Saturday, July 13, 2019

Faith Leaders Called to Confront Climate Denial by Telling the Truth

On June 9th, the World Council of Churches issued a Pentecost message that reads as follows: "To prophesy is to tell the truth". Religious leaders have declared a climate emergencies and others are engaged in acts meant to raise awareness.

Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference, walked 133 miles to raise funds for communities across the world affected by climate change. "As a Church we believe in the possibility of transformation. Our church has heard the voice of communities around the world that are already suffering severe consequences of climate change." Barbara said. "Our response must be both individual and corporate to do all we can to tread more lightly on the earth."

We also have a model of faith in action from the former Anglican Bishop of Quebec.  As covered in the Anglican Journal, Dennis Drainville, the retired Bishop of Quebec announced that he is running for the Green Party of Canada in the forthcoming federal election. Dennis hopes to become the representative for the riding of Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Many of us remember that Dennis was a candidate in the episcopal election in the Diocese of Montreal in 2015.

Denis describes his return to politics (he served under Bob Rae’s NDP government in Ontario 1990-93)as being spurred by the realization that the October 21st vote, will be "an election like no other," because Canadians will have to decide how to deal with both climate change and unethical government. In addition to the two issues mentioned above Dennis wants to address the political over-representation of the one percent. 

"Governments today are becoming dangerous" Denis said. "We should be electing leaders who care about the common good. They say they do, of course. The rhetoric is all there, but in fact when you see what they do and how they do it, they are not supporting the needs and aspirations of all Canadians. They have their own political and economic agenda and they pursue it, at times even ruthlessly."

Faith groups have extraordinary reach as 84 percent of the global population identifies with a religious group. However, faith leaders have their work cut out for them as powerful political forces are actively, and effectively denying reality.

"I don’t believe it," American President Donald Trump said when asked a question about the federal government’s latest report reiterating the veracity of climate change. It’s "not based on facts," former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders erroneously stated.

This brings us back to the Pentecost message: "To prophesy is to tell the truth".  We must tell the truth because the lie of climate denial imperils life on Earth and deprives future generations of their right to be born on a livable planet. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas challenges the church to be a counterpoint to mendacity. In a 'post-truth' world, Stanley, said "perhaps the Church can become known as the community that tells the truth."

As reviewed in a Religious News article titled, "A Religious Opening for Climate Change" this type of denial is "a species of faith—the non-evidence of things seen, as the author of Hebrews might have said. The GOP has made it a doctrine, and the party faithful have increasingly embraced it...At the same time, the Democrats’ contrary faith in the evidence of things seen has gotten stronger."

Although views on the climate crisis are commonly divided along party lines this is not about partisan politics, it is about accepting reality. It is important to note that being a conservative does not necessarily preclude environmental action.

The question that faith communities must ask is whether they are doing their part to help people address the reality of the climate crisis? They must simultaneously consider the possibility that by not openly acknowledging the facts and actively supporting action they may be contributing to the crisis.

Many have argued that our faith demands that we act to prevent a global calamity. A total of 150 Australian religious leaders including Anglicans sent an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling him to show moral leadership on the issue of climate change "for the sake of generations to come".

Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils Spokesperson Gawaine Powell Davies said climate change is driven by "human foolishness". "We have a very sharp analysis of human foolishness which has led us to put greed and short-term benefit ahead of the long-term interests of ourselves and our children, and our grandchildren," Gawain said.

The UN points out that when it comes to the environment there is widespread agreement between science and religion.  Secular society and the diverse array of faith communities share a common interest in environmental stewardship.

As explored in a Star article, in a world rife with divisions climate action can be something that brings us together.

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