Faith is a powerful motivation for many people heading to New York for the People’s Climate March on Sunday. Thousands of people of faith will march to prevent a moral issue – climate change.
What would Jesus Christ think about marching through the streets along with some who may not be Christians? “He’d probably lead the march,” answered Dan Terpstra, an active member of the Presbyterian Church USA from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “I can’t help but believe that he wouldn’t have much sympathy for those whose business plan is destroying the climate. His sympathy would rest with those – the least of these – who will be most impacted by that destruction.” Terpstra and his college-age son Ben are making the climate march a family trip.
University of Maryland graduate student, Rachel Loraine Lamb, the daughter of a Baptist pastor says her parents taught her to love God with all her heart, soul, strength and mind. That’s why she feels compelled to care for others by also caring for God’s creation. “Climate change is one of the most significant threats to both marginalize people (those least able to adapt) as well as to the environment itself. Therefore, I feel that if I truly love God and desire to love what God loves, then I should do all I can to fight for life, health and justice.”
Grandmother, Joy Jamison is headed to the march from her comfortable home in Louisville, Kentucky. She already writes letters to the editor, volunteers at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, gives educational talks in her community and prays for those in need. But from her perspective, it’s not enough without taking part in the collective effort of the People’s Climate March. “I think about my grandkids. I think, ‘what is the world going to be like for them?’” Her youngest grandchild is just three and a half years old. Jamison decided that at age 74, she’s called to march in New York just as she did last year in Washington.
Major world religions include references to environmental stewardship. Rabbi Moti Rieber pointed out the passage from Genesis 2:15 in the Torah that explains God put man in the garden of Eden in order to tend it. He also noted that a scripture passage in Deuteronomy chapter 20 cautions against destroying an enemy’s fruit trees, even in a time of conflict. This passage is a basis for the concept of bal tashchit which means “do not destroy” what God has established.
Rieber explained, “Throughout history, Jewish tradition has been concerned for the lives of people and the availability of resources that enable human life. Values such as bal tashchit and pikuach nefesh (which references the obligation to preserve human life) remind us that the world is not for us to use up, but is for us to continue to maintain for the benefit of ourselves, our children and future generations.” Rieber leads the Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation and serves as coordinator of Kansas Interfaith Power & Light. The husband and father of three plans to head to New York for the People’s Climate March from his home in Overland Park.
Sharing these sentiments, many Christians have joined Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. Prayer will be an important part of the march event. “It’s my wish that our presence at the march can be a witness to the hope that we have in Christ,” says, Western Theological Seminary student, Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, who plans to attend the march with the Young Evangelicals. Mayaard-Schaap explains how his relationship with Jesus Christ calls him to act on climate. “To me, to be an evangelical is to believe deeply in the good news. Mayaard-Schaap says he looks forward to having conversations with people of different belief systems at the climate march. He wants to dispel some myths. That good news is that Jesus Christ is reconciling all things to himself, including his entire creation.” He’s concerned about injustice for the most vulnerable people who have already suffered the most from climate destruction.
The mistaken idea that faith and science are incompatible is one that evangelical Christian and climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe has been dispelling. When asked why climate matters from a Christian perspective, she answered, “Caring about climate is entirely compatible with our core values: caring for others in this world who don’t have the resources we do and who will be most harmed by the impact we are having on our planet and the places where we live and grow our food.” Hayhoe and her husband, Pastor Andrew Farley, co-authored the book A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. Hayhoe serves as director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. While her schedule won’t allow her to travel to this event, she has been a climate influencer in the faith community and beyond.
For all the ways they differ, people of faith believe that God calls them to care for their neighbors. The People’s Climate March provides an opportunity for a visible display of a conviction to act. People of faith bring the moral and ethical weight of their faith to the issue that goes beyond a secular or humanistic perspective: Not only is it a bad idea to wreck the climate, but for people of faith, it’s also morally WRONG!
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Vigil photo: Anne Brock