The Pope in America: Three Steps Forward!

The Pope in America: Three Steps Forward! September 11, 2015


Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Pope in America: Implications, Collaborations, Challenges. Read other perspectives here.

As a nonCatholic who was born in the Vatican II era, I feel like I’ve lived most of my life in the “two-steps back” phase of Catholicism.

The pattern is common in religion as well as politics: progressive breakthroughs are often followed by traditionalist retrenchments. I think something similar has happened in Protestantism, where the pendulum swung back from the progressive spirituality and theology of the Social Gospel, Civil Rights, and Liberation Theology movements of the first half of the twentieth century to the moral reactivity of the Religious Right in the second half.

The two-steps back phenomenon means that when the time is ripe for three steps forward, we need to seize the opportunity, and that opportune time is here. We’ve been going backward long enough. It’s time to advance a moral agenda for justice, compassion, sustainability, and the common good.

Pope Francis’ historic visit this month means we have a unique opportunity to address important subjects like American nativism/racism, economic inequality, and climate change. I’m passionately committed to leaps forward in each of these areas, and I’m especially energized to take three giant steps forward in regards to climate change.

Frankly, if the Pope hadn’t shown the courage to address this issue in his magnificent encyclical, Laudato Si, I don’t know where we would be, other than in deep trouble

The Pope’s visit this month  provides a once-in-a-lifetime moment for American Christians to challenge greed, ignorance, and apathy … the unholy trinity that reigns sovereign over the unsustainable dirty energy economy of the status quo.

To help seize the moment, I’ll be part of a historic multi-faith gathering at the National Cathedral on September 24, the day the Pope speaks to Congress. Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other leaders will celebrate the moment with song, prayer, and word, saying in one accord that we agree with Pope Francis on the need for “integral ecology,” and not only that, we’re going to do something about it. (You’re invited to join us in person or online.)

Specifically, we’ll announce five initiatives that we urge all people of faith to take at this opportune moment:

Engage: Speak out from your heart.

We’ll ask every person of faith to go to their house of worship as soon as possible, and speak from their heart to their clergy or spiritual leaders. We’ll ask the same of clergy and spiritual leaders – to tell their congregations they agree with Pope Francis that we have a moral obligation to take action on climate change and build a sustainable future for our children. We’ll ask people to make this personal pledge:

2. Energize:  Form a clean energy group in your faith community. 

Thousands of congregations already have active climate- and environment-oriented groups leading the way in switching to clean, renewable energy. But we need thousands more. We’ll urge people to form congregation-based action groups to a) immediately maximize energy efficiency in their private homes and houses of worship, b) switch to clean, renewable energy as soon as possible, and c) energize people to push for needed policy changes locally and nationally. We’ll direct people to inspiring organizations like this one:

3. Divest/Invest:  Clean up your personal and congregational investments.

Denominations, universities, and seminaries are divesting from fossil fuels, and investing instead in clean, renewable energy. Now, it’s possible for us as individuals to do so as well – transferring our personal savings, IRAs, and other investments into companies that are part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Check out for more information.

4. Vote:  Make climate one of your top three issues when (not if) you vote.

We’ll ask people to demand needed action from every candidate and elected leader in every election.  We’ll provide resources to help people learn which candidates are supporting climate change solutions, and which are ignoring or opposing them, aided by organizations like this one:

5. Educate:  Stay informed and educate others.

We’ll ask every person of faith, through their social media and in-person networks, to become a trusted source of accurate information and inspiration for others. We’ll help people stay informed and keep learning through resources like Common Good News

The pressure to keep moving backwards – in relation to race, inequality, and climate – is strong, driven by greed, ignorance, and apathy. But our motivation to keep moving forwards is even stronger, because we are driven by faith, hope, and love. I hope you will join us in seizing this amazing moment.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Dennis Wilson

    What are you and the Pope doing to cause global warming and climate change?

    • otrotierra

      What they are not doing: seeking your permission to affirm biblically-grounded Creation Stewardship.

      • Dennis Wilson


  • cken

    The alleged climate change with no proven way to control mother nature is not in anyway a religious issue that I can see. Nor is income inequality. As Jesus said the poor will always be with you. But hey if making these things religious issues somehow assuages some deep seated guilt feelings the author has then I am happy for him. But really does he need to try to suck the rest of us into his vortex of guilt.

    • Kirk T.

      Feel free not to participate. McLaren is only looking for like-minded Christians who understand both the moral and faithful obligation we have to be good stewards of God’s creation and the failure of the industrial (and mostly Christian) world to be good stewards throughout the industrial age.

      • cken

        I agree we should be good stewards of the earth and of our money. As to the latter I don’t see it is wise to invest in the gamble, or rather a completely unproven hypothesis, that we can stop global warming. I realize there is a correlation that man caused it, but correlation is not causation. Nor is there any proof leading one to believe altering the correlation will have the desired effect of stemming global warming. I should add that logic is not scientific proof. And that is just basic science 101. Now if you want to make sure we have enough clean water to drink and grow crops to feed a world population of over 10 billion by 2050 and keeping the air free of toxic chemicals I am totally on board with that stewardship. The so called greenhouse gases are not toxic chemicals.

    • ‘Alleged climate change’? Seriously? Denying that the earth has warmed significantly over the past fifty years is like denying the moon landing, that AIDS exists, that the Titanic sunk, and so on. Sheesh.

      • cken

        You are right I should have said it is alleged the climate change is caused by man. My understanding is the Earth has been much warmer than is now or could be anytime soon at the height of the roman empire and again during midevil times. Climate changes and there is nothing man can do to stop it.

  • Nixon is Lord

    Are you going to mention birth control-because population growth is a major component of environmental degradation.

  • While I credit the Pope for ‘rattling the cages’, so to speak, and talking about cleaning out open corruption and criminal activity in the Catholic Church organization, that process is still going on and must receive a strong focus. It’s far from the beginning of the end there; it’s merely the end of the beginning.