This weekend, houses of worship around the country will participate in the annual “Preach-In” on climate change hosted by Interfaith Power and Light. IPL started as a “religious response to global warming” fifteen years ago when a coalition of Episcopal congregations in California joined together to purchase renewable energy. Since then, they’ve broadened their focus and partnered with a wide array of faith traditions in state and local chapters to help connect the moral and spiritual dots around climate change issues. We’re even trying to get one going here in Dallas.
Church in the Cliff is going to join the conversation on Sunday. This year, the focus of the Preach-In is on the ways climate change effects the poor – pretty timely given our current focus on Luke’s view of the Christian gospel. Here in the U.S. and around the world, the challenges posed by the extremes of a changing climate hit those who don’t have the cushion of a comfortable lifestyle the hardest, something that pokes uncomfortably into our day-to-day worlds.
In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus gets to the uncomfortable heart of the matter, as often is his way. He flat out tells people that worrying about material security is pointless, that takes our focus away from things that matter (note: his message here isn’t to the poor, who don’t have these things. It’s to those who already have those basic needs met). I don’t claim to hold a candle to Jesus’ words, but I will say that the painful effects of our collective material worries are having some real effects. “Affluenza” takes away more than a spiritual sense of having an abundant life, filled with meaning and spiritual insight. It’s raising our sea levels, lowering our water tables, melting our ice fields, raging in wildfires, and creating climate refugees around the world.
The really painful part of this is that, conspiracy theories aside, no evil mastermind really meant for this to happen. We can critique the oil companies, coal companies, and big agricultural corporations all day (and perhaps we should), but the reason they’re so successful is looking back at me in the mirror. I really like this comfortable life – it got created with many good intentions, to make people’s lives easier and better. But, the crazy bandwagon of the material rat race is now a runaway train, and it’s a system that is pretty challenging – if not almost impossible – to step out of. Talk about anxiety.
Join us Sunday morning at Kidd Springs Recreation Center, 11AM, to talk about living faithfully in this brave new world. It’s a hard problem, and I have a feeling we’re going to need each other if we’re going to resist the temptation to look out for number 1. I think there may be some good news in this, but it’s going to require something from us, too. I love how one of the people I interviewed for my dissertation put it: “To love one another, we have to be sustaining. To be sustaining, we have to look around and see what’s happening.”