November 6, 2012
To: My Christian Colleagues in Ministry (and other religious leaders)
From: The Reverend Thomas Carr, Senior Minister, First Baptist Church, West Hartford, CT
As I ponder the aftermath of the hurricane/nor'easter that left massive devastation on the east coast, I am saddened and grieved over such loss. My heart breaks for those who suffered and are still struggling in the aftermath. I, like you, am seeking to do whatever I can to assist those in their time of immediate need. So many people have suffered so much and it will take months, if not years, to rebuild.
At the same time, I am angry and perplexed. Angry because for two decades we have known the reason why storms like these are getting more and more intense, why wildfires are increasing everywhere, why droughts are becoming more permanent and floods are increasing in duration and intensity: climate change and the primary reason the climate is changing radically and rapidly is our way of life built on the use and burning of fossil fuels. I'm angry because there has been an intentional, highly organized and more than well financed campaign to confuse Americans and thus delay making the changes needed to begin addressing this critical problem.
I'm perplexed as to why we preachers have been almost totally silent on this, the greatest moral and ethical challenge the human race has ever faced. I confess that I have not spoken out nor acted upon this great planetary crisis as frequently or with as much conviction as I should have when I became aware of this catastrophe in the making. I have been timid when I have known the truth, for over 20 years, of the dire circumstances of our ecological crisis and that this is God's world not ours and we are called to care for it all. To care for life is the human species' most fundamental vocation (see Genesis 2:15), and we are failing to do so. In fact, with anywhere from 20-60,000 species of life going extinct every year, we are doing precisely the opposite of being co-creators with God; we are "de-creating" Earth. Why are we preachers being just as silent on this as the Presidential candidates have been? Why are we not raising this as a moral and spiritual affront to life, not just one Sunday a year around Earth Day but with great frequency?
I am well aware that some of my colleagues consider addressing climate change as a luxury for those in communities that are not facing massive poverty, violence, lack of quality education, institutional racism, along with other heinous acts of injustice. That is a valid critique. And yet over 50 years ago, leaders in my denomination, the American Baptist Churches, USA, reflected on this and began using the term "eco-justice" to point to the interconnection between ecological concern and human justice:
God's first covenant followed the Flood (Genesis 9: 8-17), a covenant between God, human beings and "all the creatures that came out of the ark."
I have spoken with many pastors and rabbis over the years who tell me that they don't touch this, particularly climate change because it is too controversial. It has become too political, I am told, and if working to slow down rapid climate change was discussed within their congregation, people would leave. It's just too divisive, they tell me; not safe, at all.
So, I am urging all of us to speak out now about the moral, ethical and spiritual reasons for addressing climate change and caring for God's creation - all of it. Speak from your heart, from your faith that calls us
Jaques Cousteau once said, "We save what we love." Let's work to save the world that God so loves.
Peace be with you.
Rev. Tom Carr