Creation Care

Pope Calls on World Leaders to Implement Paris Climate Deal

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Pope Francis hailed the “historic” climate change agreement signed in Paris, urging the international community to swiftly implement the deal.

Speaking to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 13, Francis called on world leaders to act on the unprecedented environmental agreement signed on Dec. 12 by nearly 200 countries.

“The conference on climate has just finished in Paris with the adoption of an agreement, defined by many as historic. Carrying it out will require a unanimous commitment and generous dedication on everyone’s part,” he said.

Seeking Guidance from the Saints at COP21

Ukrainian Global Climate March on the eve of the COP21 summit.
Ukrainian Global Climate March on the eve of the COP21 summit. Furyk Nazar / Shutterstock.com

It was not so long ago that the cobblestones of Paris were red with blood. November 2015: terrorism. 1940: WWII. 1914: WWI. 1871: Prussians (post Napoleon). 1789: Revolution. One could keep going: 1479 – Joan of Arc.

With such a history in mind, and with politicians screaming “crusades” not so far away, it is no small thing to witness thousands upon thousands of people gathered to sit at tables with laptops and coffee and microphones and to talk to one another, countries who have warred with one another and taken one another’s trees and lakes and minerals. Here are 190 countries – not counting the many indigenous nations still unrecognized but many of which are still present.

Sermons for Life

Creation-Crisis Preaching
Creation-Crisis Preaching

PREACHING A SERMON on an issue debated in the public square: It’s complicated. Make that issue the climate crisis, and it’s really, really complicated. Even in congregations where climate change is not broadly disputed, a pastor faces the challenge of crafting a gospel-informed message that doesn’t swing either to naïve ways we might “make it all better” or pessimistic apathy.

But there’s evidence it’s worth the work and risks: In terms of policy issues, climate is one where a clergy leader’s word has proven impact. According to a 2014 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion, Americans with a clergy leader who “speaks at least occasionally about climate change” are more likely to be concerned about the issue than those “who attend congregations where the issue is rarely or never raised.”

So where does a preacher begin and with what goals?

Leah D. Schade’s Creation-Crisis Preaching equips pastors to name the present crisis and preach a call to action and healing. She describes one theological path to sermons infused with both testimony of the sacredness of God’s creation and our call to be agents of the world’s healing. Schade is a Lutheran pastor and anti-fracking activist who has also done doctoral work focused on homiletics and ecological theology. Appropriately, in this book she explores both the theoretical underpinnings and the practicalities of climate-crisis preaching. Her approach is clear-eyed about the current dire situation of creation, but also committed to hope: “Because I am a Lutheran homiletician,” she writes, “I am compelled to find a way to preach the eco-resurrection, even when most signs indicate that Good Friday may be the fate of our planet.”

Schade sketches the sometimes contentious and damaging history of religion’s relationship to the environment, some different approaches to ecological theology, and a “‘green’ hermeneutic for interpreting scripture.” She explores briefly how social change theory can inform the vocation of preaching and the role sermons might play in a social movement.

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Religious Leaders at COP21 Issue Urgent Plea for Care of Creation

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At COP21 last week, religious leaders participated in a “Fast for Climate” and delivered petitions with more than 1.7 million signatures to Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, demanding immediate climate action.

These leaders, from different faith traditions, also held a press conference at COP21 with the message that they are united in the fight against climate change.

COP21 is not only a gathering of world leaders to achieve an agreement on climate change — it is a gathering for all concerned with the issue. This has included religious leaders from many of the world’s faiths and denominations, who realize a responsibility to speak out on grave societal illnesses and care for the world.

One of the most intriguing and lifegiving events at COP21 was an ecumenical worship service held at the Notre Dame Cathedral on Dec. 3, organized by the Council of Christian Churches in France.

