Friday, June 16, 2017

June EARTH-Keeper

EARTHKeeper for June – Dr. Kelly O’Hanley
The Joy of Making “Holy Trouble”

By Jenny Holmes


Why would an accomplished physician and teacher try to stop a hulking icebreaker ship headed to drill in the artic with her body and a little kayak? For Dr. Kelly O’Hanley, making “Holy Trouble” was just the right thing to do, and a calling. And, she says “I have had more fun than a barrel of monkeys.”


Kelly O'Hanley giving testimony at a hearing on the proposed Longview, WA coal terminal

In late July 2015, Shell Oil’s Fennica icebreaker departed from a dry dock in Portland. Climate activists attuned to how local industries are entangled in fossil fuel extraction quickly prepared the “Shell No!” action that became an international media event. The ship was blocked for two days. First, a group of about 60 “kayaktivists” created a blockade in the Willamette River. They were then joined by Greenpeace activists who dangled themselves from the graceful St. John’s Bridge.  The kayakers did not know they were coming so it was a thrill to be joined by the 13 dangling from the bridge with their colorful banners. O’Hanley and her kayak partner stayed on the river until they were dragged out by the Coast Guard. They were then hauled up the river and dropped off on the shore without their paddles adding new meaning to “being up a creek without a paddle.”
 

Kelly O’Hanley’s interest in the environment was not new, but resistance and direct action were. She considered her work in ob-gyn and International Public Health one solution to environmental degradation.  After screening An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore at her church she became deeply concerned about global warming.

In retrospect, she feels that the film left us hanging without ideas for actions commensurate with the problem. “I tried to get my church to change light bulbs,” she said. It was clearly not enough. A few years later she attended a Greenpeace meeting and learned about civil disobedience. The opening question for one-on-one sharing was “Have you been arrested?” That got her attention.

She took more trainings on non-violent civil disobedience and began a rewarding journey. That journey has included leafleting, bird-dogging elected officials, flash-mobbing, lobbying, infiltrating political meetings, testifying at hearings, art-making, petitioning, laying on train tracks, peacekeeping at marches, speaking at rallies, teaching adult study, and more. She was active in influencing Portland City Council to oppose building any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Some of the lessons she’s learned include:
  • Kids are powerful advocates and are more aware and willing to be involved than we think.
  • Art, music and storytelling are vital to powerful communication.
  • Most of our power is local – and that power is far greater than most of us know.
  • A small group of committed people can move mountains.
  • Most activists are not necessarily Christians but they are deeply moral people.
  • Most Christians are not necessarily activists. Let’s change that!
  • We fear doing what we haven’t done before but getting over those fears is life changing.
  • Meeting and scheming in the name of climate feels like it might have felt during earliest days of the church.
O’Hanley wonders why, with so many avenues for action, are we so asleep, especially in the church when we know what global warming is doing to our planet. Jump in! The water is fine, and it will be an adventure with many companions on the way.

Photos by Rick Rappaport.

Jenny Holmes lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband John and dog Verda. She is coordinating the 2017 PEC Conference Coordinator and is a past PEC moderator. She also works for Southern Utah Wilderness Alliances as the WA-OR Field Organizer and is former Environmental Ministries Director for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. 

