Finding Love In A Hopeless Place – by Ruth Valerio

The Valerio Family

Ruth with her husband Greg and their two children

This morning’s post is by Ruth Valerio Community activist, Christian, academic, eco-warrior, mum, author, veg grower, wife and pig keeper rolled into one. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Chichester, England, where she is part of Revelation Church, leading a cell group and preaching regularly. She runs A Rocha’s Living Lightly initiative. Is part of the leadership of Spring Harvest and Director of Cred Jewellery.

She has written extensively on justice, environment and lifestyle issues, as well as writing Bible study guides for Scripture Union and CWR. Concerned to ‘practice what she preaches’, she has an allotment, runs a food cooperative and runs a pig-keeping social enterprise with friends. She is also very involved with Transition Chichester and runs the Chichester Garden Share scheme. She writes a regular column in Families First magazine, as well as writing for magazines such as Christianity and Third Way.

As we move towards the beginning of Advent I felt that it very appropriately challenged us to think about how we need to prepare to be God’s compassionate people in the turbulent future we face.

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Rihanna might seem a bit incongruous on a blog to do primarily with issues around faith and the environment.  My time at the Lausanne Consultation on Creation Care, though, has provoked a lot of reflection on my part and left me mulling over some things, and as I’ve done so, we found love in a hopeless place, has been acting like a constant theme tune, going round and round my head. I want to try to give expression to something in particular here, and I would love you to help us develop this further together. Let me try to explain.

At present there is an ongoing debate within the environmental/scientific fraternity around the two concepts of mitigation and adaptation and which should take priority in terms of effort and investment. Mitigation represents those who say, ‘we’ve got to fight to see climate change reduced as much as possible; we’ve got to work to reduce emissions, to force or persuade business and governments to take action. We cannot allow it to be business as usual: we’ve got to put our efforts into bringing about change’. Adaptation, on the other hand, represents those who say, ‘that’s all very well, but we have to face facts and recognise that climate change is here and it is only going to accelerate, so we have to put our efforts into helping poorer countries (and ourselves) adapt to this new situation’.

Of course, I’m painting too simplistic a situation and most people would recognise that we need to be doing both. Still, mitigation and adaptation represent two differing approaches to the massive and awful challenges that face us, both now and into the future, and they provide a tension. Listening to the sessions at the Lausanne Consultation, I realise that this same tension is present analogously as we develop Biblical theologies of wider creation care.

Much of what we’ve been about so far has been to do with mitigation. Akin to business and government, the Church worldwide has failed abysmally to recognise the place that wider creation care should occupy in its life and understanding, preferring instead to focus only on individual human beings and their society. The Biblical understanding that many of us have been developing, therefore, has been concentrated on persuading Christians and churches that wider creation care is a central part of what the Christian life is about: that God loves this world and deems it ‘very good’, that he created us to look after it with compassion and servitude; that it has gone wrong because of us, and that the world and all its inhabitants are part of God’s plans for the future, rather than the future being about an exclusively human existence in heaven.

Whilst the Church in the UK has pretty much got this now, the Lausanne Consultation has opened my eyes to how far behind us the rest of the worldwide Church is, with some pretty shocking stories coming from some of the participants about their national churches. Our Biblical approach so far has, in effect, being saying, ‘Wake up Church! This issues is serious and it is something Christians should care about and be actively involved with’.

But is this enough? I am increasingly feeling that, while we still need the ‘mitigation’ approach, we increasingly need to develop the ‘adaptation’ side too. Bill McKibben’s article for Rolling Stones magazine back in July made for truly terrifying reading and was like a bucket of cold water after a beautiful dream. Business, Government, individuals (and the Church) are in an oil-induced coma and the likelihood of them waking up and taking the real action we need is becoming increasingly slimmer. The future looks very bleak indeed.

The question I’m struggling with is, how will we deal with this new situation as Christians? I am writing this not long after Hurricane Sandy left around 200 people dead and millions with their lives turned upside down. As the years go by, such situations of devastation and turmoil will become increasingly ‘normal’. Just consider one example: the Andes glaciers in South America. They are the water source for millions and millions of people, but are disappearing rapidly. What will happen in Peru or Argentina when they disappear altogether? We will face the decimation of countless numbers of people and other species. How will we cope with such a thing: what will it mean to be a follower of Jesus in such a situation?

Alongside the important message of our ‘theologies of mitigation’, we need also to be developing ‘theologies of adaptation’ that acknowledge the horrors of the future we will face – and that many are already facing – and that provide us with resources that help us live faithfully as followers of The Way in such times. Our task will be to discover how to find love in a hopeless place.

As an example of what this might look like, I felt prompted to read through Micah whilst at the Lausanne Consultation and was struck when I realised the context for the well-loved verse of 6:8. It comes in the midst of a damning tirade from Yahweh against his people, particularly the leaders, set against the back-drop of a court scene, in which the created order form the jury: ‘Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. Hear, O mountains, Yahweh’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth’ (6:1). Yahweh is calling his people back to repentance and to a life lived according to ‘his ways’ (4:2) and how does he want that to happen? Not through sacrifices and religious worship, but through a life that acts justly, and loves mercy, and walks humbly with him (6:8).

