At the very first 350 Interfaith Climate Change Committee Meeting, the twenty of us in attendance, from a variety of faiths, described why each of our religious groups would care about climate change.
What followed was an hour filled with twenty unique ways to care, from twenty wonderful spiritual perspectives. Sitting there I couldn’t help thinking that if we asked another billion people we would probably get another billion equally inspiring and varied stories about loving the world and loving one’s god in a billion different ways. We get to share with one another the beauty from the marrow of this life. We only have one life; a beautiful life that exists alongside billions of others. If we’re lucky, we can experience deep connections to those other beautiful lives.
An integral part of faith is acknowledgement of this interconnectedness to the lives and land our existence shares, which is larger than any of us. In some sense, faith is the belief that we matter and are cared for in an intrinsic way, and that we have the capacity to care deeply for others. It is the belief that each of us has a chance to care for and to do something for the world in which we love. No matter who or what it is we love in this existence, it is a love we are privileged to experience at the very least during our time upon Earth.
There are infinite ways to love this world. Thousands of religions. Thousands of ways to know that we and the world around us are meaningful. A vast web of beautifully complex creatures who carry the different meanings of these faiths within their hearts in unique ways.
What is the intersection is between faith and climate change? It is each one of us as we decide every day what exactly it means to live out meaningful lives as creatures on this planet. The Earth is the commonality in the diverse array of ways we are meaningful. Because this earth is the place in which we love, and how could that possibly be anything other than sacred? Caring for this earth, as it cares for us and fills our hearts in all of their unique ways to love, is about relationship. With the earth and with one another. For me each day, caring for the earth is how I both love my neighbor and my God. Doing something about climate change is doing something for the world that I love, for the world in which I love, for the world in which others love, and for the world where our unique ways of carrying out what it means to love is unbreakably interconnected. We are not objects subjected to the whims of the world around us. We are creatures, powerfully and wonderfully created, and the things we do matter infinitely. We are not passive objects of the earth. We are unique beings, cognizant of our existence in uniquely powerful ways. The things we do to and on this earth are intimately linked to the people we share this earth with, as well as the ones that are to come. Our actions reverberate. But we are all given the chance to care for one another during our time on earth, for that which matters deeply to others. To love this world is to love one another.
As Walt Whitman wrote, “those who love each other shall become invincible.” That indeed is overwhelming. Faith is what transforms our way of seeing the world and seeing ourselves and others within it. And this sight might just be exactly what we need to address the things that terrify us, particularly if one of those things is a global climate change that threatens the world in which we love and have found meaning.
I think God is within every moment we don’t think we are thinking about God.
To me, God is in each breath I take; in every person I meet; in a morning’s fallen leaves whose corners are painted with frost that takes one’s breath away (if only we remember to look).
One of 350 Spokane’s board members made a beautiful “ribbon tree”, with a sign next to it prompting the passerby to write down on a ribbon something they love that is threatened by climate change, then to tie their ribbon to the tree and to take someone else’s ribbon and vow to protect the threatened thing that they love. What a beautiful connection that is!
I think love is our best tool for overcoming the despair that can come from confronting the enormous challenge of anthropogenic climate change. When actions to address climate change come from a place of love, it is as inexhaustible as the diverse array of religions and meanings it stems from, empowering the collective as it breaks barriers in a divided world.
It is here that actions we take to address climate change become more than a last-hope effort to stop the inevitable. This is when each of us becomes, as Mother Teresa said, “a pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” This letter may look a bit different from faith to faith, but the diversity is an integral part of its strength. It displays the inexhaustible amount of ways to love the world and to care for one another when we recognize that our shared earth makes us irreversibly connected.
I am certain of this because listening to the multitude of ways faith has been leading individuals at the first Interfaith meeting to care about climate change was one of the most humbling, therapeutic, meaningful, and uplifting moments I’ve had. Despite the difference in our Creation stories, faith is the belief that we matter to an entity larger than ourselves.
Isn’t this unbreakable link to that which is larger yet inclusive of ourselves the very thing that daunts and despairs us most about facing climate change? What if we could let it do the opposite, let it empower us to act? I think this is exactly what faith enables us to do; it can be the transformative force in our lives that gives us the confidence and optimism we need to meet the climate problem, each of us as a loving part of the world.
There is more to fight for, and we have a greater capacity to fight, when we realize the ways we relate on the most meaningful level to those we share this existence with. There is no end to what all we are enabled to do to when we love one another by caring for the world which we share. It gives me great hope to know our souls are anchored to one another and to the world in which we exist, because I know God has always given our hearts the capacity to love. No matter the differences in our faiths, I’m confident that we will face the climate challenge together and for one another.