The People’s Climate March as a Call to Prayer

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You and I know that these could be our last years on earth, and our children’s too. Scientists have been warning us since the 1970s that our greenhouse gas production is driving climate change, with nightmare downstream effects that may include global famine from desertification of the world’s croplands and collapse of the marine food chain from souring of the ocean by carbon dioxide. Species now go extinct in ominous numbers, raising fears that nature’s pollinators may vanish, killing off the bread of life. As melting ice caps raise sea levels, coastal cities and island nations will sink beneath the waves like Atlantis of legend. Experts tell us that radical mitigation is essential to our survival, but the mitigations put in place are consistently too little, too late; and this, evidently, because mass demand for an ever-higher standard of living, and capital’s drive to milk that demand for ever-higher levels of profit and corporate power, trump any sustained effort to intervene for the common good. In a word, we’re choking on human selfishness: too many people saying Me first.

There will be an end of the world, astronomers predict, four billion years from now, when the sun grows into a red-giant star that swallows its nearest planets. But unlike that more distant, quick end of the world from natural causes, what we’re looking at now is a slow, gradual human-made doomsday, attributable entirely to human evil. Evil? Yes: we could agree to end war, reduce our footprint, and see that everyone’s fed; but we do not. No, it won’t do to blame a power elite of bankers, arms manufacturers, oil-company CEOs and their hirelings in the government and the media for this: that’s called scapegoating, and unforgiveness, and projecting of our own shadow, and judging our brother for the speck we see in his eye. Those power-elite folks are like us. We tell lies. We connive for our own advantage. We turn a blind eye to the sufferings of others. And often we do it, barely aware, on behalf of our employer, our country, or any other body to which loyalties bind us: there it’s “Us first.” Together we all combine to maintain this scapegoating Me-first and Us-first culture out of which this selfish ravaging of the earth rises unchecked by care for the common good.

But we have an all-powerful and loving Creator we can appeal to. True, we’re not used to thinking of God as a real Changer of things, for the science we learned in school left little room for the divine to act in. But our theories about reality don’t limit God to being what we think God is.

What if God intends to save us from this human-made doomsday? But first, I think, we have a lesson to learn – the one our parents tried to teach us, about not being selfish.

Yes, I know: the situation asks more of us than we can do by our own efforts. This is why there’s this process called repentance. When we can no longer bear going on being the way we are, but lack the means of changing our ways, we ask for help, and miraculously, a Higher Power grants us that help. Repentance – the Biblical words for it nachom and metanoia could also be translated “change of heart” – is not something we do, but something we receive as a gift from God: a cosmic heart that can no longer play favorites. To fully receive it, we must forgive everyone everything. Only then do we remove the blockage we installed – yes, we installed it – that prevents our receiving the unconditional love, and guiding wisdom, that the Author of Unconditional Love wishes to give us. That love and wisdom can forge us into the human community we need to be in order to serve as healers of the earth. Nothing else can.

Let’s take the day of the People’s Climate March as an opportunity to worship our One God together, asking God to remove the hardness from our own hearts and the blindness from our eyes, and make new people of us. Only then can we hope to inspire such repentance in the policy-makers, both the known and the hidden ones, whose intransigence is now cooking the planet.

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6 Responses to “The People’s Climate March as a Call to Prayer”

  1. QuaCarol Says:

    John, sober alcoholics don’t repent. Sober alcoholics surrender.

    Sober alcoholics take the First Step: 1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable

    Then the Second Step: 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

    Then the Third Step: 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God ‘as we understood him.’

    In my experience, there are many things contained in those steps, but repentance isn’t one of them.

    Is it possible to use the Twelve Steps to save the planet?

  2. John Edminster Says:

    Thank you for this correction, Carol. I’ll work on revising my wording so that I don’t make claims that will sound out-of-the-truth to people in twelve-step programs.

    I believe, though, that what a follower of a twelve-step program achieves by doing the work is tantamount to doing all that the soul can toward achieving repentance. In the eleventh step, for example, I read “…praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” A soul that thus says to God, “not my will, but Thine, be done” is very close to the level of Jesus. If God doesn’t crown such an effort of surrender with the God-initiated transformation that I take “repentance” to be — well, then, there’s got to be something wrong with God; and I know that there’s nothing wrong with God. Therefore, I trust that God will complete the transformation of that soul.

