WHILE OPENING a star-studded concert for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, musician Stevie Wonder remarked: “Anyone who believes that there’s no such thing as global warming must be blind.”
These two major hurricanes had just ravaged Texas, Florida, and much of the Caribbean. While scientists are cautious about ascribing causation to any individual storm, they do not hesitate to say that warming waters and altered weather patterns due to climate change will cause many more such destructive events in the future.
As we watched the horrific scenes on our television screens, one thing was clear—the most vulnerable suffer the most.
Seeing this cooperative work leaves me with a deep sense of awe for how humanity can come together. Local communities worked together even before any national or international aid agencies set up shelters. They created plans and networks, and even used Twitter to rescue strangers stranded on roofs. While my heart breaks for the lives lost and interrupted, I see all the ways God is knitting us together through these local responses.
But also, right now, ACT for America, a major anti-Muslim hate group, is meeting in Washington, D.C. Groups like ACT for America aim to marginalize and block whole groups of people from our nation’s religious and community fabric. Both ACT for America and the founder, Brigitte Gabriel, have a long history of promoting policies at the federal and state levels that are intended to manufacture fear of Muslims and promote the false idea of Muslims as a threat to the United States.
"What's unique about Juggalos is that they embrace and throw their class status in everyone's face—they’re flaunting their own disenfranchisement. ...They've recognized that the American dream is unattainable and made new dreams for themselves. That scares people. That scares the FBI. This is not what poor people are supposed to do."
As creation cries out to us, let us listen, let us learn,
let us open our hearts to those devastated by the storms
and open our minds to care for creation.
Did anyone else get the feeling, as we watched weather reporters wave their arms frantically in swirling motions across oversized maps of the eastern seaboard -- with their eyes bulging as they pushed out whole paragraphs without a single breath for a period -- that this was all hype?
Last weekend, as Irene passed over town after town in the mid-Atlantic, memories of Katrina did not materialize. By the time Irene huffed over New York City on Sunday morning, and the flood of the century was actually just a really big puddle in Battery Park and a floating lifeguard stand in Long Beach, my fear had transformed into complacency. From there I became cynical. By Sunday afternoon I found myself watching the weatherman's bulging eyes as he repeated the mantra of the day: "It's not as bad as we thought it would be, but it's not over." And I thought: "Boy, they'll do anything for ratings."
But it wasn't all hype.
When our ideas about nature come primarily from Sierra Club calendars or selected snippets from Thoreau, an east coast earthquake and monster hurricane (in the same week) are powerful wake-up calls.
We modern urban dwellers and suburbanites like our nature contained and manageable: a nice hike in the woods; a pretty sunset on the drive home; a lush, green lawn (chemically-induced, alas)
Sometimes we like nature so much we decide to worship it -- or to make it the medium for our worship of God or the "higher power" we think might be up there, out there, presiding over it all. We've been wounded by organized religion, perhaps, disgusted by its hierarchies and hypocrisies. "I can worship God on a mountaintop," we decide. (Or -- conveniently, happily -- on the golf course).