The Earth Awakens

stockphoto mania / Shutterstock
stockphoto mania / Shutterstock

WHEN WE CONSIDER the crisis of climate change, many of us swing back and forth between a narrative of despair in which “there is nothing we can do” and a narrative of hope that affirms that good futures are available when we act responsibly. Surely Laudato Si’, the encyclical released by Pope Francis last spring, has given enormous impetus to the narrative of possibility, summoning us to act intentionally and systemically about climate change.

The issue of climate change is a recent one, but the matter of revivifying the creation is a very old one in faith. In ancient Israel, as now, care for creation required a vision of an alternative economy grounded in fidelity.

The economy of ancient Israel, a small economy, was controlled and administered by the socio-political elites in the capital cities of Samaria in the north and Jerusalem in the south. Those elites clustered around the king and included the priests, the scribes, the tax collectors, and no doubt other powerful people. Those urban elites extracted wealth from the small, at-risk peasant-farmers who at best lived a precarious subsistence life. The process of extraction included taxation and high interest rates on loans. These were financial arrangements that drove many of the peasants into hopeless debt so that they were rendered helpless in the economy.

While that arrangement was exploitative, it no doubt appeared, at least from an urban perspective, to be normal, because the surplus wealth and the high standard of living it made possible seemed natural and guaranteed. The power people who operated the economy could assume surplus wealth, and the exploited peasants were impotent in the face of that power. The arrangement appeared to be safe to perpetuity.

Speeches of judgment

Except that a strange thing happened in ancient Israel in the eighth century B.C.E. (750-700 B.C.E.). There appeared in Israel, inexplicably, a series of unconnected, uncredentialed poets who by their imaginative utterance disrupted that seemingly secure economic arrangement. We characteristically list in that period of Israelite history four prophets—Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. They came from various backgrounds, but they shared a common passion and a stylized mode of evocative speech.

The “normative” economy of the period had assumed that the economy consisted of only two participants: 1) the productive peasants, and 2) the urban elites, who did not work or produce anything but who lived well off of peasant produce. Those uncredentialed poets, however, dared to imagine and to utter that there was, inescapably, a third participant in the political economy: namely, the emancipatory God of the Exodus.

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The No KXL Miracle

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They said it was a fool’s errand.

They said there was too much money on the other side.

They said the politics were too difficult.

And yet here we are.

As my friend Bill McKibben wrote in 2011, our indigenous brothers and sisters in Canada had been fighting the Keystone XL pipeline for years. But before August 2011, virtually no one in the U.S. had even heard of it.

Then I read the pastoral letter from Alberta’s Bishop Luc Bouchard, The Integrity of Creation and the Athabasca Oil Sands, and I felt the Spirit calling me to action.

We put out a call to religious leaders to join the Tar Sands Blockade in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2011. It was hot. It was humid. It was summer in D.C. But hundreds and hundreds of Protestant pastors, rabbis, Buddhist priests, Franciscans, Unitarians, and Christians of all stripes said they would come.

“WE’RE NOT FIGHTING ABOUT POLITICS, WE’RE FIGHTING ABOUT GOD”: DIANA BUTLER BASS WANTS A REVOLUTION

Religious historian Diana Butler Bass is our preeminent narrator of the decline of traditional religion and the emergence of progressive and spiritual-but-not-religious faith in the 21stcentury.

Her newest book, Grounded: Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution, turns from descriptions of postmodern religious life toward scrutinizing contemporary science, both physical and social, for evidence of ongoing “Incarnation,” what the ancient Hebrews called Emanuel, or “G-d with us,” or what religion scholars call “panentheism”—God in everything.

Faith Leaders Answer Pope Francis' Call to Activate on Climate Change

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2015 -- Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. sparked inspiration and action among hundreds of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other national religious leaders at the 2-day interfaith Coming Together in Faith on Climate gathering September 24 and 25 at Washington National Cathedral. The events celebrated the Pope's leadership on climate change, and top leaders pledged to make an impact in their houses of worship and inspire their congregations and communities to care for creation.

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