Opinion: Religion has role to play in curbing global warming

I believe everyone in this area should know about what happened in Middlebury on Saturday, Oct. 3. So, here is a brief report on the “climate revival” that happened on that date. The whole thing would warm the heart of anyone who loves this beautiful earth that is our home. People gathered at noon on the green in the heart of town. The stage for worship was set with a shared meal which involved a lot of very intentional and spiritual planning and work, with music and drumming, and with the informal fellowship and relationship-building encouraged by our time out of doors together — all blessed by beautiful weather.
And then everyone moved into St. Stephen’s Church for an interfaith service. Many speakers — Christian, Jewish and Unitarian clergy, and a student member of the Middlebury College Sunday Night Group — and wonderful musicians lifted their voices in concern for the care of the earth. Attendees were challenged to commit ourselves to action. All those in attendance were encouraged and applauded those who put this program together.
The greatest challenge was given by the Rev. Dr. James Antal who came from Boston to speak. He thanked those who organized this event and said that, when an interfaith group like this goes to work together as we are here, it is a real miracle.
Jim Antal, one of the greatest preachers in America today, knows the facts. He lives what he says. And, he is clear to call anyone who will listen to respond to the moral imperative of our time. He referred to Our Children’s Trust (Google it) as a model for the kind of organizing and action that needs to happen. One way he spells out the moral imperative is to ask, “What would you do if someone was building a business and making loads of money on something that would result in the burning down of your home?” That is what the fossil fuel industry is doing in our world, and we must stop it.
The text for his message was from the concluding verses of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:14-27). Jesus spoke about a wise man who built his house on rock and a foolish man who built his house on sand. Of the foolish man he said, “The winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall.” This is not what anyone should want for the world that is our home, but already we are seeing signs of its happening.
Antal also said that fracking is as morally repugnant now as slavery was in the 1850s. And the nation’s attitude about slavery was changed; the use of fossil fuels can be changed in our time.
Dr. Antal has been in jail several times for civil disobedience at the White House with Bill McKibben, James Hansen, and others. The challenge he is giving now calls for two actions: civil disobedience and divestment. He believes that every religious institution should be calling people to do this. If religion is about morality, morality is about money and how it is used. Money was one of the main themes that Jesus spoke about; following Jesus calls people to build a moral economy that will not allow profiting from actions or investments that are harmful to our earth/home. This may be a Christian principle, but it is also embraced by other religions as well.
Jim Antal counseled us to remember to start each day by giving thanks. If we do that, we are more likely to live in hope and care for others along life’s way. We’ll keep on caring for the world and building the community of love that Jesus envisioned.
The interfaith service closed with a prayer from Laudato Si by Pope Francis: “At the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God, and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which will share, along with us, in unending plenitude. In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us. In union with all creatures, we journey through this land seeking God. Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”
This event confirms my growing belief that religion has an essential part to play in saving the world for future generations. Religion has been a powerful force for change in many times in history. And now, I pray that churches, temples, mosques, all religious groups will wake up and move out in action and that people who have left churches or have never participated in any religious activity will join the cause. There is much for us to do. Now is the time. Let’s go.
Rev. George Klohck

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