, federal police had used tear gas to clear peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors from the park and churchyard, along with clergy and laity from other churches who had come out to bring them water and snacks. After the police drove them out, the president posed on the church steps for a photograph of him holding up the Bible, surrounded by his entourage. “We have a great country,” he said. “Greatest country in the world.”

The photo op apparently backfired. The media scrutinized this use of the Bible “as a prop” designed to gain religious sanction for Trump’s policies. Many Christians denounced it, including the Right Reverend Mariann Budde, Episcopal bishop of the diocese that includes Saint John’s Church. Some called it fascist. But among his base, which includes over half of white US Christians, many approved of this display as a symbol of God and country. Several influential leaders aligned with the Christian Right affirmed his actions, including Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham; Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress; David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network; president of the Congress of Christian Leaders Johnnie Moore; and Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

These divergent views about this incident at Saint John’s Church highlight the theological and political divisions among US Christians that parallel the extreme social divisions in US society. The demonstrators, with support from churchgoers, were passionately but peacefully taking a stand for racial justice in the face of white supremacy and systemic racism. The authorities were asserting their dominant role through violence, then using the Bible, a sacred symbol, to indicate divine approval for their actions.

This staged event was done crudely, but such linking of God and country has been part of US civil religion since the beginning of the colonization of the Americas and throughout our nation’s history up to this present time. Religious language and symbols, including the Bible and the cross, have been used to enact the Doctrine of Discovery, which proclaimed God’s blessing on colonization, to initiate and support the slave trade, to promote the idea of “American exceptionalism,” to sanctify Manifest Destiny while clearing Western lands of most native inhabitants, to justify long-standing persecution of Jews and Muslims, to authorize the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese internment camps during World War II, to call for a crusade after the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center, to fuel anti-immigrant sentiment and to justify separating immigrant children from their parents.

As mentioned in my post Christian Nationalism, religious symbols including the Bible and cross were even used as religious justification for storming the Capitol. Following the events of January 6, 2021, Bishop Mariann Budde, mentioned above, said they reflected “the most heretical, blasphemous forms of Christianity.” Linking it to nation’s history, she added, “This has been part of our nativist, racist Christian past from the beginning. What has been different in the Trump presidency has been the legitimization of it.”

Using religious symbols or language in these ways misleads people, misrepresents God, and fosters moral confusion. This is an example of harm caused by civil religion that links patriotism, white supremacy, and domination backed by violence with claims of God’s blessing upon the United States as a chosen (Christian) nation. This form of religious nationalism is pervasive. It is taught, practiced, and reinforced by the dominant institutions of our society, which results in the shaping of our attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs as US Americans.

By exploring these attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs and how they manifest in our personal lives, relationships, institutions, and systems, we create space around them and make possible a change of perspective leading to both personal and systemic transformation. For as Walter Wink points out, we must go further than repenting of our conscious collaboration with the powers. We must “be freed from our unconscious enthrallment as well.”

Six months before the insurrection, following the presidential photo op, Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde witnessed to what that freedom from enthrallment to the powers might look like in community: “We of the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in his Way of love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.” To those who seek to follow Jesus and live by the Spirit, her words ring true.

In this blog series on The Christian Right, which includes excerpts from The Cross in the Midst of Creation, my goal is to bring clarity to this discussion. The other blog posts in this series will be:

  1. Christian Nationalism
  2. Two Crosses: Divided Christianity 
  3. US Civil Religion: Heretical and Blasphemous (This post)
  4. The Christian Right’s Authoritarian God
  5. The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God

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Contact Sharon below to request a free PDF chapter of The Cross in the Midst of Creation, to request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.