First Nations - Artistic Expressions

Artistic Expressions of
First Nations’ Eating and Wealth
by Judith Ann Richards

My husband Pete once remarked that he was a novice. I am also a novice, of the Alaska Native artistic culture, once removed!! Almost any Native Alaskan carver could call me out and state that I need to study a lot more. What I am able to recall from my late husband, is just that-- a recollection, so please accept my apology in advance for my errors.
The most important thing for First Nations people was survival. This explains how they came to view eating and celebrating as essentially life-giving. Eating is also a sign of wealth. Potlatches and sharing of goods in an abundant manner was a way of showing your wealth. The art was also a means of expressing what was/is important. 
The art and culture that my spouse studied with Alaskans and carvers, had a near reverence for cedar, both yellow and red. The early artists used colors that derived from natural earth elements: burned wood, graphite, flowers and sometimes eggs. Black and red often represented death and life respectively. Sometimes, that was a death of a plan or an idea. The shape was also important, such as the shape of the eye on a sea creature was to remind the observer of the life-giving salmon (egg).
The Rev. Judith Ann Richards of Underwood, WA is helping to plan worship for PEC's “Blessing the Waters of Life” conference and is a member of the PEC Eco-Justice Team. She was serving a church in Ketchikan, Alaska when her husband, a Presbyterian ruling elder, created these carvings. Harold "Pete" Richards, passed away in 2013. He was an educator who taught at the high school level. He loved to work with wood and loved God's Creation.  While in Ketchikan Alaska, he assisted and developed plans to repair many churches throughout Southwest Alaska. 
About the images: (clockwise from top left) Drums were an important part of story telling, and celebration. Painting the drum elevated the percussion instrument in acting out a story. Pair of dance rattles, a raven and eagle. A fish bowl. A greasebowl was filled with a fish oil that was wonderful for cooking, eating and showing of abundance. The inside rim was placed in the bowl to scrape off the spoon. All by Harold "Pete" Richards. 

Jean and Jim Strathdee, Conference Musicians

Sharing Their Story:
Jean and Jim Strathdee,
Conference Musicians 

We have been asked to write an article to share some experiences where our lives and ministry have intersected with issues of Earth care, First Nation tribes, and water.
An early “formative” story. We both grew up in different towns on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, a dramatically beautiful, high desert region. One thing that connects all the towns in this valley is the Los Angeles Aqueduct (completed in 1913). Through subterfuge, the City of LA took the water rights of the Owens Valley farmers and built a long “snake” (aqueduct) across the foothills of the Sierra, capturing the “run off” water and diverting the river water to quench the thirst of the growing San Fernando Valley, a suburb of LA. The economy of the Owens Valley was ruined. We grew up listening to the stories of families losing their fruit ranches ~ their trees, their crops. The city of LA hired a private militia to keep the farmers away from the construction. There was blood shed and people died. Jim went to school with Western Shoshone Paiute students who shared their life stories.
Our ministry. We were both raised in the church, with parents who stood for the marginalized ~ who cared about the earth. Our talents in music were welcomed by our faith communities. We found each other 45 years ago and have shared our passion for justice as we have written and sung, encouraging others to walk in beauty with each other and our Earth. In 1995, we, along with our son, Michael, created their Celebration for the Healing of the Earth ~ a multi-media project, built upon parts of the Christian mass, enhanced by the wisdom of many faiths, especially the Native American and Australian Aboriginal people. A favorite piece in this work is the “Sanctus” in which a choir of wolves and a choir of humans sing the “Holy, Holy, Holy” into the night.
Our work in 2016-17
Climate Vigil for United Methodist General Conference, Portland, OR. At this Global meeting of United Methodists, indigenous people from many continents shared their stories of how changing climate, and its social and political consequences are endangering their very survival. We created call and response chanting to weave into their testimonies. Elders of the Mindanao from the Philippines were powerful in their witness.
noDAPL rally in Auburn, CA. We did not join the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, but supported their amazing effort locally at an interfaith rally where we led more call and response singing. This rally included a blessing of the people who were on their way to North Dakota.

The chorus of Jim’s song ~
They drew a line in the sand,
said, here we make our stand.
You may come no further
to poison our water,
desecrate our land.
Here we stand together!
Heya, heya, heya ah-ho!
Heya, heya, heya ah-ho!
Here we stand together,
We stand and pray together! 

I Don't Believe in Climate Change. I Believe in God.

I Don't Believe in Climate Change.
I Believe in God.
by Katharine Hayhoe


I don’t believe in climate change.

I believe in God. I believe He created this amazing planet we live in, and gave us responsibility—or stewardship—or dominion over it. I believe God delights in his creation and wants us to, as well. And I believe we are to love others, especially the poor, the vulnerable, and those most in need, as Christ loved us.