What will it mean to do that in a hopeless place, in our context of a world and people in crisis? That’s the kind of theology I think we need to be exploring.

 

Earth Day Is Coming – Why Should Christians Care?

Sunday April 22nd is Earth Day but why should Christians care? Over the next few days I plan to post statements from several different religious organizations that are concerned for creation.

The post below comes from earthministry.org. It very eloquently articulates my own reasons for being concerned for God’s good earth. Earth Ministry is a Seattle based creation care advocacy group. They have initiated the Washington Interfaith Power and Light project which organizes an interfaith response to climate change.

Alaskan landscape

Alaskan landscape photo by Coe Hutchison. Used with permission.

Spirituality

Creation itself inspires us and calls us to care.  Many people have had their most profound spiritual experience in nature. As we behold the power and love of God in a mountain range, a sunset, or in the timelessness of the ocean, we can’t help but be moved.  But creation also includes humans – our families, communities, and created landscapes.  God created all things of Heaven and Earth and God is our inspiration to care for both wild places and our own cities and backyards.

Stewardship

Psalm 24 states that “the Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”  Humans simply hold the Earth in trust for God.  We are tenants here, called to care for the creation on behalf of future generations and all species. The Bible calls us to “till and keep the garden” and names human beings as the trustees of creation. Because God created all the Earth and all of us, creation is beautiful and good and sacred.  We are called by our devotion to God and our love for God’s works to protect it.

 Sustainability

At the heart of sustainability is the goal of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In a world of finite resources, those among us who have more than enough must address patterns of consumption so that we can provide for all. Acquiring more “stuff” has a direct effect on the sustainability of the planet and on the quality of life for people around the globe.  The good news is that more and more people are realizing that spiritual emptiness can’t be filled by consumption.  What makes us happy is intimacy – intimacy with self, with others, and with God. In the end, sustainability means seeing ourselves and our neighbors as children of God, not as consumers or competitors for Earth’s resources.

Justice

Justice means that in addition to providing aid to our neighbors, we are called to change societal systems that cause poverty, injustice, and environmental damage in the first place. It goes beyond helping to meet physical needs to creating a society with laws and policies that allow the needs of all Earth’s inhabitants to be met. Care and responsibility for the “least of these among us” is a central tenant of Christianity and has a direct connection to environment issues.  The impact of environmental degradation falls most heavily on the people around the world who are least able to mitigate these impacts — poor and vulnerable populations. It also disproportionally affects fragile plants, animals and ecosystems.  Working for justice calls us to channel our faith into power, to call for social and environmental justice at the local, state and national level.

Texas Fights Catastrophic Wildfires with Prayer & Denial of Global Warming

During this Easter season when we are wanting to be salt and light to the world spreading them message of Christ’s resurrection, it is good (and often sobering) for all of us to see how those outside the church view us.  I often struggle with Alternet because of its antiChristian bias but I also find that its articles challenge me to take my faith more seriously in practical ways.  This article from is well worth a read and maybe some soul searching too.

Texas governor Rick Perry set aside these last few days for a period of prayer for rain across his state. It’s easy to see why: Texas has seen scant precipitation since September, and the drought is now worse than at the height of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Here’s a spokesman for the state’s forest service describing the fires that have broken out around the state: “This is a situation of historic proportions. The fuels are so dry. The winds are astronomical. The behavior of the winds is a perplexing situation. It’s never been like this before.”

I’ve got no problem with prayer–in my life as a Methodist, I’ve served as Sunday School superintendent and lay leader, and I added my heartfelt supplication for Texas to my Easter prayers.

But I think maybe Mother Teresa put it best: “Prayer without action is no prayer at all. You have to work as if everything depended on you, and leave the rest to God.” And while Texas politicians have certainly worked, mostly it’s been to deny global warming and prevent the changes that might actually deal with their troubles.  Read the entire article

Bill McKibben Speaks on Climate Change

Earth Day this year is rather overshadowed for me by Easter.  However I did not want it to pass unmentioned.  This very sobering but inspiring video is a great one to listen to as we think about the future of our planet and how we can respond.  Bill McKibben is one of the most outspoken advocates for creating a future that we need – one in which we are concerned for the earth and its climate.  See some of what he is doing on the 350.org network

Second Wednesday of Advent – What Does Copenhagen Have to Do with Jerusalem

There is much that I want to share this morning as we race through the second week of Advent.  There are so many resources I want to make you aware of and so many Advent reflections I want to post that I hope you will forgive me if this is a day of many posts.

First as I listened to this reflection by Malcolm Duncan this morning I was reminded that in this season of Advent we cannot detach ourselves from the concerns of the world and at the heart of that should be our concerns about climate change and what we should be doing to bring glimpses of God’s new world of beauty and abundance into reality now.  The hope of Advent is our longing for a world in which everything is restored and made whole and that is the central concern of the meeting in Copenhagen.

