The Common Good

Climate Witness as Act of Faithfulness

The earth dries up and withers ... The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. - Isaiah 24:4-6

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! - Deuteronomy 30:19

During the 1980s, many Christians were at the forefront of a movement to avert nuclear annihilation. They saw this transcendent threat as a moral crisis and felt a responsibility to nonviolently resist, including acts of civil disobedience and divine obedience. Today, we face a comparable danger -- a climate catastrophe which could decimate life on earth. Yet it seems not to have been picked up on the Christian "radar screen" in the same way. For this reason, it is actually more insidious.

The scientific community is warning that we approach a "tipping point" when tremendous natural forces spin out of control and the laws of physics will take over. When that line is crossed, humanity will be helpless to stop a frightening slide into global disaster.

With such an ominous threat to God's Creation, Christians have a profound responsibility to sound a warning. Some are doing so and deserve commendation. Tragically, however, the collective response has not been commensurate with the vast scale of the danger.

Bonhoeffer questioned how someone could claim to be Christian and yet maintain silence in the face of the Nazi holocaust. Now we are faced with a holocaust even more sweeping. Is it not legitimate to ask the same question? Does not silence in the face of the greatest moral crisis of our time constitute a failure to follow the most fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ?

Some say this is a confessional issue. In 2006, a confessional statement was signed by 34 denominations of the World Council of Churches based in the United States, which stated:

Global warming goes unchecked while we allow God's creation to veer toward destruction.... We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to call our nation to global responsibility.... Christ, have mercy.

This month, Christians have a wonderful opportunity to bear witness against the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama has the authority to block a massive oil pipeline that can push the climate beyond the tipping point. Nonviolent civil disobedience actions will take place outside the White House from August 20 to September 2. Already, over 1,700 people have signed up, and a special day -- August 29 -- has been designated for the religious community.

It is a time to reclaim our voice and speak truth to power. "Put on the whole armor of God," (Ephesians 6:11) and defend God's Creation!

Gary "Eladiah" Houser is a public interest writer and filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary about thawing Arctic methane as potential contributor to a climate tipping point. He is also a concerned Christian seeking to elicit a stronger response from the Christian community on the climate crisis, and is taking part in the tar sands actions.

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