As we swelter in another hot summer and face the prospect of more climate change fueled super storms -- like Katrina and Sandy of recent years -- it is worth considering what a faithful response to this crisis is. Unlike some divisive issues, within the Christian community, along with the larger interfaith world, there is a general consensus that action must be taken to address this crisis and that government must play a leading role.
In 2005, over 1000 Christian leaders in the United States issues 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.
For Christians and other people of faith, this is one of the most serious issues of our time. Sadly, when God presented humanity with dominion over the earth, many believe we were given control over creation to do as we please -- for the benefit of humankind above all else. That's where you get the "drill-baby-drill" mentality. "We have interpreted the 'dominion' granted to humankind as giving us raw power to exploit and abuse the rest of creation, rather than as requiring mature responsibility of us to show respect and loving care for creation," writes The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. in his book Whose Gospel? "Like rebellious adolescents, we have been inclined to see the gifts of God as ours to use as we choose."
President Barack Obama's recent address on climate change has given many concerned about the future of our planet hope. He said at Georgetown:
...the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science -- of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements -- has put all that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They've acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.
So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.
As a President, as a father, and as an American, I'm here to say we need to act.
I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing. And that's why, today, I'm announcing a new national climate action plan, and I'm here to enlist your generation's help in keeping the United States of America a leader -- a global leader -- in the fight against climate change.
And what has he proposed?
"The centerpiece of the plan is a proposal to reduce CO2 pollution from existing power plants, something the federal Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to do -- and in fact, is required to do -- under the Clean Air Act. The president also outlined proposals for more clean energy development and decreasing the nation's energy use through greater building and appliance efficiency, as well as preparing communities for the expected impacts of climate change, including stronger storms, longer droughts, increased asthma attacks, and raging wildfires. None of his proposals would require Congressional action," according to the National Resources Defense Council.As expected, many in Congress are already fighting the president's efforts. As Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said:
This shouldn't be a partisan issue. After all, if Roman Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Christians can all agree that action needs to be taken it ought not be hard for Congress to set politics aside for the common good of the earth. People of faith will need to be loudly heard in the on-going campaign to reverse the damage done to the creation to which we have been entrusted as stewards.
Though we are disappointed that Congress has proven unable to pass common sense climate legislation, if the plans laid out... by President Obama are implemented, they promise to advance U.S. efforts to address the climate crisis that threatens people and communities around the world.
As a pastor, as a father, as a citizen of the world, I'm here to say we need to support the president and all those of good will who want to fight climate change. We owe it to our Creator and our children.