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Green Faithfulness

by Terry LePage

“You are not required to complete the work.  Neither are you free to desist from it.”  Pirkei Avot, Jewish Mishnah

We want our personal efforts to live green, and our advocacy for green policy, to make a difference for the planet. All God’s children depend on it for life.  Recently it seems ground is being lost— ecologically destructive policies and practices are accelerating.  We might be tempted to think our efforts are futile in the face of the grim news we face.  We might despair. I invite you to recognize the self-perpetuating trap that despair is, and to choose faith instead.

Faith is different from optimism.  Optimism assumes things will work out.  If you have optimism, more power to you!  If you don’t, try faith.  Faith doesn’t give up when odds are long.

For some of us, faith is a kind of belief that God makes a difference, and we can make a difference.  All is connected.  Our choices and actions ripple out beyond us in ways we cannot fully know, and we seek God to guide us and weave our actions into a radiant web of love and care.  This web of light is, for me, a powerful visual metaphor for how we support each other, and the planet.  The web may have many gaps, but by reaching out to serve, preserve, or care, we weave one small thread across a gap.  The web becomes a little stronger.  Our actions matter.

Faith can also mean faithfulness.  We are faithful to God, to our beloved earth, and to the beings on it.  So in spite of setbacks and long odds, we take faithful actions for those we love, because we love them.  Whether we can “fix” anything or not, we show up, to show that they matter to us.  I am not sure what is “fixable” and what is not, but we all need to know that we matter.  We can be faithful to people suffering from the effects of pollution and climate change by naming their plight and working for their safety.

Prayer is a tool of faith.  What difference does prayer make?  I don’t know what it changes outside of me, but it makes a big difference to me.  Prayer allows me to know my own heart, to grieve the latest news, to admit complicity and guilt ( I have a huge carbon footprint), and to feel the freshness of forgiveness.  (Not usually all at the same time!)  Prayer allows me to name my hopes and dreams, to feel a connection to my values and to those I hold dear, and finally, to discern constructive actions and gather the courage to carry them out.

Witness is also a tool of faith. We tell people why we do what we do.  Because God gave us one home, and the creatures on it, and entrusted it to our care.  Because we are one human family, relying on the earth for life.  Because the poor and powerless, to whom Jesus calls us particularly to show care, are usually the first and most severely afflicted victims of ecological devastation.  In the public square, we can insist that ecological sustainability is a moral issue.

The prognosis for climate change is very grim. Greenhouse gas generation was massively unsustainable before the last election. The environmental outrages of the current administration are also calling attention to harmful practices that had been going on long before 2017: fracking and oil pipelines, for instance. My faith leads me to hope that a “wake-up call” energizes a new and more effective green movement. Miracles happen! Faithfulness doesn’t wait for those miracles, though. We continue to find small and large ways to live green and to speak up for green law and policy, as an expression of our faith and our values.  Remember that local and state laws do not depend on the current administration. And personal habits make a difference too!

Yours in Green Faith.

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