I’m a Christian – but I’m also a scientist. I spend my days studying how climate change is affecting us, in the places where we live. Rainfall patterns are shifting, sea level is rising, and weather is getting weirder: when we add them all up, there’s more than 26,500 separate lines of evidence that the planet is warming.

I don’t believe in global warming. The evidence of God’s creation tells us it’s real. Nearly two hundred years of meticulous scientific studies has established that it’s not a natural cycle this time: it’s us. And my own research demonstrates the severity of the consequences for all of us, particularly those less fortunate than us who are already suffering. We care about a changing climate because it exacerbates the risks we face today: hunger, poverty, disease, and injustice.

Yet when we hear Christians discussing climate change, often the predominant responses are negative: hostility, anger, and denial, a stew of toxic emotions underlain by fear. Fear of losing an identity that’s based on politics and ideology, if we get on board with a “liberal” issue; fear of rejection by our family, our community, even our church; or fear of losing our comfortable lifestyle in search of what’s right and just.

As Christians, we have a litmus test for these emotions. Because, as the apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” So when we see people responding in fear, we know that’s not who we’re meant to be.

What gifts does God give us? Power, to effect meaningful, long-term change. Love, to share God’s heart for our brothers and sisters who are hurting and in need. And a sound mind: to look at the reality of what is happening in our world and acknowledge that yes, climate change is real, it’s serious, and we need to fix it.

Being Christian isn’t a hindrance to acting on climate. On the contrary, if we believe we’re called “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God,” then caring about a changing climate, and those already suffering its impacts, is what we’ve been created to do. It’s who we are.

 Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist known for her work bridging the broad, deep gap between scientists and Christians on climate change. For her efforts, she’s been named as one of Christianity Today’s “50 Women to Watch” and Fortune’s “50 Greatest Leaders.” Follow her Facebook page and watch her PBS Digital Series, Global Weirding, for more on climate, politics, and faith. (Photo by Artie Limmer, Texas Tech University)

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Blessing the Waters of Life" Sept 26-29



Let’s Meet at the Intersection!
by Holly Hallman
Two years ago, at PEC’s Montreat conference, J. Herbert Nelson[1] told us to get out of the room and into the streets. It sounded fabulous when he said it but I had no idea what that might look like. On the streets of Seattle, my husband and I “got it.” We walked in, and shared in, the energy of the Women’s March. It was a magical day of warm sunshine, eagles soaring over us, fresh ideas swirling around us, and a feeling of inclusion like none I’ve had before. 
         

Hundreds of thousands of us, worldwide, were lifted to a new place by our realization that non-violent activism has power and I was furious when the pundits said it was a feel-good moment that would come to little or nothing because there were too many issues and too many voices. On January 28, on the streets of Seattle, there was no competition among issues—we were drinking in the connections we had with each other. And that is the where the power is!!  ALL, every one of our issues, intersect! The intersections are the places on J. Herbert’s streets where the future waits. Intersectionality.  My new favorite word. 


Now, in September, PEC is meeting in the Columbia River Gorge, both in the room, by the river and by the train tracks that carry this nation’s oil to the West Coast ports. We will be with the tribes whose lives depend on that river, its fish and its waters. We will stare into the facts of the Doctrine of Discovery, walk the labyrinth, hike the trails, hear Dr. Barbara Rossing explicate Revelation and its messages about our care for the earth. Paul Galbreath[2] and the worship team are using the intersections of 2+ cultures to create worship that is about this place and time in Oregon. The Strathdees, our musicians, are legendary for respecting and learning from the music they have heard and learned from the tribes. Oregon’s 8th Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Woody, will be at Celilo Falls to tell us hard things with beautiful words. Her very life intersects the indigenous and European cultures.
If you come, and you must come, we will work with you (if you will allow us to do so) to prepare you in advance for this experience. We want you to bring your own watershed stories and to know something of the tribal culture that lives under the foundation of your home, business and church. We who live in this country, indigenous or otherwise are part of this story.


