John Kerry

The Earth is the Lord's (and just look what we're doing with it)

WONDERFULLY, WE FIND ourselves very much alive in “a large and beautiful house,” as Cicero called it in his day. We know it was built not only for “the sake of mice and weasels,” or “immortal gods,” but for the entire array of life on Earth.

As we behold the remarkably habitable abode we call Earth, we are left to wonder: What is this grand house in which we live, move, and have our being? What makes it such a habitable abode?

The answer is written elegantly before our eyes in creation itself. And when we join this with reading God’s word, we find the foundation of the answer: “The [geophysical] earth (ge) is the Lord’s and its fullness, the [biosphere] (oikoumene) and everything that lives in it,” as it says in the Septuagint translation of Psalm 24:1.

We discover as grateful dwellers in this most habitable abode that we also are its housekeepers. If we mess it up, it will teach us something about proper housekeeping. And from scripture we learn that we are its Earth-keepers, commissioned, as the Anglican Communion puts it, “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”

In the beautiful architecture of Earth, we find the foundations of life in the geophysical earth as well as keystone species in its biosphere. In the architecture of our houses and churches, we find structures of our own crafting, such as foundations, cornerstones, columns, arches, domes, and keystones.

Significantly, one of these architectural features appears in the name “Keystone XL,” the proposed tar sands oil pipeline. Architecturally, a keystone locks together two legs of an arch. If completed, Keystone XL would do much the same.

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Reject and Protect

Members of the Reject & Protect witness set up a tipi on the National Mall. Photo courtesy Rose Berger.

Editor's Note: Want more ideas for how to celebrate Earth Week? Click here to sign up for Earth Week updates through Friday.

This week, we finally had some good news in the fight against climate change: President Barack Obama announced a further delay in the review process for the Keystone XL pipeline. The right thing to do is to reject the pipeline once and for all, but we all know politics is never that simple. The president says no decision will be made until the end of the year, which means the deadline comes after this year’s election. But the president isn’t up for re-election again, and protecting the environment should not be a partisan issue. All of us have a stake here.

We need more time, President Obama says, more reviews, more answers. But for Sojourners’ Rose Berger, who has been a leader in the faith community’s witness against Keystone XL, the answer has been clear for a long time.

Evangelical, Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestine

Todd Deatherage is the executive director and co-founder of the Telos Group. Photo courtesy of the Telos Group. Via RNS

Secretary of State John Kerry brought his argument for a two-state Israeli-Palestinian peace to the annual AIPAC conference this week, and whatever else we might know, we know this: Many evangelical Christians didn’t like it.

Or at least that’s what we’re told by some Christian leaders and their political allies. Supporting Israel’s government by opposing compromise with the Palestinians is a permanent plank in American evangelical political thought. “God told Abraham that he would bless those who bless him and the nation of Israel,” the thinking goes, “and curse those that curse Israel.”

But could it be that the truth is more complicated?

What if the loudest evangelical voices don’t represent the complexity of our community? I raise these questions as an evangelical who is fully committed to supporting the struggle for security, dignity, and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians. And I’m not alone.

Dear Sen. McCain, We Live on Earth, and Climate Change is Real

s_bukley, solarseven, and Frontpage/Shutterstock

John Kerry and John McCain both spoke out on climate change this week. s_bukley, solarseven, and Frontpage/Shutterstock

This week, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke more forcefully about the urgency of climate change than he has before publically, likening it to a weapon of mass destruction. Apparently, such words did not sit well with Sen. John McCain, a politician who was once a pioneer in the political fight against climate change. In response to Kerry, McCain asked, “On what planet does he reside?”

For some context: Kerry has been traveling worldwide. He made his climate change speech in Indonesia, a nation made up of islands that are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Climate change isalready contributing to changes in rainfall in the country, with serious droughts and flooding, and the threat of significant sea level rise. Furthermore, Indonesians seem more aware of climate change than we are — no surprise given its impact on their entire country. In its Climate Asia project, the BBC found that 63% of Indonesians said the number of trees had decreased and 74% believe that climate change is happening (compared with 68% of Americans). Kerry was speaking about an imminent problem to a nation where most people are aware of that problem.

