Plan C: World Repentance

by

Contingency planning for the end of the world

All life on earth is now threatened by man-made global warming. And the holders of the world’s political and economic power, as a whole, seem powerless or unwilling to stop it. Celebrated thinker Lester R. Brown published Plan B: Rescuing a Planet in Distress and a Civilization in Trouble in 2003 (now revised as Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, 2009); but instead of listening to Brown and adopting a plausible Plan B, the world continues with its suicidal Plan A, business as usual. Earthcare activists struggle valiantly to open the ears of willfully deaf policymakers while modeling low-impact life-ways themselves, but little is said by anyone about what we might do in case all these interventions prove too little and too late. This writing is to open that conversation. This writing is to suggest a Plan C – which perhaps our Creator may have had in mind all along for just such an occasion as this, a gradually-dawning man-made doomsday.

Plan C is World Repentance. It seems reasonable. An escapist drunken orgy is not reasonable. Genocide of all but a privileged few is not reasonable, though many who think God loves only the privileged may hope that a Rapture-event will achieve the genocide for them. Darkening the skies with megatons of charcoal to cool the earth’s surface is not reasonable, and even if it were, it would relieve only one of many environmental disorders we’ve caused. Scapegoating of designated “destroyers of the earth” is not reasonable, though I fear it may be widely resorted to. The problem is that we’re all among the destroyers of the earth.

Repentance: it’s not a popular word today, possibly because it’s so often used by religious bullies who want to make other people “repent,” that is – in their understanding of the word – grovel. Or perhaps because it’s confused with beating ourselves up. God never asks us to beat ourselves up; it hurts God’s child, and anyway, it does no good. Repentance is, rather, a God-initiated healing process that leaves the person wiser, more loving, and at peace. In the Hebrew Bible, repentance appears in forms of the verb nāḥám, literally “to sigh;” in the New Testament, of the verb metanoéō, literally “to change one’s mind or purpose.” First we exhale completely, letting go of all agendas, all defenses; then we let our purpose be changed. With purpose changed, everything changes. That’s why some speak of “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).

Plan C will not be a program instituted by executive order or act of congress. The Pope, the Dalai Lama and a panel of Nobel laureates may come to endorse it, but it will not begin with them. It will begin in millions of contrite human hearts when the numbness of collective denial wears off. They will whisper words of contrition in hundreds of tongues, make prayers according to every world-view and religious tradition on earth, and perhaps weep and groan in the Holy Spirit. Not everyone will; the seer of the Apocalypse anticipated that some would “gnaw their tongues for pain, and blaspheme the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repent not of their deeds” (Revelation 16:10-11) – as some men and women do in every crisis that tries their conscience. But the more people that do repent of their wrongdoings, the easier they make it for their unrepentant neighbors to have the needed change of heart.

Plan C is not magic: it is not a technique to achieve a desired objective. Neither is it offered here as a remedy for fear: let’s face it, nightmares are scary. It’s simply offered as a right thing to do when we see that it’s too late to do all the other right things we might have done. We don’t know what God will do, and whether or not World Repentance would change God’s mind. (Can anything change God’s mind? The philosophers’ jury is still out on that one.) We can see that God didn’t let us suddenly destroy life on earth with nuclear weapons – at least, not yet – but God may still let us slowly destroy life on earth with our wasteful, overconsuming and selfish ways. Or, God may not! There is no second-guessing God.

Are you feeling a call to repentance? It can be followed from within whatever religious tradition you claim as your own. If you’re a Jew, repent as a Jew. If you’re a Muslim or a Hindu, repent as a Muslim or a Hindu. If you’re confused about what to believe, repent as a confused person. The point is to ask your Creator to show you how to repent, and empower you to do it. Maybe it’s not too late to save the earth after all, if the world’s leaders repent! But there will be no repentance of world leaders unless we world citizens take the initiative and go first.

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3 Responses to “Plan C: World Repentance”

  1. QuaCarol Says:

    “(Can anything change God’s mind? The philosophers’ jury is still out on that one.)”

    God changes ‘his’ mind several times in the Hebrew scriptures, John. If memory serves, usually when presented with a sensible argument.

  2. John Edminster Says:

    Thank you, Carol! Yes, ‘He’ does change ‘His’ mind several times in the Hebrew Bible! But the question is whether the Holy One who inhabits eternity, the same yesterday, and today, and forever (as Hebrews 13:8 says of Jesus Christ), *really* changes His/Her/Its mind, or is made to appear so in scripture in order to teach us something. For example: The only person in Scripture given the title “Friend of God” is, guess who, the one who dared to challenge God: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25.) Later we’ll find this same moral adviser to the Creator of Everything, given a horrible, heartbreaking, and downright evil assignment by God, predicting to his son that God would change it (Genesis 22:8), and behold, God did (Gen. 22:12).

    Fast forward forty-two generations (Matt. 1:17), and we find the only person in Scripture given the title “Son of God.” And this One, in the face of scriptural testimony that we should love our neighbor and hate our enemy (the Ammonite and the Moabite, Deut. 23:3-6), defied the Torah and taught that we should love our enemy also (Matt. 5:43-48). Does this mean that God changed God’s mind about our sacred, holy obligation to hold on to grudges? Or were grudges never really sacred and holy?

    It’s my firmest conviction that the Creator of All Good cannot deviate from willing the good. As the Theologia Germanica puts it (end of §32), “If there were anything that God knew to be better than God, he would love that and not himself.” Moreover, though I know myself to be obstinate and opinionated, I believe that this “firmest conviction” of mine is not just another case of my obstinacy, but an unchangeable truth planted in my soul by God. So the philosophers’ jury may still be out on whether or not anything can change God’s mind, but I was never put on that jury, and I say, God changeth not.

  3. QuaCarol Says:

    Ah, the beauty of “Among Friends.” And I say that it’s my sense that God does change ‘his’ mind, that God evolves as God’s creation evolves, open-ended, dynamic, and unknown.

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