    My short answer to your question is, “Yes, I think it is possible to use the Twelve Steps to save the planet.”

  3. QuaCarol Says:

    “Effort of surrender”? Surrender can’t be an effort, John. Surrender is letting go of effort, letting go of will.

    Twelve-steppers don’t “repent” of their alcoholism. It’s not something they’re guilty of. It’s a reality of their physiology. They accept it and take responsibility for it.

    Of course, we’re veering away from climate change here, but I’m trying to grapple with what it is that makes me so profoundly uneasy about your insistence on repentance.

  4. John Edminster Says:

    Carol, I could take out that half-sentence about sober alcoholics, addicts in recovery, etc., “knowing all about repentance,” and then this blog post might have the integrity it wants to have — *if* we can agree that the right name for what’s needed is “repentance.” The paragraph would then begin:

    I realize that I’m thinking as a theist, imputing to a personal God what others might attribute to a natural process. To use the metaphor of thermal phase-change: when an soul’s efforts to change her ways, and her despair about being able to change by her own efforts, and her inward calling for help raise her internal temperature to the point that the water starts boiling, or the egg-white solidifies, or the metal alloy-strip inside the fuse melts, then something happens that leaves her permanently different, as if God had taken out a “stony heart” and replaced it with a “heart of flesh,” as in Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26. Maybe it “just happens,” and we can not mention the Creator because we “had no need of that hypothesis.” But I believe it’s happened to me, and I believe it’s God’s work. To be more specific, I believe that it’s God’s work through Jesus Christ.

    I still do lose my temper, and still do feel the tug of all sorts of temptations. Terror or pain could make me do all sorts of shameful things – but I think I’m now on the other side of a fundamental transition. I can now look at things from the point of view of what Sister Joan Chittister has referred to as a “cosmic heart.” I believe that that’s the “repentance” I’ve been referring to.

    Well, back to the drawing board.

  5. John Edminster Says:

    Something got accidentally erased. I have a meeting to get to now, and I’ll try to reconstruct it afterwards, or tomorrow. Sorry, Friends.

  6. John Edminster Says:

    Carol and others, I’ve updated this posting. I’m no longer equating “repentance” with the surrender to the Higher Power undergone by AAs. Not being an AA myself, I can’t know from experience what that is. Neither can I equate it with the surrender that distinguishes a “surrendered one” (_muslim_) from a “believer” (_mu’min_) in Islam, since I don’t know that from experience. Nor, for the same reasons, can I equate it with the change that comes over aspirants to yoga when they achieve samadhi, or the change that came over George Fox in 1648 when he was brought up “into a state in Christ Jesus, that should never fall” (_Journal_, Pickvance ed., p. 27). The nature of all these metamorphoses is known to God, but not yet to me. I know from experience only that there is a kind of metamorphosis that involves first _wanting_ to live without sin and then being told, “I will not let you fall into sin.” I believe that this is the gift of God rightly called “repentance.” That it’s a gift from God and not something that “I” achieved is consistent with my experience, and also with scripture (Acts 5:31 and 11:18, 2 Tim. 2:25), although, it’s true, God is always exhorting and “commanding everyone everywhere to repent” (e.g. Acts 17:30), and to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, as if we could do it ourselves if we really tried. I do believe that God asks us to try as hard as we can, and then God does the rest.

    I’m still insisting on the need for the kind of metamorphosis called “repentance” to save the world from ecological doomsday, and I feel intuitively certain that it involves _wanting_ an all-forgiving heart and then _receiving_ an all-forgiving heart. Do I have an all-forgiving heart yet? I don’t know; it hasn’t yet been put to the ultimate test. Knowing my own ignorance, and not wanting to be proven a fool, I’d like to say, like Jeremiah, “Behold, I am a child,” and wilt into the background, but I feel God saying to me, as to Jeremiah, “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” If that’s for real and not my delusion, the only answer I can give back is “Yes, Sir.”

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