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Interfaith Clergy Respond to Global Warming

February 18, 2011

Interfaith Clergy Respond to Global Warming:

Last weekend over 10,000 faith congregations across our nation worked together to form a National Preach In On Global Warming. Sponsored by the nonprofit organization Interfaith Power and Light, religious leaders of all faiths focused programs and sermons on caring for our earth. The project included a campaign of sending valentines to policy makers, asking them to love the earth and to seek policies that work to sustain her future. The founding construct for the organization is that hundreds and thousands of people are mobilized through their call to faith, and that through our faith communities we can affect critical changes in policy and development to help maintain precious resources and guarantee a future for generations to come.

Interfaith Power and Light, in addition to its teachings about protecting the earth, is an organization of action. Participating churches and congregations pledge to address various issues to reduce their carbon footprint: installation of solar panels, increasing recycling, buying in bulk, and switching from incandescent lighting to compact fluorescent bulbs are actions taken within the faith buildings. This is coupled with campaigns to encourage congregants toward more fuel efficient vehicles and lifestyles, with programs such as bringing winter farmers markets into the congregation, weatherizing local buildings, and designing programs with experts and local renewable energy companies for speaker series and on site education.

The outreach extends into the public sphere as well, and ranges from creating liaisons with public policy makers to redesigning communities to introducing bills into the Senate. One example of the latter is Senate Bill 2058, concerned about the effects of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas (known as “fracking”), that can threaten water supply. The bill, introduced to the Illinois General Assembly, seeks a requirement for disclosure of the contents of the applying company’s fracking formula before obtaining a drilling permit.

Interfaith Power and Light has a branch in almost every state in the country, and the programs of each are a response to issues that are specific to that community – as can be seen with Senate Bill 2058 – as well as to issues of more global concern.

One of the more beautiful aspects of this coalition is the teaming of interfaith leaders. It is a good thing that so many clergy members of varying faiths are committed to the sustainability of our planet. It is an even more incredible blessing to see faith leaders working “across the aisle,” if you will, to interact with clergy from other faiths and to co-design and implement programs with them. One such program took place in Texas. A minister, a rabbi and an imam joined together for an important conversation about religion and the environment on public radio’s “Open Journal” in January. Reverend Dr. Jeremy Rutledge of Covenant Church, Rabbi Steve Gross of Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism, and Imam Muhammad Haq, President of the American Society for Islamic Awareness spoke about the need for us to work together across faiths and across political lines to care for the environment. Several fascinating tenets emerged in their conversation, common to all three faith traditions: in Islam, Judaism and Christianity there is a mandate for stewardship for the land. There is a commitment to agriculture and the community’s role therein. This is combined with a commitment to repair of the world. The three faith leaders recognized that we can all work together on these shared ethics. Furthermore, just as issues of sustainability are not specific to any one religion, they are not specific to any one political party. This extends the metaphor of working across the aisle, so that multiple faith leaders are approaching politicians from all parties to work together toward greater caring for the future of our earth.

In our daily activities, it is easy for us to become inured to the issues of reducing our energy use, cleaning pollution and preserving ecological balance. After all, we have to get to work, pay the bills and feed the kids. We can be consumed with simply making it from day to day. Let’s pull the camera back a bit: the earth is home to more than six billion humans and ten million species of plant and animal life. We speak 6000 languages and hold nearly 10,000 religions. It is an abundance and a diversity that is worth preserving, and improving.

Robin Damsky

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