Climate March: What Can A Person of Faith Do About Climate Change?

As millions gather for the Climate March around the world, people of faith have much to contribute for understanding climate change, ecological issues, and why healing Earth is part of our vocation and calling.

What do these religious leaders from different faiths all have in common? Concern about climate change and a willlingness to work together on calling our leaders to take action. Leah D. Schade (far right) and interfaith leaders at Fracking Moraltorium rally in Harrisburg, PA, 2016.
What do these religious leaders from different faiths all have in common? Concern about climate change and fracking – and a willingness to work together on calling our leaders to take action. Leah D. Schade (far right) and interfaith leaders at Fracking Moraltorium rally in Harrisburg, PA, 2016.

If you are a person of faith, you bring a much needed religious perspective to the climate change resistance movement.  The Civil Rights movement of America needed the engine of the churches and synagogues to provide the moral framework, houses of worship for organizing, networks of people to do the work, and access to scriptural and theological resources for hope. Religious people can provide the same for the Climate Rights movement.  If you are serious about making a difference, here are some action steps (not listed in any particular order):

Climate change action steps for people of faith

EDUCATE

  • Educate yourself on why the climate crisis is an important issue from a faith perspective.  The Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology is one of the best websites to search for your religion’s faith statements and resources.  Make connections between the climate crisis and how it impacts other social justice issues such as homelessness, poverty, the refugee crisis, war, water shortages, famine, and violence against women.

CONNECT

  • Find other people of faith to work with you on this issue. It doesn’t matter what religion they are part of – being able to share theological, scriptural and spiritual resources for this fight is critical.  Do a Google search for groups in your community.  If there are none, put out a call on Facebook, email, through communication channels of your church, synagogue, mosque, etc., and by word of mouth that you are looking for people to engage in this movement with you.  You may be surprised who shows up and what comrades are waiting for you.
  • Find people who are not necessarily religious but still care about climate change.  Don’t ignore atheists, agnostics, or others who are not involved in religion.  Again, you may be surprised at what values you share and what allies are waiting for you.
  • Find scientists with whom you can be allies.  The narrative of Christianity opposing science is neither helpful nor true.  Insights from science inform Christian ethics, and Christian ethics can help us understand the implications of science.   This is especially true when it comes to the climate crisis.  When it comes to solving this planetary conundrum, science and faith need to work together. To learn more, read: “Religion and Science Can be Besties!
Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition of the Susquehanna Valley (Pennsylvania), 2012
Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition of the Susquehanna Valley (Pennsylvania), 2012

COMMUNICATE

  • Find ways to communicate why you are concerned about climate change – especially as a person of faith.  Talk to your fellow believers at your house of worship.  Talk with your religious leader and ask her/him to speak about this issue in their preaching and teaching.  Write for your church’s newsletter.  Send letters to the editor.  Make a call or meet with your local, state and federal elected officials to tell them why the climate crisis is high on your list of priorities for them to address.  Help people understand that caring for this planet – especially those most vulnerable who are impacted by climate change – is part of your moral and ethical obligation as a person of faith.

FOLLOW – AND CUT OFF – THE MONEY

  • Divest from fossil fuels.  Because fossil fuels are at the heart of our economy (and thus our government), we need to transition away from this source of power that is consuming us.  One way to kill the beast is to shut off the flow of money that feeds it.  Insist on a carbon tax (visit the Citizen’s Climate Lobby to learn more).  And encourage your religious governing bodies to divest from fossil fuel investments and invest in clean-energy (visit 350.org to learn more).

MORAL IMAGINATION

  • Activate your “moral imagination” to make a difference.  At the screening of Josh Fox’s film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All Things Climate Can’t Change, each person was handed a sheet with a list of ten suggestions for activating one’s “moral imagination” and making a difference.  These can be helpful for someone of any faith (or not associated with faith at all for that matter).  They are:

Democracy (participate in the political process; attend local board meetings to get climate change and renewable energy on the agenda)

Resilience (get to know your neighbors, meditate, exercise, read poetry)

Choice (choose solar or wind, and engage on the climate once a day)

Civil Disobedience (join local climate action group, participate in organized nonviolent direct action)

Creativity (sing, dance, play music, keep a journal, make art about climate change)

Love (visit nature without harming it, express your love of nature and humans openly)

Innovation (learn about renewable energy for your home, business and house of worship, invtent a new type of community gathering and organize it)

Human Rights (participate in one non-climate related issue such as Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ rights)

Community (volunteer, invite your friends over to talk about climate change solutions)

Courage (do one thing that scares you – nothing physically dangerous, read the works of Muir, King, Malcom X, Susan B. Anthony, Bill McKibben)

STAY GROUNDED IN YOUR FAITH

  • Faith practices matter.  Now more than ever turn to the rituals and practices of your religion to hold you accountable to the teachings and values of your faith community.  Attend worship regularly.  Read and study the holy writings of your faith through the lens of climate justice.  Engage in spiritual disciplines such as fasting, giving alms, and charity work.  And draw on the strength of your fellow believers to surround you with love and hope.

PRAY

  • The climate crisis is bigger than anyone one person or even humanity on our own can manage. We need a God who is bigger even than climate change.  So be in communication with the Divine (however you name her/him/it) asking for guidance on how humanity can activate the will to undertake this greatest challenge of our existence.  And then listen – pay attention to your dreams, your conversations, and that still, small voice calling you to God’s highest purpose for you in the work to repair, restore and renew our planet.
Leah Schade leading a prayer vigil held at the site of Riverdale Mobile Home Park in Jersey Shore, PA, before it was destroyed to make room for a water withdrawal plant along the Susquehanna River for the fracking industry. May 2012.
Leah Schade leading a prayer vigil held at the site of Riverdale Mobile Home Park in Jersey Shore, PA, before it was destroyed to make room for a water withdrawal plant along the Susquehanna River for the fracking industry. May 2012.

Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-CrisisPreaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). 

You can follow Leah on Twitter at @LeahSchade, and on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/LeahDSchade/.

Leah will be presenting at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Spring, NC, July 14 and 15!  Her session info is available here:  http://wildgoosefestival.org/sessions17-24/.  Enter the special code BEMYGUEST for a 25% discount on tickets!


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