Don’t Look Up

You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn—and I would heal them.”                                     Matthew 13 14-15

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its Synthesis Report of its sixth assessment (AR6)[i] It should have been at the top of the news everywhere, but it was not. The constant barrage of attention-grabbing news headlines with violent, distressing, or random content makes it almost impossible to grasp what’s most important. It makes it hard to “see the forest for the trees.” But if the forest is dying there will be no trees, as is happening here in the Zombie forests[ii] of California, due of course, to climate change.

In the movie “Don’t Look Up,” filmmaker Adam McKay uses the metaphor of a world-destroying comet to parody how policy-makers and the media downplay the imminent threat of climate catastrophe. Jennifer Lawrence plays a doctoral student who discovers a massive comet headed straight for Earth, and Leo Di Caprio plays the scientist who confirms her discovery. Together they do everything they can to awaken people to the threat. The response of the US president, played brilliantly by Meryl Streep, is to “sit tight and assess,” and finally to support a billionaire entrepreneur’s high-tech (market based) money-making scheme. They go directly to the press but the talk show host, played by Cate Blanchett, ignores the danger, trivializes the topic, and dismisses the Jennifer Lawrence character for desperately sounding the alarm.

Film maker Adam McKay describes his motivation for producing “Don’t Look Up” by pointing back through geological time to the asteroid that many scientists say is responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs and many other species.  He says, “[Climate change] is the biggest story in human history, and arguably the biggest threat since the Chicxulub comet 66 million years ago.”[iii]

Is this an exaggeration? Climate scientists today are sounding the alarm.  According to the IPCC’s AR6 report:

“Human-caused climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. This has led to widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. Vulnerable communities that have historically contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected.”[iv]

“In this decade, accelerated action to adapt to climate change is essential to close the gap between existing adaptation and what is needed…Emissions should be decreasing by now and will need to be cut by almost half by 2030, if warming is to be limited to 1.5°C. [v]

According the IPCC’s press release, “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all…The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.”[vi]

Last November, in his opening plenary remarks at COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrez summed up our situation: “The clock is ticking. We are in the fight of our lives, and we are losing. Greenhouse gas emissions keep growing, global temperatures keep rising, and our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.” He added, ‘We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”[vii]

Many of us in the global North are privileged enough to be able to find ways to insulate ourselves (temporarily) from the reality and impacts of climate change on our lives and hope that the fires and floods don’t come for us. We might tell ourselves that there’s nothing that we can do, or we might feel we are doing our part because we recycle or don’t fly or are vegan or have an electric car, or we might hold out hope for the next technological fix or the next billionaire entrepreneur to save us.  But these responses are inadequate in light of the existential threat we face. These are all forms of denial, because they enable us to pretend that life will continue go on as is has before. They are ways of saying, “Don’t look up.”

In many parts of the world, people don’t have that luxury, because extreme weather is destroying their homes, their crops, their livelihoods, and even their very existence as a people (as with island nations).  Our young know that climate change is upon us and accelerating, and that they and their descendants will disproportionately bear its escalating burdens long after those who have presided over the current fossil-fuel intensive global system are gone.

Clearly, powers very much like the dominating powers of Jesus’s age, continue their death-dealing work today. Creation itself is being crucified. As William Stringfellow said, “The work of the powers in the Fall is the undoing of creation.” This becomes ever-harder to ignore as temperatures rise, weather extremes multiply, and ecosystems that sustain life are progressively unraveled, putting an ever-greater strain on our corporate-dominated capitalist global empire, leading to rising epidemics of poverty, violence, and misery.

This post is an invitation and a challenge to readers to come out of denial and face the extremity of our situation. The season of Lent is a fitting time for this, for it is God in Christ, immanent as well as transcendent, who suffers in and through us and all creation. We are approaching Holy Week, and we know that Easter is coming. Yet we cannot bypass the cross to get to resurrection.

As we walk with Jesus through the painful events that led to his death, in retrospect we can see, like the Gospel writers, God’s divine presence and providence in these events. But it’s important to look at these events in context, for it was not God but the rulers of his age who “crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8). In other words, it was the dominating powers of his day—the Roman Empire and the elite religious establishment that collaborated with the Roman occupation of Jerusalem who found Jesus to be subverting the existing establishment.  For that, he was killed.

In An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, William Stringfellow speaks of the moral impoverishment  that afflicts us as we relinquish our human responsiblility to the powers. He says, “I mean by `moral impoverishment’ what the Bible often cites as hardness of the heart” or as the impairment or loss of moral discernment; the incapacity to hear, though one has ears; or to see, though one has eyes… I refer, thus, not so much to an evil mind as to a paralyzed onscience; not so much to either personal or corporate immorality as to a social pathology possessing persons and institutions; not so much to malevolence, however incarnate, as to the literla demoralization of human life in society.” It is not so much that there are evil people running things, but that things are running on automatic according to the institutional imperatives in a global system that is working against life. “Don’t look up,” encouraged by the dominating powers that benefit from the current system, is a way to avoid facing the truth or feeling the need to respond.

As people of faith and followers of Jesus, how do we collaborate with the rulers of this age, that is, the interlocking network of institutional powers that makes up today’s global empire? How can we withdraw our support?

First, we must open our eyes and look up—to see what the scientists are showing us. We must open our ears and hear the cries of people suffering on the front lines of climate change. We must open our hearts to understand, process, and grieve what is at stake:  the integrity and continuation of the interdependent community of life that has evolved here on Earth, life as we have known it, the creation that God calls “good.”

