Theological Community, EcoTheology, The Church, The World, The Blogosphere

Archive for the ‘Occupy Theology’

Raise our UMC voices!

September 14, 2015 By: Theoblogical Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, OWS, People's Climate, Theoblogical

I commented briefly under this article, posted to the United Methodist News Service Facebook  page,  and linked to this blog post for a longer reflection and call to action. So here is the longer version:

This is SO good to see, one level. On another level,  I have been deeply concerned about the silence of the churches, most of all, our United Methodist Church – with just a few exceptions; far too few – in its communications to the world, regarding the Climate Crisis. I hope this can herald the beginning of MUCH MUCH more prioritized coverage. I am still a little concerned that it took a New York Times article to appear before a United Methodist news story appears about UM Church planters emphasizing the deep crisis we face. I would expect much more emphasis and focus on these matters from a church whose bishops penned “God’s Renewed Creation” (and there is now a Missionary position – Pat Watkins as “missionary for the Care of God’s Creation”,  working at the Board of Global Ministries under the sponsorship of that Council of Bishops in an effort to bring to the fore the implications of that message for our life, theology, and ministry as United Methodists and as Christians). There are also many other efforts,  such as  and various conferences that have highlighted themselves with this as mission.  

That there is such an effort underway is an occasion for great hope and encouragement. But we need to pull our church’s resources together around this kind of effort to more fully integrate our very identity as a church around such a crisis as we face with what we are doing to the ecosystem that is God’s Good Creation.

We might also make note that there will be a gathering of faith leaders, including many from UMC churches and organizations that identify as United Methodist, in Washington DC on September 24th (during the week when the Pope is visiting the U.S., to express inter-denominational support for his call to action on climate change and creation care). I attended a prior conference earlier this summer , put on by the Center for Process Studies and it’s founders at Claremont School of Theology, a UMC seminary, called “Seizing An Alternative: Toward An Ecological Civilization”. Disappointingly, there was scant, if any coverage via UMC media. This has to change if we are to play any sort of Christian church leadership role in joining with faith leaders worldwide on what is certainly a crisis that demands attention by a people who claim to be a loving people who love God and seek the Kingdom of God.


I must say that the level of concern I have has been a relatively recent turning point for me. I have to confess a long-standing form of denial , over the past 30 years or so, of what is happening to the ecosystems of our world. Certainly, in the last 8 or 9 years, since the very public “An Inconvenient Truth” and the sharp outspokenness of several leading Climate Scientists, I have read and “believed” what they were telling us, but still managed to avoid letting the reality in. Something in me really preferred to avoid thinking about the very real dangers in which we have been complicit as Chrsitians, especially in a country like the U.S. who have been “energetic” to say the least, in our use of limited resources, and in our unjust “implementations” of those “riches”. I put those words in quotes because we are increasingly being made aware of the destructive qualities and by-products of a fossil fuel-oriented econmomy. Instead of “riches”, we might more fittingly see these as “weapons of mass destruction”, and instead of “implementations”  (a neutral term), as extractions and pollutants. So what I find I have to do now is to lend my voice to the rapidly growing movement and awareness to help lead us into a required new way of life. This new life requires of us a denunciation of a way of life that many will continue to proclaim as our “greatness”, “power”, and even “birthright”, but seen in the light of “God’s Good Creation”, a deeply ingrained sin of immense and destructive power that is unpredented in human history.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+Google GmailTumblrShare

Facing the real ultimate challenge

September 12, 2015 By: Theoblogical Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, People's Climate, Theoblogical

Another Facebook comment I wrote under a UMNS link (here)  on Facebook has prompted a longer reflection that seems fitting as a blog post.  It addresses the frustration I feel with the “theological obfuscation” in which  Christians are habitually engaging.

“To become a church that makes disciples of Jesus Christ equipped to transform lives, communities , and the world” is hard to argue but painfully vague when left at that. The problem there is, there are a host of “options” and approaches to how that plays out; what it looks like; what the “specifics” of how that manifests in the activity of the church’s people. Yes, “learning and loving together” is obviously important, but it really comes down to what we are willing to do in the task of responding to the world and living as a “light in the darkness” (to use yet another “fill in the blank” kind of “Great Commission” call to action). We are still left with actually responding as a body to what needs to be done. For me, I find it hard to avoid facing what really threatens our quality of life as does NOTHING else: the growing Climate Crisis. It exists and grows as a result of our unwillingness to see the effects it is having around the world and on the world’s ecosystem, and the growing dangers and hazards that are being visited upon a wide range of human communities around the world (and for many of us in the U.S., something which we are largely ignoring because it SEEMS that nothing really life-altering is happening). But the scientists are saying otherwise, and the long-feared consequences are arriving faster than they first thought. And so the church will need to be bringing to bear their considerable resources for calling forth a movement (and many of them) for growing a crisis-to-action consciousness and pointing to a more just and sustainable way of living. Never before has such a stark message against consumerism and it’s destructive ways been laid before us. This is the great call to getting about the great calling to transform our lives. The necessity of finding sustainable ways of living will bring us face to face with justice issues that affect us all.

Using “Biblical ” language to proclaim purpose which purports to be of “higher calling” than some particular, specific problem or problems.  This was used during the Civil Rights movements to tell the black communities that they ought to be concerned with “bringing souls to Christ” , RATHER than getting involved in these “petty social problems” like a Bus Boycott.  And they say these things now about any problem with which they’d really rather not be bothered.  And this Climate Crisis is the king of those “pesky problems”, because it is directly challenging our notion of how we should live.  Our very lifestyle is “at stake”.  What we have come to expect; a certain “level of living” is literally unsustainable.  And our economics keeps telling us that everything is dependent on GROWTH.  What we have come to define as growth is now under scrutiny from the eco-realities resulting from this economics.   We can no longer sustain an economics that ignores ecological costs.