I’ll meet you at the intersection of Sacred Stories and Reconciliation!
 


Rev. Holly Hallman, retired hospice chaplain, hopes she will not have to be a hospice chaplain for all the critters, watersheds and people who live in and love the Northwest.  She and her husband, Fred, are waiting to meet you at Menucha!









[1] Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson was then Director of the Office of Public Witness. He is now the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly.
[2] Rev. Dr. Paul Galbreath is a professor of theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

May EARTH Keeper

 Rev. Dr. Curtis Karns

Executive Presbyter, Yukon Presbytery
by Holly Hallman


Every calling has it challenges, whether we are teaching or ruling elder, parent or employer—in all life’s walks there are difficulties.  Curtis Karns’ are just different from yours and mine.  His presbytery of 21 churches covers an area the size of California, Texas and Montana combined.  There are no roads to 9 of those.  Curtis was born and raised in Alaska, so the wildness, and roadlessness of his home state was the “norm”.  Not that he doesn’t understand how it is down here.  His seminary training came from Princeton and he pastored in the “lower 48” before returning to his beloved home state.

 

What holds Curtis apart is more than birthplace and beauty.  Alaska’s economy is built on extraction and transport of fossil fuels.  But a huge number of the congregants he serves live on the edge of the seas that no longer freeze before January, are rising, and have fewer resources for subsistence living.  An example is Savoonga a town on St. Lawrence Island where the annual arrival of the walrus provided people with food for the year.  In the last few years climate change has thinned the ice, making safe hunting days few and dangerous.  Not only are the animals difficult to hunt, the walruses, at the top of the food chain, they have been eating over the last few decades are full of the toxins from industrial waste left behind after WWII, raising the cancer rates for villagers.  To minister in Alaska is to hold the tensions of two complexities – fossil fuels with jobs and the deadening effects that industry has on the two and four footed creatures who subsist on God’s sacred lands.

As important as that is, it isn’t the thing that makes Curtis an EARTH Keeper.  Before he heard the words doctrine of discovery he knew what it was, how it had played out in Alaska[i] and he was wrestling with what “apology” means.  When I first heard him speak, long before he knew of the doctrine, he talked about our European arrogance—our belief in Western “rightness”.  He put that into action by supporting the Presbyterian community of Gambell as they sought and are seeking to define “apology.” The story is huge because it is, possibly, our first denominational road map to how “apology” works.  It is a story you will want to hear for yourselves.  Curtis will be at our conference so he can share it, show film of it and teach us about listening.

Here is the impossibly short version.  Presbyterians flew to snowy Gambell, named the horrors of the boarding schools, read the names of the teachers (many of them beloved by their students), drummed with the elders, danced with the Yupik residents and began to design the church that will replace the condemned building of the past.  Where before drumming and native languages were condemned as sin, the new church will be the village’s only community center and it will be the place where people come to have ceremony, drum and speak the language of their ancestors.

Curtis told me that “apology” is not what Christians know.  Our language for what must happen has two words—Repentance and Reconciliation.  And, that is what his life is ALL about.
 
Holly Hallman is the Northwest Regional Representative of Presbyterians for Earth Care.







[i] S. Hall Young, sometimes known as the "Father of Alaska Missions," bragged in his autobiography (The Mushing Pastor): "One strong stand, which so far as I know I was the first to take, was the determination to do no translating into the Tlingit language or any other of the native dialects of that region. When I learned of the inadequacy of these languages to express Christian thought, and when I realized ... that the task of making an English-speaking race of these natives was much easier than the task of making a civilized and Christian language out of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian; I wrote the Mission Board that the duty to which they assigned me, of translating the Bible into Tlingit and of making a dictionary and grammar of that tongue was a useless and even harmful task; that we should let the old tongues with their superstition and sin die - the sooner the better - and replace these languages with that of Christian civilization and compel the natives in all our schools to talk English and English only. Thus, we would soon have an intelligent people who would be qualified Christian citizens."

