06/03/2013 02:09 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2013

Move Our Money, Protect Our Planet: God, Earth and Strategy

During the past month, the Board of The Shalom Center and the steering committee of Interfaith Moral Action on Climate have been seeking what might be called a "spiritual strategy" or a "strategic spirituality" aimed at healing God's Creation, our wounded planet, from the dangers of global scorching and the climate crisis.

That process is still under way. This is the direction of our emerging path:

Move Our Money, Protect Our Planet

Providentially, the initials of this campaign title spell "MOM/POP." (We didn't plan it that way.)

We invite you to join in a campaign to persuade religious groups to move our money away from the Climate Pharaohs that are bringing Plagues upon our planet -- and to move our money instead to invest both in wind and solar energy, and in projects to empower the poor who are most vulnerable to the ravages of modern Climate Plagues.

We especially invite retired clergy to connect across the generations with seminary students and with students in religiously sponsored schools or in secular schools with student religious groups, to organize "Move Our Money/ Protect Our Planet" campaigns.

These MOM/POP campaigns in seminaries and student religious groups could address their own Trustees and administrators about Moving Our Money from Earth-destructive to Earth-healing enterprises.

As flagship campuses of various religious groups thus become centers of debate, wider circles of each religious community might feel drawn to take part.

If you would like to take an active part in such an effort to raise these questions in your own congregation or denomination, please write me at

Now, what brought us to this approach?

There are two ways in which spiritually-rooted communities can act:
  • By drawing on the religious traditions of public witness, pray-ins, nonviolent activism, and sacred civil disobedience to work for a strong national enforceable process for major reductions in CO2 & methane production;
  • By profoundly shifting the cultural assumptions and citizenly behavior away from the consumerism and materialism that constantly presses for increased burning of fossil fuels; by making active loving concern for the Earth a moral obligation and disregard of the Earth's needs a moral abomination.
To make this happen despite the present concentrated wealth and power of major corporations in and beyond Big Carbon -- for example, Big Banking and Big Media -- will take a major involvement of the U.S. public in numbers and intensity at least equal to that of the "civil rights" movement, especially 1960-1968.

Those numbers and intensity brought about both a cultural shift that defined racism as an abomination, and a political shift that outlawed segregation and greatly increased the political power of the black community.

The religious communities were then a major component of the movement to challenge racism, and now need to be a major component of the climate-healing movement, including both cultural and spiritual redefinitions that in our generation need to make contempt toward and exploitation of the Earth felt as a moral abomination, and the use of active sit-downs, pray-ins, mass mobilizations, lobbying and electoral action to achieve legal and political change.

Awakening and involving religious communities requires both drawing on their -- our -- existing teachings, symbols and practices that evoke concern for the Earth, and weaving new Earth-centered threads into the fabric of religious life.

The seeds -- but ONLY the seeds -- have been sown of this new direction for churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, in such forms as:
  • The Shalom Center's and IMAC's creation of pre-Passover/Holy Week religious services focused on the climate crisis, combined with vigils, rallies and civil disobedience;
  • Beginning in the Jewish-renewal community, imagining an "eco-kosher" life practice applied not only to food but to all consumables;
  • Interfaith Power and Light's encouragement of annual sermons on climate questions, centered on Valentine's Day.

Such moments and practices need to be enriched and multiplied. In particular, the highest religious intensities and the largest numbers of people religiously involved tend to cluster in the major seasons of fast and festival: Lent, Ramadan and Eid el-Fitr, the High Holy Days, Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid al-Idha, Holy Week, Passover AND in the strongest moments of sacred intergenerational connection -- confirmations, bar/bat mitzvah, etc.

Refocusing some of these festivals, life-cycle events and daily/weekly rhythms of prayer and celebration may help change the cultural assumptions that support grabbiness, greed, and destructive domination of the Earth.

For example: At the Interfaith Summit on the Climate Crisis called by the Church of Sweden in 2008 and held at the Cathedral of Uppsala, a large green-moss Globe became the central transreligious sacred symbol of the gathering. In several national pray-ins held by Interfaith Moral Action on Climate during the past year and in some regional prayer services for the Earth, a Globe has been shared from hand to hand, while the gathering sang "We Have the Whole World in Our Hands."

In regard to public activist advocacy, the Passover/Holy Week season may be most appropriate for public action to focus attention on the powerful institutions committed to fossil fuels vs. the possibility of a healing and healed community.

For that season lifts up the memory of Pharaoh, Plagues, Exodus, Wilderness, Sinai and Promised Land; and the memory of Caesar and Pontius Pilate, Palm Sunday as nonviolent challenge to the Roman Empire, the Last Supper (a Passover Seder), Crucifixion, Resurrection and Pentecost.

In these traditions, Sinai, the Promised Land, the Resurrection and Pentecost -- the healing alternatives -- carry as much energy as the disastrous status quo. So must it be for us.

To make climate-healing the focus of such high-intensity moments requires us to weave it into the fabric of religious life, rather than to focus on a blip here, a blip there -- isolated moments alone.

How can we weave into the daily lives of our religious cultures the metaphor of modern Pharaohs and their modern plagues, modern Caesars and their modern oppressions, vs. modern healings of the Earth?

One crucial thread in the daily fabric is Money. What do we do with it? The Divestment work of has shown that challenging the use of money to prop up our Climate Pharaohs can energize people -- especially college students.

We believe that religious leaders, congregations and denominations are called to address the money that they themselves can choose to invest:

Should we invest in the modern Corporate Pharaohs or in the smaller, more nimble, more responsive and responsible companies based on renewable and sustainable sources of energy; and in projects that empower the poor who are already suffering most sharply, and will suffer even more, from the Climate Plagues.

While we admire and honor 350's initiative, we believe that using the imagery of "Move Our Money/Protect Our Planet" rather than "Divest" will more fully bring the creation of healing alternatives into this process, balancing elements of opposition with elements of hope. We believe this balance accords better with the moral and religious values lifted up in our traditions as Sinai, Promised Land, Resurrection, Pentecost.

That's why we have settled on "Move Our Money/ Protect Our Planet" MOM/POP campaigns.

We propose that in 2014, when Palm Sunday falls on April 13 and Passover begins with the First Seder on the evening of Monday, April 14), public vigils, interfaith religious services, etc., be held during the week before Passover/Holy Week as an focus (not a completion) for the Move Our Money campaign, with an expectation that MOM/POP will continue into the following year(s).

A Move Our Money campaign is not an end in itself. It is not likely to cause enough disruption to Big Oil, Big Coal, etc., to force them to change their business plans, or even to diminish the millions they spend on buying elections and lobbying.

But a Move Our Money campaign can mobilize large numbers of people in many ways that will help delegitimate Big Carbon; could actually help increase investments in smaller wind/solar-energy companies and in projects for empowering the vulnerable poor to act on climate issues; and could provide the cohesion and networks to make the political muscle to change U.S. government policy.

Please remember: If you would like to take an active part in the MOM/POP campaign by raising these questions in your own congregation or denomination, please write me at

With blessings of inspiration from the Spirit, and with commitment to the Rainbow Covenant among the Holy One, the children of Noah, "and every breathing life-form ... all life upon the Earth" (Genesis 9:8-10).

- Arthur