Wanted: A New Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom

RNS photo courtesy of U.S. State Department

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Suzan Johnson. RNS photo courtesy of U.S. State Department

WASHINGTON — It’s been three months since the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook resigned as the State Department’s religious freedom watchdog, and those who decry religious persecution in Syria, Sudan, and elsewhere are wondering how long it’s going to take the White House to name a new ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

Many in the field hope it’s someone with a more diplomatic background than Johnson Cook, a former Clinton administration official and popular Baptist minister whose international experience was mostly acquired on the job.

The other factor: the more than two years it took for the Obama administration to choose Johnson Cook and to get her confirmed by the Senate.

“A continued vacancy will confirm the suspicion that already exists among foreign governments, persecutors, victims and American diplomats that the issue is not a priority,” said Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

The White House has been tight-lipped about the timeline for a decision, as well as about any candidates it may be considering for the position, which Congress created in 1998 to highlight and alleviate religious persecution worldwide.

Here’s a short list of five names swirling around Foggy Bottom, culled from experts who work in the field and were asked who they see as likely to be under consideration, or as particularly qualified for the job.

Stephen Colbert on Pope Francis, Cardinal Dolan and (of Course) Stephen Colbert

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan (right) and Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert. RNS photo by David Gibson.

The great and the good — and lots of politicians and TV pundits, too — gathered Thursday to hear comedian Stephen Colbert roast and toast everyone from Pope Francis to his host for the evening, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

The 68th annual Al Smith Dinner, named for the first Catholic presidential candidate in American history, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel raised $3 million for New York’s neediest children.

Colbert is a lifelong Catholic, a man who is, as Alfred E. Smith IV said in introducing him, “serious about both his craft and his Catholic faith.” The cardinal — who is also pretty funny — and the comedian first met last fall, and Colbert had Dolan on his show last month. So the archbishop of New York returned the favor by having Colbert headline the dinner.

The Peace Process

Dome of the Rock and Western Wall, Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock.com

Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock and Western Wall, Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock.com

What do you do with critical information on intractable justice issues when reputation, methods, or prevailing propaganda make it difficult for people to believe the truth? How does one find ways to strengthen the fragile line between democracy and the lurking dark social disorder? Limiting or reversing anarchy in the U.S. and abroad may depend on finding ways to persuade and protect the common good.

A current question is in regard to the 20-year Oslo peace process (which was to be completed with separate States after 5 years). When it failed, its successor peace plans promised to bring flourishing democracy and a just peace that would hold back the winds of war and be good for Israelis as well as Palestinians.

The strategy of negotiations with prolonged periods of stalling has only widened the occupation and allowed Israel to strengthen its hold on Palestinian property. It has been conquest by a 1,000 cuts on people (1,500 Israelis and 15,000 Palestinians dead), as well as uprooted trees and bulldozed property. Less than 10 percent of 1967 war land area of Palestine is fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority. It is as though a volcanic cloud blocks the sun. Even with Secretary of State John Kerry’s vigorous efforts to diminish the rumblings and forestall an eruption, those who assure us there are signs of hope declare time is growing mercilessly short.

Respond, But How? What We're Missing On Syria

BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

Syrian refugees arrive in Turkey in Hatay on Aug. 31. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

When a head of state is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of his people and has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians — the world needs to respond. In one massive attack, the evidence appears to show that 1,429 people, including 400 children, suffered horrible deaths from chemical weapons banned by the international community. That is a profound moral crisis that requires an equivalent moral response. Doing nothing is not an option. But how should we respond, and what are moral principles for that response?

For Christians, I would suggest there are two principles that should guide our thinking. Other people of faith and moral sensibility might agree with this two-fold moral compass.

Ethicist Shaun Casey to Oversee Religious Engagement for State Department

Shaun Casey speaks at the Center for American Progress. Photo via RNS/flickr.

Shaun Casey speaks at the Center for American Progress. Photo via RNS/flickr.

Amid persistent criticism that the U.S. marginalizes religion and religious people in its foreign policy, Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday tapped ethicist and campaign adviser Shaun Casey to lead the State Department’s new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives.

Casey is a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and advised President Obama’s campaign and other Democrats on outreach to religious voters.

 

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