Conversion

Conversion 
by Elizabeth Woody


Changeable surface, sand, wind, brushes of grass.
The composition of small particles and abalone shell is a mutable language,
fluid and clean tonal lilting in attenuated motion.

On the surface, removed from image, is an iridescent garment of compassion.
Boulders are lapped in flow, voices ascend to the lunar disk.
Simple paintbrush bloom, ecstatic, in orange and red.

Salmon pass through the river's mouth,
Songs hum in the vocal throat of grace.

Sage Brush around the loving fire waits in an aureole of pale courage.
Hold still, touch the compact smoldering soil.
The flesh of salmon is translucent as flame.
Heat and ardor, tender interior, smoke and calm weeds.
The fire is a furious matter of watching.

Familiar warm air rises as the Red Tailed Hawk, slow and loose,
a pinpont of vision on movement.
Land uplifts the shadow, higher.
Sun raises the cottonwood branches from the river's surface.

The salmon wait inside rippling light on the reversal of current.
The song says, Come or pass. Be weak or strong. Dance on light.

Moon is in the color of pale bellies slow turn to sky.
Scales illumine desire. Loosened moon particles collect
on the fringe of grass and water.

A brittle sheen of calcium and light combine with radiance.
Fine combs of supple and rigid spines rest among the stone.
The root, stone, flesh and water.

© 1994 Elizabeth Woody, to be published in One Reel project, 1998.

Elizabeth A. Woody is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, of Yakama Nation descent, and is “born for” the Tódích’íinii (Bitter Water clan) of the Navajo Nation. Her paternal grandfather’s clan is Mą‘ii deeshgiizhinii (Coyote Pass - Jemez clan). She received the American Book Award in 1990, and the William Stafford Memorial Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards in 1995. Elizabeth has published three books of poetry. She also writes short fiction, essays, and is a visual artist. She is a founding member of the Northwest Native American Writers Association. She is currently the Oregon Poet Laureate.

Elizabeth Woody will be a speaker on at the pre-conference Spirit of the Salmon event on September 25th for the visit to Celilo Park. She will talk about the Confluence Project, tell some stories important to her people and share poems.

For more information on the Celilo Park part of the Confluence Project, please visit their website. Photo  of Woody by Oregon Humanities

Ancient Inspiration, Contemporary Expression

Ancient Inspiration, Contemporary Expression: Lillian Pitt

 
The art of a people is a window to its culture and spirituality. In preparation for our "Blessing the Waters of Life Conference," we are pleased to share the artwork of one of the most widely revered contemporary artists of the Columbia River Tribes. Lillian Pitt, a descendant of Wasco, Yakama and Warm Springs people.  One of the frequent subjects of her art over the years has been "She Who Watches" a well-known ancient rock painting in the Columbia Gorge. The wide-eyed pictograph has an interesting story behind it. Coyote, known as a trickster, attempted to betray a local tribal leader. A wrestling match ensued and the wily coyote threw the female chief onto the cliff. She turned to stone and to this day, "Tsagiglala" or "She Who Watches" the tribe's guardian, watches over her children.
Art by Lillian Pitt, clockwise from top left: Coyote, She Who Watches in Glass, She Who Watches, Otter. All photos used with permission of Lillian Pitt. 
Lillian Pitt is a Native American artist from the Big River (Columbia River) region of the Pacific Northwest. Born on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon, she is a descendant of Wasco, Yakama, and Warm Springs people.

She is one of the most highly regarded Native American artists in the Pacific Northwest. Her works have been exhibited and reviewed regionally, nationally and internationally, and she has been the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions. Her awards include the 2007 Earle A. Chiles Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the 1990 Governor’s Award of the Oregon Arts Commission, which declared that she had made “significant contributions to the growth and development of the cultural life of Oregon.”

