Easter has been described as one of the greatest plot twists of all time, and I have come to realize that the upcoming climate march can be seen as part of an Easter plot twist in the making. To understand this, one has to first take a step back and grasp how the biggest story of our time has unfolded until this point.
Around the world and all across our own nation, we have been witnessing an ongoing story defined by greed, destruction, and suffering. On the local level, the phenomenon has been described as that of sacrifice zones—those parts of the world in which both people and the natural world around them have been exploited and discarded on the altar of corporate profit and “national interest.”
These sacrifice zones are not just random places. They are certainly not the places where the powerful and wealthy reside. Instead, they are outposts of where their empire stretches. They are the places where the economically and racially disenfranchised live. They are today’s equivalent of Nazareth, that backwater village of the Roman Empire. There are now a multitude of these Nazareths across the globe.
Or, to switch ancient metaphors, imagine a map of the world on which every sacrifice zone is marked with a cross, and soon you realize that we have an entire planet marred by one sacrifice, one crucifixion, after another. This is how the large story of our time has been unfolding.
Yet, there is always the possibility of an unexpected twist when a person or a people overturn our sense of what is inevitable. Could it be that Standing Rock has been a Nazareth of our time? Could it be that the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation have brought us this unexpected twist? Does the grand narrative now have the potential to dramatically change?
My own base of operations is Cleveland, a place that has been part of a broad swath of sacrifice zones known as the rust belt. As part of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign to make Cleveland a city that commits to 100% renewable energy, I like to think I am also part of a developing plot twist. Our goal is for Cleveland to go from being a sacrifice zone to a resurrection zone, a place of equity and vitality, a place with green jobs and vastly improved public health.
For the big story of our times to truly have a plot twist, however, there have to be more than a few resurrection zones. This is why events like the People’s Climate March on April 29th are so crucial. They are an opportunity for a mass movement of people to begin weaving their stories together into a larger whole. They are an opportunity for ordinary people to realize that they are part of something that has world-changing significance and potential.
After the march, we will then have the chance to keep writing the resurrection story in our own communities. Let us each become storytellers. Let us each write with our actions and continue the plot twist that has already begun.
The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt serves the United Church of Christ as its Minister for Environmental Justice. He is currently organizing a UCC contingent for the People's Climate March on April 29th.