Friday, December 11, 2009

"Christians preach against the environment"

I had a provoking conversation with a young woman who calls herself an atheist at the Klimaforum. I was taking my turn at the Green Church booth, handing out leaflets and engaging our visitors in conversation. Most were curious about the churches'
response to global warming, and made encouraging comments. One young woman however, demanded to know if I was a Christian (fully habited friar; I suppose it is a fair question). "Why are you here?" she wanted to know. "Christians preach against the environment and are responsible for the destruction of the climate."

I was reminded of a comment printed at the bottom of one of my seminary Church History exams: "This is a jumble of things true, untrue, half true and almost true." (Yeah it stung a bit.)

I decided to be non-polemical. "Well we're here, doing our best to create moral pressure to reexamine some of those old Scriptural assumptions about the environment and human participation in it that have cause some problems."

She wasn't taking the bait. "I hate Christians."

"Bless your heart," I replied. Giving into my irritation, I said: "Have a nice day."

It really is an extraordinary convergence of people here in Copenhagen. People who may have never thought of working together or recognized the claims we have on each other as members of the human race and creatures on the planet, are being forced
into dialogue. Some of it is bruising. Some is very encouraging and heart warming. But you can't have it only one way. Every where there are stories of different encounters, rumors of things that might happen. My heart sinks at the prospect of
violence, but I still plan to be fully present and participate in everything. These are of course the kind of encounters I used to fantasize about when I resented the hum drum daily routine of cleaning house and making beds.

We must find ways to work together. If we permit our divisions to sour the effort, the goal of creating a global consensus on climate change and the imperatives to save the earth from our own destructiveness will be fatally flawed.

There are other rumors of course. We hear of incredible courage and powerful demonstrations of commitment from the developing nations' representatives in the COP 15 talks. We fan the flames of hope whenever we can. We are bringing out our greatest advocates for social justice and a renewed understanding of what it means to be a Christian and a part of the human family.

I am so proud to belong to the Church of Desmond Tutu and Rowan Williams.

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