Primarily a sculptor and mixed media artist, Lillian’s lifetime of works include artistic expressions in clay, bronze, wearable art, prints, and most recently, glass. The focus of her work draws on over 12,000 years of Native American history and tradition of the Columbia River region. Regardless of the medium she chooses to use, Lillian’s contemporary works are all aimed at giving voice to her people.

“Everything I do, regardless of the medium, is directly related to honoring my ancestors and giving voice to the people, the environment and the animals. It’s all about maintaining a link with tradition, and about honoring the many contributions my ancestors have made to this world.”

Lillian’s works are found in personal collections, art galleries and museums. They are also found in numerous public spaces including parks, schools and cultural institutions throughout the region. Her most recent public works are featured at the Vancouver Land Bridge, one of the seven “confluence” projects along the Columbia River, designed by internationally renowned architect Maya Lin.

Biography and Headshot used with permission http://www.lillianpitt.com/

Repentance and Healing the Land

Repentance and Healing the Land
by Curt Karns
 

One of the Spirit’s movements of the past few years has been the linkage of ministry aimed at addressing the renunciation of the doctrine of discovery with ministry aimed at addressing climate change. In the Presbytery of Yukon we have held three special events making that linkage,[1] and many others are also engaged in that effort—including the upcoming Presbyterians for Earth Care’s National Conference, Blessing the Waters of Life: Justice and Healing for Our Watershed to be held at Menucha Retreat Center in September.

Given all this coordinated action, it is important to show why repentance from the doctrine of discovery fits hand-in-hand with climate change ministry.  For some, I believe, the connection will not be obvious.  Yet, the two efforts are really the right and left hand of one, integrated focus for ministry.  To begin making that point, let me lean on biblical scholar, Matthew Richard Schlimm. Schlimm points out that the Hebrew Bible connects repentance from moral sin[2] with caring for the land.

(In the Hebrew Bible) Severe moral impurities contaminated both the sinner and the land itself.  Leviticus 18 says that the land itself is sickened by such pollutions:

‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, for by all these practices the nations I am casting out before you have defiled themselves. Thus the land became defiled; and I punished it for its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and commit none of these abominations … otherwise the land will vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations shall be cut off from their people. So keep my charge not to commit any of these abominations that were done before you, and not to defile yourselves by them: I am the Lord your God.’ (18:24-26, 28 NRSV, italics added)

In the Bible, the land is not a passive object that humans can simply manipulate.  It is one of God’s agents in the world.[3]

It follows that in the same way polluting oneself through moral sin brings sickness on the land, the healing of the land can come through repenting from the moral sin.  For instance, in accepting Solomon’s Temple as a place for bringing the people’s prayers, God assures Solomon that this will be the place to bring sacrifices and prayers of repentance when the land is defiled.

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people [that is, whenever the land threatens to vomit the people out], if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13-14, NRSV, bracketed section added)

For 21st century, western Christians, this may seem to be a strange teaching. In this passage, as always in the Bible, it is important to look for the Word that God would have us discover within the words of scripture.

Reading Leviticus too literally can become problematic.  For instance, most Christians are not willing to accept every ruling listed in the Levitical code as applicable for today.[4]  Yet, Leviticus remains a part of our canon and does hold important wisdom for us.  It is, therefore, no great leap to believe that the same corruption of the heart that makes us willing to exploit people would also cause us to become blind to our own culpability in whatever is making the land ill. We have seen the environmental impact human action has brought upon our planet in the past two centuries.  Should we really be surprised by the biblical message informing us that our moral sin can cause the land to become ill?  Indeed, climate scientists have been cautioning us for decades that we must repent—we must change how we live and begin to walk a different path—or the land may become too sick to sustain human life as we know it.  We may well find ourselves vomited out from the land.

Strangely, as much as this reasoning is guided by modern science, and even common sense, we humans seem incapable of accepting its wisdom, or of working together to deal with it. Our distrust of one another, and our greed for power and for material wealth, blind us to the opportunity for good that God has set before us.

