Throughout the UCC, we find a common conviction in the importance of environmental stewardship. Since voting should rightly be seen as an act of caring for God’s creation, then we should increasingly think of our denomination as being filled with environmental voters. Yet, there is a problem. The phrase, environmental voters is unfortunately something of an oxymoron. Nathaniel Stinnett of the Environmental Voter Project has noted, "In the 2016 presidential election, about 68 or 69 percent of registered voters turned out to vote. The problem is only 50 percent of environmentalists turned out to vote."
"I am looking forward to having the world see the incredible power my generation holds."
—Victoria Barrett, one of 21 youth suing the federal government over climate change
When it comes to the damage done to our climate, no voice is as morally powerful and persuasive as that of youth. Our youth are the ones who will inherit the consequences of our society's action or inaction in addressing the climate emergency presently faced. It is one thing for older generations to become ideological adherents of climate denialism or skepticism. It is another thing for those older generations to hear directly from a child or grandchild about the threats faced. As a result, one of the most important acts a pastor or youth minister can take to address our climate is to hand over the microphone and the pulpit to a climate prophet of the younger generation.
Some may initially scratch their heads over the idea that Martin Luther King, Jr. could be connected to the environmental justice movement or even be said to have "helped plant the seeds" for it, as former Attorney General Eric Holder once asserted. Yet, in his book Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States, Carl Zimring makes this case in a chapter devoted to the subject. At the heart of his argument is the strike of the sanitation workers whom King was supporting in Memphis at the time of his assassination. In addition to suffering from low and inequitable pay, black sanitation workers in the city suffered from what we now call environmental racism in the form of working conditions that overwhelmingly placed the burden of health and safety dangers upon them. Zimring notes that "the most dangerous and dirty work was done by black workers under orders" from white truck drivers. This work entailed handling "all sorts of materials from tree limbs to broken glass to biological wastes that could infect, poison, and injure them."
There is a particular cultural outlook that continually reappears in the Bible but never seems to find its way into contemporary outlooks among most Christians today. The outlook of which I speak is a generational outlook. In the Bible, the customary mode of thinking is not to simply fixate upon one’s own generation but to always think of past and future generations as well. This is readily apparent in the lectionary reading for this upcoming Sunday, but I doubt many preachers will even consider mentioning this outlook as they discuss the song of praise known as Mary’s Magnificat. Nevertheless, Mary begins her song by framing that very moment within the span of generations. She declares, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” She then continues to speak of a God whose mercy extends “from generation to generation.” She ends by placing all of Israel within a generational continuum as she remembers the promise God “made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
In 2015, the UCC General Synod passed a resolution on Responsible Stewardship of the Outer Space Environment. Through a regular series of articles, the UCC maintains its commitment to addressing the serious threats posed by space debris
In 1970, a nun working in Zambia named Sister Mary Jacunda wrote to Ernst Stuhlinger, the director of science at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. She asked him how he could justify spending billions of dollars on spaceflight when so many children were starving on Earth.
At a public hearing on the EPA’s plan to roll back the Clean Power Plan that requires states to reduce emissions from power plants, the Rev. Michael Malcom of Rush Memorial UCC in Atlanta delivered the following remarks.
The Clean Power Plan is projected to prevent 90,000 asthma attacks, 300,000 missed work and school days, and 3,600 premature deaths annually by 2030. Repealing these standards means more sick kids, more expensive hospital visits, and thousands of premature deaths that could have been prevented. Now, I realize in me standing here today that I am one lone voice. However, I bring with me the generations that will come after me as I ask the question, “What about the children?” Is anyone thinking about the generations to come? Growing up I was taught that you always leave a space better than how you found it. I must ask this morning, how are we leaving creation? Are we so focused in the present that we refuse to look beyond our present and take a look at the future?
On September 15th of 1982, more than 125 people gathered at Coley Springs Baptist Church in Warren County, North Carolina. They had gathered to march and physically prevent dump trucks from delivering the first shipments of toxic waste to a newly created landfill. Ultimately, the efforts of that day would spark a six week civil disobedience campaign that would awaken the conscience of a nation and kick-start the Environmental Justice Movement.
Among the leaders of the protest was the Rev. Leon White. At the time, White served as a regional field director for the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. Along with local organizer Dollie Burwell and others, he was arrested on the first day of demonstrations. Ultimately, more than 520 would be arrested over the course of the six weeks.
More than one classic cartoon character has been portrayed as being so beset by misfortune that he is followed by a perpetual rain cloud above his head everywhere he goes. For those concerned about environmental justice, this past year could have easily induced the feeling that our nation has a perpetual cloud hanging over its head—a toxic cloud to be precise. In a recent interview, Bill McKibben observed how the Trump administration has wasted no time in “dismantling 30 years’ worth of environmental regulation.” (Read more.)
A number of years ago as a divinity school student I found myself attending a rally for the activist and author Mumia Abu-Jamal who at the time was on death row. Among the speakers that day was a former political prisoner who imparted a lesson derived from hard experience. With an emphatic passion, he advised, “Don’t fight to fight. Fight to win.” Since that day, I have thought about that comment a number of times. In the ministry of pursuing social change, one can easily get swept away in the strongly felt impulses of the moment while failing to take a step back to consider the best strategic path forward if the goal is to make a tangible difference in the lives of those suffering. (Read more.)
There’s a story that I heard a while back that just so resonates with me that I have used it during sermon messages, presentations & reflections from Honduras to Michigan.
The story is of a Rabbinic argument taking place in the Middle Ages during which a group of Rabbis were trying to discern the deep-deep truth behind what seems to most of us modern progressive protestants to be simply a presumed biblical fact. Their argument focused on the familiar verse of Exodus 3:2 “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.” The question that the Rabbis debated very vigorously for an extended period was simply this: “Why was it necessary for the bush to burn but not be consumed?” (Read more.)