Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Sometimes Faith and Hope are HARD

Sometimes it is very difficult to trust in God’s providential care and in a hopeful  future.  Today was one of those days for me.  It started out hopeful enough.  Early this morning, I learned that the Markey-Waxman bill that fights global warming by a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions (which may help both the federal deficit and the economy as a fringe benefit) made it out of committee to the full House of Representatives.  Wow,  I thought.  If the Senate doesn’t block or water this down, we may get the first real action on climate change in this nation–after decades of doing nothing. (I don’t know whether to be angrier at the Bush administration, which claimed for 6 of its 8 years that global warming was a hoax–relenting only after the PENTAGON classified it as a bigger national security threat than terrorism–or the Clinton administration which KNEW the danger and betrayed its campaign promises by doing nothing because they were afraid of losing support from the business community.) 

But then I realized that, EVEN AT IT’s BEST, the Waxman-Markey bill would only lower carbon emissions 7-10%, lower than what the EU, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, and even latecomer Australia are doing.  And, because global warming is happening faster than originally predicted, it is FAR less than what climatologists think we need to stop global climate catastrophes:  About 50% carbon emission reductions by 2030!  Yet, trying to increase the bill to that amount is simply not politically possible–the entire bill would be defeated and we’d be back to doing nothing, again.

So by the time we headed for church, I was pretty pessimistic about the future.  One of my daughters tried to cheer me up–reminding me of the huge strides we are making in some areas of justice–such as gay rights.  I wasn’t very receptive. Let’s see, I thought, “we now have civil marriage equality in 6 states. Only 42 more to go in this nation. At that rate, gays and lesbians will be able to marry just in time for massive global-warming related famines in Africa, losing several island nations to the ocean, hurricanes that make Katrina seem like a gentle breeze, worldwide refugees in the millions, increased “resource wars,” massive global species extinctions, and killer storms across the MidWest.

Fortunately, everything at church today seemed to speak to my condition, to paraphrase Quaker founder George Fox. We sang, “Do not fear to hope.”  The sermon reminded me that God chooses unlikely vessels for change and amazing outcomes.  I needed reminding.

The facts have not changed. (Please no comments trying to convince me that global warming is a hoax. I’ve read the many detailed reports of the climatologists. I’m in no mood for attempts to cheer me up by denial and might just delete any such comments. I am certainly in no mood to DEBATE the science behind the climatologists’ warnings.) We are still preparing an INADEQUATE response–one that would have been more suitable for the late ’80s or early ’90s when there was more time. (The longer we put off responding, the more extreme our actions will have to take by the time all the skeptics are convinced–and it will be too late.) It still looks like too little, too late.

But God is still GOD and I cannot believe that God has abandoned this planet–no matter how we humans have messed up our stewardship.  I have no idea how God is working to save this creation, but I know God is working.  Maybe, just maybe, Waxman-Markey, while inadequate in itself, will be the crack that opens the dam of creative political will to do what is necessary to save our world.  Maybe we can add carbon taxes to speed up the work of a cap-and-trade system.  Maybe the Waxman-Markey bill will finally show the world that the U.S. is serious about fighting climate change and helps bring in China and India to a new post-Kyoto treaty at Copenhagen.  I don’t know.

Sometimes faith and hope are hard.  Despair is easier.  But as the hymn says, “Do not fear to hope, though the wicked rage and rise.  Our God sees not as we see, success is not the prize. Do not fear to hope, for though the night seems long, the race shall not be to the swift, the fight not to the strong.”  Amen.  Lord, I believe–Help, Thou, my unbelief.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | ecology, faith, global warming, hope, hymns | 16 Comments

Sign of the Times?

As I try to avoid worrying about Republicans allowing the Big Three automakers to die (probably leading to a global depression!) or what happens next in the Illinois scandal, I found this interesting piece of news.

Richard Cizik, for decades the Public Policy head of the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals, has resigned after an interview in which he admitted “shifting” on same-sex marriage. Cizik now says that he supports same-sex civil unions and is reconsidering civil marriage equality!  A recent study by Pew showed that younger evangelicals are also becoming more open to gay rights.  Cizik was previously the target of the Religious Right because of his push for U.S. evangelicals to become concerned about the environment (“creation care”), taking on those Religious Right leaders who believe either that the Second Coming removes all Christian concern for the environment or that global warming is a hoax or both.  Here, again, Cizik seems more representative of younger white evangelicals than most leaders of his generation.  Wow!

I’m sad that Cizik’s voice of sanity will be lost at NAE and hope that he continues to find ways to speak out to his fellow conservative Christians about these vital matters.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | ecology, evangelicals, fundamentalists, GLBT issues, global warming, homosexuality | 4 Comments

We Can Solve It

This ad will air tonight in the U.S. during coverage of the Olympic Games. Makes more sense than drilling, no?

August 11, 2008 Posted by | ecology, global warming | 5 Comments

Al Gore: Baptist of the Year

algore.pngThe Baptist Center for Ethics has chosen fmr. U.S. Vice President R. Albert Gore, Jr. (Al Gore) as “Baptist of the Year.”  I try to take a global view of my Baptist family and so I wondered whether or not this was a U.S.-centered choice. [Update: This is the first year BCE has chosen a Baptist from North America. They began this award in 2004, selecting several people from around the globe. In 2005, they chose Paul Montacute, a British Baptist and head of Baptist World Aid, for his quick humanitarian responses to the tsunami and to the earthquake in Pakistan. In 2006, BCE chose collectively the Baptists in Lebanon for their grace and courage during the war which put them literally in the line of fire between Hezbollah and Israel. So, this wasn’t as U.S.-centered as I wondered.]  But in a year in which the former Vice President (who, at the most charitable reading of the Supreme Court’s 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, at least won the popular vote for U.S. President in 2000), won an Academy Award for the film version of An Inconvenient Truth and, together with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his attempts to end the carbon-based war on the planet, this decision by BCE seems perfectly justified.  I am not sure that we have enough time or the political will, even now, to take effective action against global warming before major and irreversible damage is done all across the globe. It may well be too late to do more than limit the damage and save what we can and whom we can.  But if we do have enough time and political will, even here in the United States, then Al Gore will deserve much of the credit as a modern day Paul Revere warning “The HEAT is Coming!”

