A Revelation On Climate Change: To The Seven Continents That Are On Earth

A Revelation On Climate Change: To The Seven Continents That Are On Earth September 2, 2019

I would not claim this letter is from Jesus Christ himself, as John does of his at the opening of his revelation.

It is not.

It is rather simply a blog post from one who like Kierkegaard is trying to be a Christian, posted on a platform that, at least theoretically, can be read even more widely than John’s apocalypse was, that wild and disturbing visionary letter posted at the end of the New Testament, the one addressed to the seven churches of “Asia.”

There is considerable irony posting a a visionary letter with eco-theological concerns on a blog. The entirety of the Internet participates, to some degree, in a massive degradation of the environment.

If you do not believe me, simply research how much energy is consumed storing data on Facebook. Or mining Bitcoins.

This irony is similar to the irony of Leonardo DiCaprio, or Al Gore, who while campaigning against climate change themselves consume so much fossil fuel on their transatlantic flights one is left wondering whether they’d be better off staying home and spending their fortunes planting forests.

But the first job of a theologian is not to point a finger (see, I have already failed).

The first job of the theologian is to confess. So I confess to you, dear reader, and all those of the seven continents, and to all the churches of the seven continents, that it is by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault, that we are facing the climate disasters we are facing.

I live in North America, where the per capita consumption of everything far outpaces the rest of the world.

I myself drive a truck, run the A/C in my house, take trips (even transatlantic ones) and have in a variety of ways neglected a focus on care of creation in my pastoral and theological work.

I have not done all in my power to change the practices of the corporations and nations most responsible for the degradation of our planet and its resources. In fact through my consumption I have aided and abetted them.

I have remained largely inactive, frozen in a kind of paralysis, focused on recycling but seldom on reduction, and so have simply gone with the flow of increasingly consumptive capitalism. I might even confess that inasmuch as I like a new toy as much as anyone, I have gloried in our era’s practice of planned obsolescence.

This letter will not have visions like those of John. Our era is marked by visions seen with eyes wide open. Massive glaciers melting. Hurricanes larger than ever previously recorded. Year after year global temperature rise. Islands sinking into the ocean. Environmental refugees displaced the world over.

These are the apocalypse. No need to dream dreams or cast visions when the ones we already have are enough to trouble our days long before sleep.

But I am also aware this planet on which we live is stunningly resilient.

On some levels, resilient isn’t even the right word.

Look at the other planets, for example. They have a kind of existence, a grandeur, that does not even rely on the presence of life for their beauty.

Even if all humans, all life, passes from this planet, the planet earth will not be dead. It will simply be a different earth, full of future potential. As part of God’s creation, it does not “need” us.

All of that being said, I do believe God has a special care for and relationship with life as we know it. The life here is good before God. So the reduction of life, the die off of species, the overheating of the planet, the end of corral reefs, all these grieve God, as they should grieve us.

But unlike small campaigns for which we can cast a vision, organize a people, and work for gradual change, the present climate crisis is of a different sort. It is a crisis that requires all of us to face it.

It is this all, this uniting, that leaves us in denial or in a state of ennui. Acedia is real. Why do anything if our national leaders refuse to even admit the crisis is real? Why commit national resources if the other nations refuse? Why plant 1 trillion trees while the rainforests burn?

Pope Francis in his encyclical on creation care referred to this planet as our common home. “Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.”

Francis argues that nothing in this world is indifferent to us, that we are united by common concern. He writes:

I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”. [22] All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.

To all those of the seven continents who are convinced we do not need concern ourselves with the fate of this world, because we are going to a new world in God, I would remind you the original revelation, the vision of John, saw the New Jerusalem descending on the old one.

Salvation is not an escape. Salvation is the healing and fulfillment of this earth, this city, all the seven continents and Mother Earth herself.

This is why the leader of the largest Christian community on the planet, the pope, offers one of the most profound theological statements in the history of Roman Catholicism extolling care of our common home as part of worship, Praise to you, Our Lord (Laudato si’).

True worship of God is not waiting for escape. No, real worship is engagement and care of that which is right before us.

The neighbor.

The earth.

The seven continents.

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