A visit to Washington, D.C. last week, Holy Week and Easter, and a cold have put me behind in nearly every area of my life -- professional and personal. Still, I feel called to take time I don't have to speak out as a person of faith on the recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). God's very Creation is in peril.
This isn't new news but the news keeps getting worse and neither the political establishment or the world public is pushing hard enough to address fundamental challenges about how all of humanity -- along with the rest of Creation -- will continue into a healthy and prosperous future. As people of faith, called to be stewards of Creation, we are failing.
So here is what the IPCC is telling us in their latest studies, as reported by The New York Times:
...ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.
Nearly a decade ago, over 1000 religious leader in the United States issued a statement entitled God's Mandate: Care for Creation that read, in part:
To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly; it is sin. As voiced by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for creation: "To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation ... for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands ... for humans to injure other humans with disease... for humans to contaminate the Earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances ... these are sins." We have become un-Creators. Earth is in jeopardy at our hands.
The Vatican and evangelical Christians have also issued powerful statements about the need to protect the environment but these statements have gone largely unheeded by not just by politicians but by Christians. Muslims and Jews, along with other faith traditions that have also called for environmental safe guards, have had their statements fall on deaf ears. This is a message that needs to be heard from the pulpit more than once a year around Earth Day.
What will it take? I agree with those who have argued nothing will change until a mass movement takes to the streets and demand a radical shift in thinking that forces the world to come to grips with this human caused crisis. Faith leaders should lend leadership, support and whatever tools we have at our disposal to help sustain such a movement, much as many courageous faith leaders supported movements for civil rights and peace a generation ago.
There is still time to solve this crisis, the scientists tell us. Time, however, is no longer on our side. The God of all Creation is calling us to be the stewards we have been called to be and save this Earth before it is forever altered in ways that harm the world's people and the rest of life. We're all busy. But if we wait longer we sentence our children and grandchildren to a harsh existence very far from the Kingdom of God envisioned for this planet.
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