In this, I believe the doctrine of discovery is instructive. This morally flawed doctrine provided western culture with a false and dangerous Euro-Christian ethic for taking land from indigenous people. It also authorized any actions needed to subdue the local residents. In practice this included enslaving them, or shaming them for not being European in language and culture. It is important for us to see that this western worldview rationalizes the creation of colonies, with all the damage that colonization causes, for the purpose of enriching the people from the old world.

That being the case, this same exploitative worldview is also quick to rationalize practices that damage God’s creation. Both the exploiting of people and the exploiting of the land are things colonizers do for their own benefit. It is the opposite of “love your neighbor as yourselves.” In essence, it is a refusal to acknowledge the other, whether other people or other parts of creation, as a valid neighbor.

Similarly, Americans would love for the climate change problem to be dealt with, but “not in my backyard.”  None of our coal, oil or natural gas producing regions want to let go of the profits and jobs fossil fuels bring to their region.  The fact that their grandchildren will certainly suffer if they do not seems impossible to grasp.

Some are like the citizens at the time of Noah; they simply deny calamity is coming.

Others are more like the people of Israel and Judah as the armies of Babylon and Assyria threatened. They pray to God to save them but refuse the prophets’ message that God is calling each of us, and all of us, to take responsibility for our own actions.

These biblical stories, like the passages we have already looked at, are also clearly connected to the land. They tell us that the people of Noah’s day perished from this earth; and that the people of Israel and Judah were conquered and taken away from the land they loved.

Repentance is inconvenient. More than that, it is usually quite hard.  Destructive though it is, denial is usually easier.  Indeed, as we look at the doctrine of discovery, and see how the Supreme Court of the United States passed it into law in years past,[5] we must recognize how our own ancestors have passed on their ethno-centrism and greed up to our generation.

But what if there were other passages we should be listening to besides those that caution us against sin and its consequences? Can’t our spiritual health be guided as much by passages of hope as they are by passages of warning? Lately, I have been turning to Genesis 11:1-9 for hope.

This is the famous Tower of Babel passage.  This passage tells us about humans who were so united by language and culture that they came to believe they could harness the earth’s power to make themselves like God.  As they developed their technology and built their tower, God saw their arrogance and sin and decided to take action.  God then confused their languages and scattered them across the earth, so that they could no longer build a city of such technology and power.

Christians, like Jews, have always claimed that God loves us and is always at work for our salvation. Should we not consider it a gift that God divided the people according to languages and cultures? How, then, might we understand this the confusion of languages and worldviews as a gift from our loving and saving God? Let me suggest the following.

First, God has divided us into many peoples. Therefore, no one people has all the wisdom. In humility therefore, we need to look for the gifts other peoples have to share with us. Sharing, after all, is a biblical value: in sharing together the early church demonstrated a new way of being God’s people; further, it is in our shared unity that we share in the fullness of Christ’s body.

Second, our Lord tells us,

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant." (Matthew 20:25-26).

Dominating power should not be an acceptable goal for gauging human success or happiness. Human relationships that fail to honor the essence of another culture, person, or creature of this earth, will not lead to happiness or health. This should change the ethics that guide how we build our societies and our economies. Slave labor, or subjugated labor in any form, is unethical.

Third, the Bible reveals God to us as the Trinity, a relational way of being. We should not be surprised if the modern challenges of the planet also challenge us to learn how to collaborate and cooperate better. In so doing we surely learn more about being created as the image of God.

Finally, if the land/sea/air is getting sicker, we should be asking how to respond. How should we repent? It is the repentance of the people that leads to the healing of the land. For Christians, the concerns and ministries related to earth care truly are part and parcel of the concerns and ministries related to the doctrine of discovery. The current crises in each of these areas are consequences of the dominant worldview—a worldview that, unfortunately, shapes its adherents to participate in the exploitation of people and land.

For Christians, the concerns and ministries related to earth care truly are part and parcel of the concerns and ministries related to the doctrine of discovery. The current crises in each of these areas are consequences of the dominant worldview—a worldview that, unfortunately, shapes its adherents to participate in the exploitation of people and land.