Congratulations, Mr. Gore. I only hope your efforts have paid off in time.  Keep up the good work.

Update: I have not always been impressed with Mr. Gore’s skills in political oratory. But a major exception is his Nobel Prize Lecture.  It is well worth reading.  Unless you are in delusional denial about climate change (like Fred Thompson or Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) ), you should find it very inspiring.  I know I did.

December 28, 2007 Posted by | Baptists, ecology, global warming, heroes | 36 Comments

Al Gore & Climate Change Panel Win Nobel Peace Prize

Fmr.  U. S. Vice President R. Albert Gore, Jr. (better known as “Al Gore”), already having won an Oscar for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and an Emmy for his work with Current TV, will now receive the Nobel Peace Prize.  He will share the prize with the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientists who have carefully documented the consensus views on global warming, their human-based causes, and their most likely effects.  In announcing the shared award, which will be presented in December, the Nobel Committee cited the connections between global warming and wars over resources, a process it believes is already happening in Africa.  Gore’s initial response to the announcement was:

I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change–the world’s pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis–a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years. We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.

My wife, Tipper, and I will donate 100 percent of the proceeds of the award to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan non-profit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion in the U.S. and around the world about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.

Thank you,

Al Gore

Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics, which runs EthicsDaily.com, has a fine article on Gore as the Third Baptist from the U.S. South to win the Nobel Peace Prize (the others were Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964 and Jimmy Carter in 2002).  It stresses the role of the Bible and Sunday School in shaping these peacemakers–and the way the largest body of Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention, has treated all three with contempt. (Some SBC leaders will now speak respectfully of MLK, Jr., and a few mavericks–derided at the time as “liberals”–honored King during his life. But the vast majority of the SBC leadership derided King as a “liberal, communist race-mixer” during his life, sneered at his Nobel Prize, and met his assassination with either silence or open cheering. ) As Parham rightly notes, these Baptist prophets have been honored everywhere except by white Southern Baptists.

October 12, 2007 Posted by | ecology, global warming, peacemaking | 11 Comments

Al Gore to Congress: Act on Global Warming NOW!

You can see highlights of Gore’s testimony before Congress here or his entire opening statement here.  Gore challenged lawmakers to cut carbon emissions by 90% before 2050 using stronger proposals than anything currently on the legislative table.  In addition to scientific data, concrete proposals, and an academy award for his slideshow-turned-documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Gore brought over 500,000 messages from citizens to Congress supporting swift, decisive action to prevent/reduce the catastrophic climate change caused by global warming.  Although no-nothings like Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) called global warming “a hoax,” the majority of lawmakers seemed receptive to Gore’s message, although it will take much citizen action to get the strong changes he is recommending. (Gore called the first hearings on global warming in Congress in 1973 and they are still dragging their feet about doing anything!)

Among Gore’s concrete proposals are:

  • An immediate national freeze on new carbon emissions, affecting everything from cars to lawnmowers to coal-fired electric plants.
  • Changing the tax code to reduce payroll taxes and increase taxes on polluters, especially those who put greenhouse gasses like CO2 into the air.
  • Following Australia’s lead in banning incandescent light bulbs in favor of new compact (and far more energy efficient) flourescent light bulbs.
  • Raising fuel-efficiency standards for cars–something the major car companies themselves asked Congress for clear guidelines on just this week. Will oil company dollars to Congressional campaigns trump concern for the planet AND the clear desires of Detroit automakers?
  • Creating a “carbon neutral home mortgage association” which would allow homeowners to more easily finance energy-efficient renovations.  This last may sound radical, but Jimmy Carter did something similar in the 1970s when, after installing solar panels on the White House roof (removed by the first Pres. Bush), he got Congress to pass tax credits for homeowners who installed solar panels to their roofs (or windmills, etc.). My parents took advantage of this with our Orlando home and some years we actually generated enough of our own electricity to sell some BACK to the power company.  Reagan led in cancelling these tax credits for homeowners in 1981–at the same time he started rolling back fuel standards for cars, and we’ve been going in the wrong direction ever since.

The folks at Environmental Defense now have a page called “Ask the Green Car Guru” to help consumers concerned about the environment.  They have also worked with Yahoo! to develop a Green Car Center that does rather comprehensive ratings and shows what criteria are used in order to help consumers make wise choices.  The Union of Concerned Scientists have called for passage of the Safe Climate Act (which falls short of Gore’s proposals, but would be a step in the right direction), and its engineers have designed the Vanguard, a safe, affordable, and green mini-van.

So, the ball is now in our court as citizens to convince Congress to act and as consumers to convince companies to give us the green technologies we want.  We also need to make lifestyle choices for the planet:  live closer to our work, insulate our homes, walk, bike, and ride public transportation whenever possible, etc.

March 22, 2007 Posted by | ecology, global warming | 4 Comments