Bill McKibben Turns Toward Faith Leaders for Climate Hope

Climate action hero, Bill Mckibben penned an article for the Boston Globe – a compelling look at the long history of climate action in Ameican religious traditions. Noting Blessed Tomorrow leaders, Mary Evalyn Tucker and Jim Antal, Mckibben's reflection dispells misinterpretations that Pope Francis' Encyclical was the first instance in which faith leaders worked for climate action. Jim Antal, Conference Minister and President of United Church of Christ (Massachusetts) for example, has been preaching about climate change for decades, encouraging many institutions to divest from fossil fuels along the way.   

Mckibben notes that many faith leaders have maintained 'consistent threads of stewardship and ecological consciousness' over the decades, rendering them vital to the overall campaign of climate action. Most notable of McKibben's assessment was his statement that faith leaders maintain an 'ability to transform the bleak message of scientists into something that more people can hear.' McKibben, like so many others, understands the role of faith leaders in helping Americans digest, examine and approach a subject that has traditionally been perceived as overwhelming.

What religion can teach climate scientists

Bill McKibben | Boston Globe

Pope Francis’s remarkable encyclical, Laudato Si’, has been rightly hailed as a watershed moment in the climate debate, the moment when religion finally took note of what science had been saying for a couple of decades. As with all watersheds, though, the river at the bottom draws its power from all the creeks that feed in along the way — it’s worth remembering just how many people (a large number of them in Massachusetts) have worked over the years to build a true faith-based environmental movement. How they’ve managed to do it holds lessons for all of us trying to spread the word about climate change. 

Twenty-five years ago, when this work was just getting started, there was nothing easy about it: In liberal churches and synagogues, environmentalism was considered slightly elitist, a task to be gotten to once the serious business of war and hunger had been dealt with. In conservative congregations, anything green was considered a depot on the track to paganism.

But there were always a few people who read Scripture with enough care to find consistent threads of stewardship and ecological consciousness. To see, in fact, that war and hunger and poverty were deeply connected to the earth. And not just in the Judeo-Christian tradition: Harvard, under the leadership of Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, convened a series of remarkable conferences where theologians from Islam, Jainism, Confucianism, and a variety of other global faiths mined their traditions for contributions to an environmental worldview.

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