This year, Hanukkah and Christmas Eve are scheduled to begin on the same date (Dec. 24th) — with Hanukkah continuing through New Year's Day. It's always nice when religious holidays overlap to remind us of the congruity between traditions and provide an opportunity to relate familiar teachings and values. It's also a great opportunity for faith communities to join together on a common cause like climate change, or other social justice issues that impact both communities.
Climate change affects Christian and Jewish communities in the same way, and that's why leaders from both traditions have remained powerful voices in the fight against climate change. From some of Blessed Tomorrow's newest leaders such as Rabbi Jonah Pesner to founding partners like Rev. Jim Wallis, faith leaders have offered strong direction to change the way we talk about climate change in America's major faith traditions.
Aligning those common calls to action has never been more important than it is now. On January 20th, President-Elect Donald Trump will take office in the White House, where he has promised to dismantle countless climate solutions implemented under the Obama administration. Here’s what you can do about it.
With Christmas and Hanukkah just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start interfaith community building in your town to develop a plan of action for the coming year (and we’ll show you exactly how to do it). Hanukkah is an eight-day festival of lights that is full of themes on the resilience of the faithful and their responsibility to care for G-d's creation. Hanukkah stories of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees are shared with Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians in the “Old Testament.”
Scriptural alignment (though not necessary) offers common ground for faith communities to meet on but as the threat of climate change increases with every passing year, the chance to rebuild our climate becomes increasingly more difficult. America's fight for the climate is at a tipping point and in dire need of cohesive action across faith communities. But where do you begin?
For starters, you can host an event, and invite your neighboring congregations to join in the celebrations. This will allow you to share your tradition with other communities and begin a climate discussion that connects your shared values on climate change. Here are four steps to turn your holiday season into a festive climate collaboration with your neighbors.
1. Host an interfaith event
Blessed Tomorrow has produced this helpful guide for you to host a successful climate event in any size community. Hanukkah and Christmas offer many opportunities to welcome other faith communities into your house of worship for climate leadership events such as potlucks, speaking engagements, and religious services. This is a great way to get the climate conversation started and meet new people in the process.
2. Build an interfaith team
Creation Care committees are often limited to one house of worship, but who says you can't just as easily build an interfaith committee with neighboring congregations? Not only will this help you build a stronger dialogue with your neighbors, it also allows both communities to pool resources and reach a larger audience of people in other communities.
3. Design an effective communications strategy
Using ecoAmerica's many trusted guides, you may develop a communications strategy based on tested and marketable materials to effectively engage the greatest number of people. Here’s a guide to get you started!
4. Take action!
Now that you've built a strong team of climate leaders, you may develop a unique plan of action that involves both communities. Commit to enacting this plan together in the new year and start 2017 strong! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Call or write your electric power utility company to ask them to switch to wind- or solar-powered electricity. Written statements signed by religious leaders are especially impactful and make people listen.
- Submit joint articles written by faith leaders from both communities. Faith leaders are trusted sources for moral guidance and often have easier access to local publications considering their established influence.
- Petition municipal officials to require sustainable retrofits and design of buildings through ordinances and executive orders. Creating change is often easier on the local level.
- Lobby state representatives to vote in favor of renewable energy by scheduling meetings with them to explain how important swift climate action is to you and your congregation.
- Urge your senators to strengthen the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions from coal-burning plants, oil refineries, and vehicles.
- Craft climate sermons as often as possible, but commit to a number. Whether it's every week or once per month, setting a goal to consistently speak about climate change will make you more likely to follow through on it.
- Sign up with Blessed Tomorrow and join the hundreds of faith leaders and congregations across the US who have committed to climate action. You'll be given exclusive invites to our leadership events, access to our tested materials, and much more!
Encourage your congregation to repeat this list over and over again until we turn the tide on climate change. They, too, can make phone calls, write letters, and vote with the creation in mind. Start building the next generation of climate leaders who will take responsibility for G-d's creation in the coming years. Let this be more than an opportunity to answer a moral call to act on climate. Let this be a time to join faith communities in a way that will bind them for generations to come. Happy Holidays!
Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.
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