As Christians, we put our trust in God who created and loves all things. As we put our trust in God, we let go of any trust in happiness that is based on lording it over others. Instead, we embrace the biblical vision that calls us to love God, and to love neighbor as self.

In this generation, loving God and neighbor includes repentance from the doctrine of discovery and the worldview that generated it. It includes being purposeful in seeking out allies, who are interested in new experiments for living into a just future. We expect those allies will come from a variety of cultural backgrounds, because we recognize the variety of gifts God has placed in different peoples. Indeed, our efforts with our allies will be to learn from the past in order to live better into the future, as God guides us. Our goals must be to advocate for needed changes in the dominant culture, to advocate for a stronger response from the faith community, to advance experiments in sustainable human lifestyles, and to build just societies where all creation, including people, thrive together.

Curt Karns is the Executive Presbyter of Yukon Presbytery and former
 Presbyterians for Earth Care Northwest Regional Representative.



 
 
[1] Three major events in the Presbytery of Yukon
  • The New Beginnings Reconciliation Event in 2012, between the Presbytery of Yukon and the St. Lawrence Island Yupik people in Gambell, Alaska;
  • The Presbyterians for Earth Care Regional Conference held in Alaska in 2012, and
  • The Renewal and Healing Event in 2017 between the PC(USA) and the Iñupiaq people, held in conjunction with Kivgiq in Utqiaġvik, Alaska.
 
[2] The Hebrew Bible differentiates between ritual uncleanness and moral uncleanness.  Ritual uncleanness is not about sin, but about something that happens that requires purification.  A good example is the handling of dead bodies. Death is just something that happens; there is no sin attached.  Someone has to deal with the dead bodies, risky though it might be, and purification is prescribed. Moral uncleanness is different, however, bringing spiritual dis-ease both to the person and to the whole of creation.

 
[3] Schlimm, Matthew Richard (2015). This Strange and Sacred Scripture: Wrestling with the Old Testament and Its Oddities. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 118).
 
[4] There are clearly cultural prejudices involved that we should reject today.  For instance, Lev. 27:1-4 clearly indicates that women are only worth 3/5 that of men.  Other passages bar those with disabilities from bringing sacrifices (21:16-23), show ignorance of sexual orientation (20:13), etc.
[5] Johnson v. McIntosh, 1823, followed by many others up to modern times (e.g., City of Sherrill, New York v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 2005).

Thursday, May 4, 2017

PEC Joins March for the Climate

People’s Climate March 2017

Washington, DC


Rick and I arrived at the faith gathering spot for the march, just in front of our nation's Capital, via the Metro. The array of groups in the faith section was broad and it was heartening to see so many people of all faiths together - gathering, meeting old friends and making new ones. There were Indigenous Peoples, Presbyterians, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, secular humanists, pagans who were drumming, chanting and enthusiastically dancing (interestingly assembled next to the Baptists) and more. Amazing to realize we were all committed to advocating for the earth and God’s creation through the lens of our belief.

       
 We lined up on 3rd St about 10:30 AM, holding the PEC banner to gather others and wait for the march to begin at 11:00. The numbers in attendance were such that the faith section did not actually start moving until 12:30 PM!

Although they estimated over 200,000 individuals were walking, it seemed just as many were watching from the sidewalks and rooftops of many of the buildings we walked by. We carried the banner high through the streets of Washington DC. As we walked up Pennsylvania Avenue we circled the White House and ended our walk about 3:30 PM at the Washington Monument.
 


One moving event we experienced happened at 2:00 PM as the marchers circled the White House. Everyone sat down in the street in silence. We all then executed a heartbeat, for over a minute, to symbolize mother earth’s beating heart. The heartbeat echoed through the silence. The march then continued as all arose and shouted our call to care for the environment.
 


Attending and participating gives us hope that we are not the only ones in this fight and that together we honor God’s creation and WILL make a difference!
 


Jo and Rick Randolph    

Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church


Overland Park, KS