The power of love

“Cathedral on Fire” — Part IV of a series

By Rev. Rick King

If the earth, sea and skies are “God’s Cathedral,” as environmentalist John Muir called them, climate change has set this cathedral on fire. UCC climate justice minister Brooks Berndt says environmental justice isn’t just one more cause on our task list, as Christians; it intersects with every other form of injustice, too. No matter the color of people’s skin, how much money the make, who they love or how they worship—ALL of us call Planet Earth HOME.

What’s your personal stake in what happens to the climate?

From my organizing work with Isaiah, I’ve learned how important it is for each of us to identify our self-interest—what motivates us viscerally to work for justice. It’s simply not enough for us to believe that people who are educated, privileged, or fortunate have a duty to care for society.

Discovering and getting clear about our self-interest in regard to climate change is just as essential. Brooks Berndt says that what he’s come to call The Three Great Loves—of Neighbor, Creation, and Children—are positive motivators for you and me to care and act for climate justice and caring for creation.

Berndt tells of the moment he had a personal awakening about what motivates people to care about climate and the environment, when he discovered that “while the truth must be told, it matters how we tell it.” We have all heard the doom-and-gloom scenarios about climate change—but maybe we’ve also heard about the opportunity we have, right now, to slow the rate of global temperature rise.

In my column two weeks ago, I noted the gift churches bring to the movement for climate justice: COMMUNITY—in which we create and experience a new reality of liberating values and shared practices, which provides a web of sustenance and support. But faith communities bring another gift to the climate justice movement: a Power greater than ourselves, which gives us passion for saving the planet and hope when all seems hopeless—when progress seems slow and the results of our efforts are few and far between.

Which of the Three Great Loves motivates YOU? Is it love for our Neighbor, especially those who live in low-income communities or communities of color, whom we know climate change affects more profoundly than other groups?

Or is it love for Creation? Do you experience nature as your “cathedral,” as environmentalist and Sierra Club founder John Muir did? Is God most present to you not in a church building but in a forest, or on a lake?

Or does a love for your children and grandchildren give passion and energy to your commitment to climate justice?

Maybe there are others. But what is YOUR personal stake in slowing the damage to the planet? I’d love to know, because it can power OUR collective effort as a church to address the earth legacy we’re leaving those who follow us.