Religious Groups Mobilize At People’s Climate March

BY ON September 15, 2014

Religion books

The list of partnering organizations for the People’s Climate March is extensive — over 1,000 groups have signed on to march on Sunday. It includes parent and family advocates, students, healthcare workers, environmentalists, anti-fracking supporters, political clubs, and members of faith based communities. The march is poised to become a history maker.

Religious groups of all denominations will be represented by a large segment of marchers. This will include Unitarian Universalists, Protestant/Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Humanists, and Indigenous peoples. What they have in common is a shared belief in a moral responsibility for “stewardship of the earth.”

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

I reached out to activist and rabbi, Arthur Waskow, to get his input. He is serving as the point person to a continuum of representatives in the Jewish community.

Involved in social issues since the tumultuous Sixties, Rabbi Waskow has been immersed in the climate issue for the past eight years. His Shalom Center is part of the Jewish environmental network, Green Hevra, which is working to bring attention to the challenges. He also offered interesting insights, gleaned from Biblical writings, on the subject of the environment.

Speaking specifically about the Jewish religion, Rabbi Waskow said, “The Bible focuses on people’s relationship to the earth. The Jews were originally shepherds and farmers, rooted in the land. All the holidays and festivals are connected to the cycles of the earth.”

Referencing the Garden of Eden parable, Rabbi Waskow interprets it as a story exemplifying a lack of self-restraint. Adam and Eve were presented with abundance, yet still wanted the forbidden apple. “That’s the story of the Gulf of Mexico,” Waskow suggested, pointing to the BP oil disaster where “people were killed, and animals were damaged.”

Waskow told me, “All traditions call for protecting the earth. It’s our religious obligation. The earth and the human race are in danger. It’s our task to make the changes, and our job to repair it.”

For Jews, this year and this month have a special meaning. The Jewish New Year begins the third week in September. The sabbatical year, known as the seventh year, occurs on September 25. This is a call (Chapter 25 – Leviticus) for a “sabbath of rest unto the land.” The text warns that if you don’t, the result will be negative. As Rabbi Waskow put it, “It will create trouble. And we are already in very serious trouble.” He pegged the actions of “big companies” and “greed” as core culprits.

Waskow said, “The Koran is filled with gorgeous celebrations of the creation. Buddhists are charged with protecting all life. It all translates into the same modality—healing and protecting the earth.”

To Rabbi Waskow, fracking is “an assault on the earth,” creating both “regional and planetary damage.” He sees renewables as the direction to go in. He also mentioned that The Shalom Center is undertaking an initiative that focuses on moving money out of the sphere of supporting oil, coal, and gas—both fiscally and in terms of daily practice.

At the rally, each religion will be offering traditions from their faith. The Jewish shofar will be sounded. Rabbi Waskow called the blowing of the ram’s horn, a “call to action for sleepers to awake.”

Rabbi Waskow was definitive about the fact that he believes the upcoming march has the potential to be a major turning point that will change the dialogue. “We are,” he said, “at that point.”

There will be an interfaith service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at 6:00 p.m on Sunday.



TOPICS: Activism, Religion