“the Earth and future generations need us all right now” by @MMSwedish

September 08, 2015 By: Theoblogical Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, People's Climate, Theoblogical

“the Earth and future generations need us all right now, every gift we have to give toward turning the tide of political power in our world.”
– Margaret Swedish via this from Center for New Creation on Facebook, reacting to this news :  

Bonn Climate Talks Fail to Deliver Common Grounds Undermining Hopes of Meaningful Deal in Paris

The world continues to drag it’s feet (or should I say,  the forces of the 1%; the forces of “unlimited, inevitable, “progress”).  A precursor or warning or call to consciousness.   How much worse can we let it get?  A lot worse, it seems.




The ultimate assault upon unity

September 05, 2015 By: Theoblogical Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, People's Climate, Theoblogical

“God created all of us to dwell together in unity”  from
A.M.E. Council of Bishops Demand Action to Confront Racism in the U.S. linked from UMNS

Indeed. Which also includes all of creation. ALL is created to dwell in unity. The very earth works that way. When we disrupt that unity, all hell breaks loose. So we must fight all disruption. They are also often linked, these disruptions. The above action is indeed a necessary demand. But it is also VERY NECESSARY that we in the church awaken to the unwillingness of our community to face the destructiveness of our fossil fuel driven economy, and seek earnestly to change our priorities. Indeed, this unwillingness also has effects that further racism, as we continue to “hide” the waste products of our industries in poorer, non-white communities, where the power of money is less able to say “not in our back yard”. All of this is connected, and we need to learn to see it under one big umbrella as the assault on unity that it is.

The awakening we need requires urgency translated down to the communities

August 16, 2015 By: Theoblogical Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, People's Climate, Theoblogical

In Margaret Swedish ‘s amazing and disturbing and yet, hopeful book,  this quote  is but one of the instances where she expresses the feeling about the responsibility of the theological communities to awaken their people from “slumber” and out of the practical denial that keeps us procrastinating the measures we need to be instigating in response to the Climate Crisis.  An article here and there just doesn’t cut it.  AT ALL.  “Better than nothing” is not an option.  Talking about it as “an issue” doesn’t even cut it.  IN some cases,  it’s not even listed among the list of “issues” or “topics”  (as is the case with the “Topics” section on their
website.  I pick on the UMC because I worked on that Website,  and am a United Methodist for the past 25-30 years. )  But I have walked through that door and into a different place regarding the climate,  where there is no going back into a prior sense of this crisis.  It now looms as the greatest existential threat that humankind has ever faced.  Some consider this to be hyperbole,  but it is far from it.  Charges of “hyperbole” come from within the vast denial with which we are ladened,  which keep us from the kind of action we need. So let me allow Margaret to speak:

“Because I believe this is true, that living beyond the “end of the world depends upon the awakening, visionary leadership, and cooperation of religions across boundaries of traditions and or it is also urgent and necessary that this awakening be translated down with similar urgency to the communities inspired by, or dwelling within, those traditions.
This disconnect of which Tucker and Grim speak* (see below) is not only between our awareness of the crisis and our ability to change direction, but also between what many religious institutions and leaders know and write about the crisis and what is actually communicated in sermons, teachings, schools, bible classes, catechisms, and more, among their faithful. The language of “patterns of acquisition and consumption” needs to become concrete in the daily living out of our lives, in the choices we make about how we live, in how we reshape the politics of the country in keeping with the exigencies of the crisis and how the community of faith takes up the challenge set in the last chapter in the concrete witness of that community- to bring the ecological foot-print of the human species back into balance with the life systems of the planet while allowing billions of poor people to no longer be poor. Whatever one’s religious tradition, this should be at the very heart of the project of faith from here on out”

* There’s a puzzling disconnection between our growing awareness of environmental problems and our ability to change our present direction. We have failed to translate facts about the environmental crisis into effective action in the United States. We are discovering that the human heart is not changed by facts alone but by engaging visions and empowering values. Humans need to see the large picture and feel they can act to make a difference. Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, “Daring to Dream: Religion and the Future of the Earth”, in “God’s Green Earth: Creation , Faith, Crisis,” Special issue of “Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry” Yale Divinity School (Spring 2007).

Margaret Swedish hits the nail on the head here when she points out how there are denominational leaders who write and speak about the crisis,  but “what is actually communicated in sermons, teachings, schools, bible classes, catechisms, and more, among their faithful”  is a whole other ball game.  This HAS to change.  I’ve been trying to communicate this to the UMC website folks,  but thus far,  what I’ve gotten are responses that indicate that the “crisis level” is the farthest from their consciousness it can be.  “No time or enough staff” to cover it sufficiently,  and this is all the more apparent when there is “other news” ,  which seems to the case in perpetuity. While there are certainly many people in the UMC who recognize the threat and the call that beckons from it,  all of this remains in the background as far as the larger church is concerned.  Nothing changes on the Home pages to give any indication that the church considers this to be of any grave importance.  Some of us have been “conspiring” in conversations about how we might change this.  One might say to “forget about denominations”, since they tend to be struggling for survival, or mired in political correct-ness,  and put all our money on ecumenical effort.  But we are going to need EVERYONE.