Duncan says of himself: I am from Rathcoole in Netwonabbey, County Antrim, Northern Ireland and I am married to Debbie, a Nurse Practtioner. We have four children – two of each. I am passionate about God and about people and am happiest when I am helping people understand that they matter and that they are worth something. I love to get involved in community and work best as part of a team and am passionate about Christian faith that makes a difference in the world at every level.

A Prayer for the Earth from Brian McLaren

I have not had much to say about the Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen while I was travelling but this does not mean that the upcoming meeting has not been in my thoughts and prayers.  I think that this is probably the most important meeting on climate change that there has ever been and I feel that all Christians have a responsibility to pray for those who will be meeting.

Brian McLaren has been posting some great resources to educate all of us.

Today he uploaded this great prayer

He has also made me aware  that thousands of Christians around the world will be praying this prayer on the days leading up to the meetings.  I hope that you will join us in prayer for this very important meeting

Maybe Religion is the Answer Claims Atheist Scientist

Late yesterday afternoon I took a break from my usual activities and followed some of the fun and interesting links that I had come across in the last few days.  Yes that is the kind of thing that I do for relaxation.

Most of them explore different aspects of autumn (sorry to my readers in the Southern hemisphere for whom this may have little relevance).  However the first article about the place that Christians can play in addressing climate change was really caught my attention.  i sent it out on twitter but because of the interest decided to add it as part of this blog post too.

Anyhow I have come across some other great articles too that are more entertaining about the environment that I wanted to share with you so thought that I would lump them all together in one blog post.

Maybe Religion is the Answer Claims Atheist Scientist

12 Cheap and Simple Ways to Experience Autumn

Five Models For Free Fruit

The Call of the Wild Foods

Adventures in Urban Foraging

Enjoy the articles and get out and enjoy the autumn too.  Or the spring if you live Down Under.

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Earth Hour Is Almost Here

News from the Earth Hour team

MOMENTUM CONTINUES TO BUILD: With just a few days to go, Earth Hour continues to gain support in cities, with government leaders and celebrities, in the media, and on social networking sites.

MORE ICONS ANNOUNCE THEY’LL GO DARK: The Pyramids in Egypt, the Acropolis in Athens, the Broadway Theater District, the Space Needle in Seattle, and the Chrysler Building in New York have come on board over the past few days.

TUNE IN TO LARRY KING LIVE: Actor and Earth Hour USA Ambassador Edward Norton will talk with Larry King about Earth Hour this Wednesday, March 25th at 9 pm ET on CNN. Don’t miss it!

YOKO ONO PLEDGES TO TURN OUT AND TWEETS FOR EARTH HOUR: “Dear Friends, Join EARTH HOUR and turn off your lights at 8.30pm local time for one hour this Sat 28th March. I will be thinking of all of you when I do it here in my apartment. Lots of love, yoko” Read more here.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Earth Hour coverage breaks nationally this week, with articles in People Magazine and The New York Times.

RANDOM EARTH HOUR STAT: The official Earth Hour video is viewed online every 3.3 seconds…

TURNING OUT THE LIGHTS IS JUST THE BEGINNING: Let Congress know you care about the future of our planet and are looking to them to take action in support of climate legislation. Send a letter to your Member of Congress and Senators with a few mouse clicks at the Earth Hour website!

Swag… Limited edition t-shirts, hats and bags are still available for sale in both adult and child sizes. A portion of the proceeds benefits WWF’s global conservation work.

DOING SOMETHING COOL FOR EARTH HOUR? Tell us about it! Drop us an email atEarthHourPR@wwfus.org and let us know how you plan to celebrate the largest climate shout-out in history.

SPREAD THE WORD! Tell your friends, colleagues, and family members to sign up on the Earth Hour website so we can count their Vote for our Earth! Details for taking part in this historic call for global action on climate change can be found at www.EarthHourUS.org.

Eat Kangaroo and save the planet

According to an article in Conservation Letters reported in the Canberra Times, all that Australians need to do to reduce greenhouse emissions and save the planet is to stop eating lamb and beef and start eating kangaroo instead.  Evidently the methane-producing burps and farts (pardon my French) of sheep and cattle contribute 11 percent of Australia’s annual greenhouse-gas emissions. Kangaroos, however, emit little methane. Researchers say that 175 million kangaroos could produce the meat of 7 million cattle and 36 million sheep, and a switch-to-roo by 2020 could lower Australia’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 3 percent each year. Cutting the number of hard-hoofed livestock tramping around would also reduce soil erosion. But eating what is regarded as a nation icon by many Australians would require “large cultural and social adjustments and reinvestment,”  Read the entire article

More Churches Going Green

Here is some encouraging news that needs to be shared as the season of joy approaches.

From a religious perspective, global climate change is a moral crisis. Not only because it affects future generations and those around the globe, but because it will hit hardest among the “least of us,” the vulnerable communities and people in poverty across the globe. As a community that strives for justice, then, it becomes doubly important that we put our concerted efforts into addressing global climate change.  Read more