You can cross-file it under “strange” and “prophetic ,” but the Bible tells us that the prophet Isaiah walked around “naked and barefoot for three years” to make a symbolic statement about the potential future of Egyptians should a full-scale war develop. I thought of this scripture in the wake of the recent presidential election. Various assessments have been made about what the Trump administration will mean for efforts to address climate change. Some sound the alarm while others would seem to almost rationalize complacency with a list of reasons for why we should not be too worried. In this situation, I tend to favor the naked truth.
In an interview with Truth-Out, Noam Chomsky offers this blunt assessment: “The winning candidate, now the president-elect calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.” Chomsky’s full analysis begins with a report released on November 8th from the World Meteorological Organization about the current realities of rising temperatures and sea levels. He then considers the import of having a climate change denier in charge of the EPA transition and a billionaire oil executive serving as Trump’s top energy advisor. Chomsky concludes his assessment by considering the plight of millions of people in South Asia as sea levels rise and adequate drinking water declines.
As Isaiah amply demonstrated, prophets not only give us the naked truth, they act on it. The naked truth of the moment undoubtedly has provoked soul-searching for many of us. Notably, the historical origins of the word “prophet” point to the meaning “one who is called.” There are countless ways in which those of us concerned about climate change might discern our call now. For some, it might be as radical as immediately responding to the appointments or policies of the new administration with acts of civil disobedience. For others, it might be a decision to participate in a long-term campaign focused on promoting renewable energy through city governments and local utilities. There is not one right way to respond in this moment. However, there are the values and resources of our faith, a faith that responds to injustice and crisis with a deep and abiding love.
The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the Minister for Environmental Justice for the United Church of Christ. He can be found on Twitter as The_Green_Rev.