Sunday, June 21, 2015

For Faithful, Social Justice Goals Demand Action on Environment - The New York Times

Young Evangelicals for Climate Action held a prayer circle in September. (Credit: Kaleb Nyquist/Young Evangelicals for Climate Action) Click to Enlarge.
The sweeping pastoral letter issued by Pope Francis on Thursday may prove to be a watershed, highlighting the issues of social justice at the heart of the environmental crisis.  But the pope’s encyclical is, in a sense, simply an exclamation mark on a broad shift in thinking that has been underway for decades and extends far beyond the Roman Catholic Church.

Many faith traditions are awakening to the burden that climate change is placing on poor people, and finding justification for caring for the environment in their scripture.  The pope’s urgent call is likely to intensify this discussion, provoking what could be one of the most important dialogues between science and religion since the days of Charles Darwin.

Environmental scientists who are themselves people of faith are in rising demand, valued as translators between two camps that have often seen the world in radically different ways. These scientists have known for a long time that the facts and data produced by their research colleagues would not be sufficient to rouse the public to act.  For that to happen, the science had to be reframed in moral terms, they said.
Politicians who try to reduce incentives for renewable power can find themselves contending with a new force:  upset preachers packing the front row of the hearing room.  A pastor in Fort Wayne, Ind., Brian Flory, recently helped stall such a bill in his state, citing the right of churches to “generate electricity from God’s free sunshine.”

Polls show that a majority of American Christians view climate change as real, but fewer than a third of them understand the point, thoroughly documented in scientific studies, that poor people are already being harmed by it.
Perhaps the biggest question now is whether rising concern about the environment among religious groups will translate into stronger political demands that governments find ways to reduce the cost of low-carbon energy supplies, improve their reliability and speed their deployment.

This month, more than 350 American rabbis issued a letter of their own, declaring that the time for action was at hand.

“The hope is that over and over in our history, when our country faced the need for profound change, it has been our communities of moral commitment, religious covenant and spiritual search that have arisen to meet the need,” the rabbis declared.  “So it was 50 years ago during the civil rights movement, and so it must be today.”

Read more at For Faithful, Social Justice Goals Demand Action on Environment

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