While sitting as a guest at many tables throughout South America, I was served a variety of foods: chicken and plantains, beans and rice, beef stew and mashed potatoes. But there was one absolute on nearly every table: soda. As an honored guest it would have been rude for me to decline hospitality, so I often indulged, drinking more sugar than I ever had stateside. But in those same gatherings, people often asked me to pray for their sugar-related health concerns, like struggle with fatigue, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes diagnoses. I began to ask a series of questions: why do so many consume soda as an alternative to water, why is soda consumption increasing in developing countries, and what, if anything, can be done to reduce soda consumption? I additionally began to wonder about not only the health impacts of soda but also about what environmental justice concerns might be connected to soda manufacturing.
In a church newsletter, my pastor recently cited a discussion she heard between the columnists E.J. Dionne and David Brooks. They were lamenting the loss of a mainline Christian voice in the public sphere, and Brooks declared that mainline Protestant churches are too weak today to assert such a voice. I will confess that I have had my own moments of similar lament. I have bemoaned out loud the lack of Jesus’ revolutionary spirit in churches today. I have decried the silence and timidity of pastors who are afraid of “controversy” in the church should they dare to speak of justice. Yet, my immediate visceral reaction to reading the comments of Dionne and Brooks was not at all along these lines. Instead, I thought about the overwhelming response to a recent statement by clergy who have called for action in solidarity with Standing Rock. (Read more.)
Deborah Streeter is authorized by the La Selva Beach United Church of Christ congregation in California to practice the ministry of Blue Theology. While becoming a guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, she learned how important the oceans are and what challenges they face. This information, paired with her longtime deep spiritual connection to the ocean, lead Deborah on a journey to link faith with the science of marine conservation, coining the phrase “Blue Theology.” Much like the rich and diverse coastal waters of California, Deborah’s ministry at the Blue Theology Mission Station seeks to be a place of “ocean spirit upwelling” for church members and visitors.
This commentary is written by the Rev. Deb Conrad who serves as the pastor for Woodside Church in Flint, Michigan.
A member of my church named Karen Eaton texted me today to say that she had an extra copy of the Flint Journal’s water supplement. She wanted to know if I would like to have it as a resource. “It covers the water crisis from beginning to end,” she wrote. Then, in a separate text, she amended: “Sorry, there is no end.” Who would have thought we’d still be dealing with this? It has been about two and a half years since the water was switched, precipitating the poisoning; it has been more than a year, now, since Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha announced to a room of government officials, activists and journalists that there was indeed something wrong with the water. (Read more.)
Watching the new movie Deepwater Horizon reminded me of an incident that highlights the need for humanity to expand its environmental perspective to encompass outer space along with Earth.
Thanks to data from Envisat, the European Space Agency's large Earth-observing satellite, French scientists were able to alert American officials in May 2010 that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had entered the powerful loop current flowing toward Florida. Just a few months earlier, though, the spacecraft had experienced a near calamity of its own because of an environmental disaster in space caused by human beings. (Read more.)
The organizers for the International Days of Prayer and Action with Standing Rock on October 8th-11th have noted an important distinction in their choice of prepositions. They speak not of standing for Standing Rock but standing with Standing Rock. They explain, “It’s one thing to inspire the world to rush to your aid. It’s another thing to inspire the world to stand up for their own water, their own air, their own climate and their own communities.” (Read more.)
According to the Weather Channel (and NASA), 2016 is the hottest year in recorded history with record breaking droughts, floods fires and billions of dollars in extreme weather damages. These life-threatening changes in our climate are caused in great part by the burning fossil fuels. At our last General Synod, UCC delegates approved a resolution calling for a complete transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy by the year 2040. Included in that resolution was a call for a carbon tax. Recently, the Legislative Assembly of the State of California passed its own resolution calling for a carbon tax at the federal level. The proposed tax would be in the form of a “progressive fee and dividend” similar to the one proposed by an organization called Citizen’s Climate Lobby. According to the highly respected Regional Economic Models Inc.(REMI), a progressive fee and dividend form of a carbon tax in the United States, if implemented in 2017, would not only cut our atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions 33% in the first 10 years, but it would also add an estimated 2.1 million jobs to the US economy and provide every American household with a monthly dividend of $288.00. (Read more.)
A new collaborative endeavor of youth from the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been launched. As part of this endeavor, youth groups from across the country will adopt a specific month during which they will create social media posts that raise awareness about climate change and encourage action. As a result of a recent name contest, the name of this joint denominational project is Generation Green. (Read more.)
Over the weekend of Sept. 23-25, clergy and laity in the Southern Conference (SOC) of the UCC came together to celebrate something new under the sun: the SOC Environmental Justice Network (EJN) which was formalized this past June. We kicked off our EJN summit weekend with a clergy luncheon at Union Chapel in Burlington, NC. The Rev. Brooks Berndt, the UCC’s environmental justice minister, spoke of his recent experience of standing in solidarity with the native peoples of Standing Rock, while Dr. Gail O’Day, Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, spoke of the school’s Food, Faith, and Environmental initiative with which we hope to partner in the future. (Read more.)
The parable of the Good Samaritan presents us with two possible responses to suffering. There are those like the priest and the Levite who respond with avoidance and pass by on the other side of the road. Then, there are those like the Good Samaritan who respond with compassion and tend to the man’s wounds. Since I enjoy doing children’s sermons, part of me is glad the parable does not include a third option so appalling as to seem almost unfathomable: the sadist who stops to rub salt into the wounds of the afflicted man. Imagine trying to convey a lesson about this to children. “Now, children, this is not how you want to treat little Billy when he skins his knee at recess time." Yet, such a grotesque and obvious moral wrong is what the flooded parts of Louisiana are now facing.