Monday, January 28, 2008

Faith in things unseen, but not in things staring you in the face

So yesterday at church, the worship-leader gave a little mini-sermon about how if we just went all totalitarian on humanity's ass, we could save ourselves from global warming. I'm sure he didn't mean it this way, I'm sure he meant well, but among the litany of solutions to climate change he recited were requiring that everyone have a hybrid car, no one be allowed to have more than two children, reducing square footage of homes, and ending the practice of attending your favorite sporting events, since HDTV will make it more enjoyable --and realistic -- to watch on TV than attend anyway.

Even though I agree with most of those ideas, I found myself raising an eyebrow at the strident call for enforcement. Heck, I purposefully didn't have kids so that you can. But outside of the fact that there's no money yet to pay for any programs to make changes (establishment of light rail, increasing waterway commercial use, more help on making hybrid cars and renewable-energy affordable for everyone) and that we'd have to start yesterday to even have a prayer of making a dent, I also know that this being Oklahoma, which is probably still a Democratic state because we're all stubborn like donkeys, people round these parts don't cotton to anyone telling them what to do.

But therein lies the fine line, between forcing people and inspiring them. (As one of my seminary pals says, "I like to grab people by the short hairs and tell them that if they'd stop struggling and just follow along, it'll hurt less.") The trick is making people want to do something, or make them they came up with the idea themselves. There's also the problem dealing with perceived vs. real risk, specifically that we under-react to long-term or risks or risks that are slow to threaten us, while we over-react to immediate ones. The trick is to make people view the far-off as a now.

Quite honestly, who better than organized religion, most of which specialize in eschatological anticipation (the Abrahamic ones, anyway), to get the world off its collective butt to face climate change head on? They're pretty good at turning dispair into hope, at getting people to think about intangibles. Also, there (should be) no conflict of interest and they're multinational.

I know many organized religions are already starting to take this issue on, but how do we ramp it up? What do we focus on, how does the message get out there? What else/more/other should religion be doing to deal with climate change?

1 comment:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I had an argument with a young man - about 20 years ago - who held similar views to your worship leader. To my mind, what came across was a lack of understanding of the viewpoint from what was still called then "the developing world". There is a serious argument, heard not just back in the days when Marxism was given at least verbal assent by some Third World countries but still today, that much of the environmental movement and the arguments concerning the inherent dangers in economic growth and industrial expansion are a kind of imperialism-by-proxy, a way to keep former colonies from competing on the world stage. As I tried to explain this argument, my interlocutor insisted that the issue of environmental degradation was so profound that he "didn't care" how other people felt. He knew he was right, and if he had to force others to live in a way they did not wish to live, that was the price for human survival.

I realized I was in the presence of a monomaniacal fanatic. Far better to say, "Good on you, mate," and walk away.