A friend of mine recalls a dinner-table conversation one day when she was a schoolgirl. Her dad had come home unusually frustrated from his job as a city planner. "D#@*$% environmentalists!" he said over dinner. "Dad, I thought you were an environmentalist," she said. "Why are you so upset?"
"All day long," he answered, "environmentalists come to me with problems and complaints, and business people come to me with ideas and projects. Why can't the environmentalists be proactive and come to the table with some creative ideas to make things better, instead of just trying to get in the way of things they don't want to see happen?"
This city planner would be encouraged to read the Sierra Club's first-ever report on faith communities engaging with environmental activism: "Faith in Action: Communities of Faith Bring Hope for the Planet."
So would all of us who remember -- not that long ago -- when too many people of faith considered the environment a political concern rather than a spiritual and moral one. Back then, those of us for whom faith and environmental concern were as integral as faith and church-going felt pretty alone. But the tide is turning -- in no small part due to the efforts of Sierra Club activists such as author/project manager Lyndsay Moseley and her co-author, Anna Jane Joyner.
The Sierra Club, it turns out, isn't a bunch of secular leftist anti-God nature-worshippers, as some folks might have tried to paint them in the past. Nearly half of the club's 1.3 million members attend worship regularly, and Sierra Club leaders like Moseley and her boss, Melanie Griffin, are deeply committed to -- not to mention thoughtful and articulate about -- the intersection of faith and environmental activism. Americans in general, it turns out, are further along than many of us realized: 67 percent of all Americans, when asked why they care about the environment, explain that it is God's creation. Their love for God and their love for God's creation are inseparable -- naturally.
"Faith in Action" is a colorful, easy-to-read booklet and after a brief introduction, it is pure stories -- stories of Baptists and Catholics, Quakers and Congregationalists, synagogues and mosques, Vineyard churches and Buddhist communities, creatively expressing care for God's beautiful earth. They're launching projects as varied as their backgrounds -- fighting mountaintop removal, protecting watersheds, changing light bulbs, tithing C02, building energy-efficient buildings, promoting energy conservation, sponsoring local agriculture, sponsoring retreats and bike rides, and in scores of other ways building deep commitment to "keeping the faith by keeping the earth."
I got tears in my eyes as I read these stories of faith and care for God's beautiful earth. I imagine my friend's father would have felt pretty moved too: people of faith, committed to the environment, not just preaching or complaining, but putting faith into action in positive, proactive ways. If you want to inspire your congregation (or yourself), consider using this one-of-a-kind resource -- printed on mixed-source paper, of course! You can download a copy and get more information at www.sierraclub.org/partnerships/faith.
Nobody has said it much better than Sierra Club founder John Muir: "All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters but little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land ... or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God's eternal beauty and love."
Brian McLaren is an author and speaker and serves as Sojourners' board chair. You can learn about his books, music, and other resources at brianmclaren.net.