Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Coming Together for the Common Good

Stories about division and conflict among religious groups are hardly news because they are all too common. So examples of diverse religious groups joining efforts are all the more important because of their rarity. The call to reduce greenhouse gas production 80% by 2050 should be old news by now, but the current support for that effort from religious groups in Massachusetts is noteworthy because of the remarkable diversity of the groups involved. From Unitarian Universalists to Quakers, from mainline Protestants to the Armenian church and beyond Christianity to Jews and Muslims, religious organizations within the state have found common ground and formed the Massachusetts Interfaith Climate Action Network , calling upon believers to take up the cause of caring for the planet with a religious zeal.

As long as one accepts the mounting scientific evidence, a strong argument for changing our behavior in relation to the environment can be built simply from consideration of self-interest, or at least the interests of our children and our children's children. Religions might add beliefs about a deity's involvement in creating the universe or an on-going concern for more than the human species on the planet, but the truly uniting element is a concern for the common good. While religion is not required to have a concern for others, those of us who are religious need to hear that message of inclusion at least as loudly as the doctrines that can lead us to exclusivity. The inclusiveness of the call from the Massachusetts Interfaith Climate Action Network is seen not just in the way that these diverse groups are coming together but also in the particular emphasis of their call.

The group's efforts include the expected elements of support for cleaner energy sources and conservation. Interestingly, they are also calling attention to an environmental issue too often neglect; the fact that poor people suffer disproportionately. Perhaps it is the addition of the religious imagination that brought this into focus. Regardless of the source, we need to heed the call to prioritize care for the poor and investment in low-income communities. In particular, we should invest in training and support for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those coming out of the prison system, to obtain jobs in the growing green sector. It is also critical to distribute funding and resources that increase community energy self-reliance, particularly investing in community organizations in low-income communities. This sort of vision takes into account the fact that the burden of change so necessary for the future needs to be distributed not equally, but fairly. Those best able to afford the costs should bear them. This vision also finds hope that in the process of addressing a problem in one area we might also find solutions in another.

These types of efforts ought to find broad support if even just for the positive impact they have in providing hope. We should be buoyed by hope when we do the work of creating a better tomorrow. Likewise, we should rejoice in endeavors that bring us together across boundaries. In this way we create the kind of community that can build a better world well into the future.


sojoman said...

Climate issues are essential to everything we do. And I applaud those that can put their theology aside to make things happen. Isn't that an intersting sentence...put theology aside to make things happen. Christianity could be about so much more. We could be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Us fundamentalist Bible thumpers could thump the Bible and then go out and do the text.And isn't it funny how non Christians get stuff done. They don't need a theological litmus test before they go pick up trash or walk for breast cancer. Your post illustrates an unpopular truth-Christians have difficulty getting things done if they don't line up on every issue.

daveblogger said...
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Georgy N Joseph said...
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