Second, we must recognize that the damage being done to creation is not the result of natural evolution or human history. Rather, it is the result of policies developed by wealthy and powerful individuals and the dominant institutions of our time, supported by those of us who tolerate and accept this system. We can break out of this complicity by naming, unmasking (exposing), and engaging these powers and by pointing in a new and life-sustaining way of being in the world.

Third, even as we reflect on and grieve the painful realities of our time, Christ’s risen Spirit is alive and active in our world today on behalf of life, and as we experience and recognize that activity we are invited to participate. The global movement for climate justice is one such expression of the Spirit’s power.  Bill McKibben said, “The best way to counter organized money is with organized people.” People who have the courage to look up.

This is the sixth post in a Lenten Series, “Creation, Cross, and The Powers.” The other posts are as follows:

  1. Creation, Cross, and The Powers
  2. Extraordinary Temptations
  3. The Spirituality of an Epoch
  4. Creation: Moving from Awe to Lament to Resistance
  5. Banking on Our Future as Demythologized Exorcism
  6. Don’t Look Up
  7. Care Enough to Weep
  8. The Death of Jesus in Context
  9. Resurrection and New Creation

Follow Sharon’s blog post by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right. Share with the Social Media buttons below. See also a previous Lenten series: A Lenten Call to Resist. Check out Sharon’s books.  Contact Sharon to request a complimentary digital chapter of one of her books, to request a presentation, or to order discounted bulk copies of her books. 

 [i] “AR6 Synthesis Report, Climate Change, 2023,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,

[ii] Mapping California’s ‘Zombie’ Forests,” Elena Shao, New York Times, March 6, 2023,

[iii] “Climate Scientist and Netflix ‘Don’t Look Up’ director talk comet metaphors and global warming,” Elizabeth Howell,, May 11, 2022,

[iv]  “Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, March 20, 2023,

The Spirituality of an Epoch

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

My previous post, Extraordinary Temptations, was about the temptations Jesus experienced in the wilderness. Who (or what) was this “devil” that tempted Jesus? And what relevance does this story have for us today? Consider today’s prevailing wisdom:

The “wisdom of this age” (1 Cor. 2:6) is based on the values of status and hierarchy, the idolatry of money, and belief in power backed by violence. These largely unconscious views are at odds with Jesus’s values; they express the opposite of his vision of the world as God created it to be. Fortunately, we do not need to fall prey to these delusions. The presuppositions that underlie this prevailing wisdom are false.

In biblical terms, such falsehoods originate with the father of lies (John 8:44) and are circulated by the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2). These terms are metaphors for the principalities and powers, similar to the “devil” who tempted Jesus. Such metaphorical language expresses aspects of peoples’ experiences about the mystery of evil.

The devil or Satan has been understood in many ways, including the following: (1) as part of God’s heavenly council, the prosecuting attorney who accused Job before God (Job 1:7– 12); (2) a personal spirit (perhaps embodied) that tempts people to take a path contrary to what their conscience or their faith tells them is good and right; (3) a malevolent adversary intent on harm “like a roaring lion . . . looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8); (4) the demonic ruler of this world (John 12:31; Luke 4:5– 6); and (5) the ruling authorities of this world, including the spiritual forces of evil that animate them: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

When tempting Jesus, the devil claimed that he was in control of “all the kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:5– 6). Some have said that this was simply a lie he was telling Jesus, but other biblical passages back him up in this claim (John 12:31; 1 Cor 2:8). Walter Wink points to human responsibility by explaining this in terms of human choice and involvement with the demonic powers:

“When . . . Satan declares that he can give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, he is not lying; “for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.” God permits Satan such power but has not handed it over to him; we have delivered it, as a consequence of all the consciously or unconsciously evil choices we have individually and collectively made against the long- range good of the whole.”[1]

Wink also demythologized the term Satan by making the case that the term represents the dominant milieu of a culture at a particular time in history:

“Satan is the real interiority of a society that idolatrously pursues its own enhancement as the highest good. Satan is the spirituality of an epoch, the peculiar constellation of alienation, greed, inhumanity, oppression, and entropy that characterizes a specific period of history as a consequence of human decisions to tolerate and even further such a state of affairs.”[2]

This sinister, even demonic, spirituality is not vague or amorphous but is embodied by representative human beings and by concrete institutions and systems that dominate our world— that is, by the rulers of this age (1 Cor. 2-6) and those who have given themselves over to them.

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.” 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).

This post includes an excerpt from Sharon’s book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World (Fortress Press, 2022).

This is the third post in a Lenten Series, “Creation, Cross, and The Powers.” The others are as follows:

    1. Creation, Cross, and The Powers
    2. Extraordinary TemptationsThe Spirituality of an Epoch
    3. The Spirituality of an Epoch
    4. Creation: Moving from Awe to Lament to Resistance
    5. Banking on Our Future as Demythologized Exorcism
    6. Don’t Look Up
    7. Care Enough to Weep
    8. The Death of Jesus in Context
    9. Resurrection and New Creation

Follow Sharon’s blog post by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right. Share with the Social Media buttons below. See also a previous Lenten series: A Lenten Call to Resist. Check out Sharon’s books.  Contact Sharon to request a complimentary digital chapter of one of her books, to request a presentation, or to order discounted bulk copies of her books. 

[1] . Wink, Unmasking the Powers, 24.

[2] . Wink, Naming the Powers, 25.

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, 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

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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.