Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Family Tree: Rooted in the Earth

In response to Sarah Palin's recent claims that climate change is based on "junk science and doomsday scare tactics pushed by an environmental priesthood," Al Gore said that "global warming is not a political issue but a moral one,” he said. Which is it? Is it immoral to do nothing about global warming?

A Family Tree: Rooted in the Earth
One of the most foundational stories in Christianity is the story of Adam and Eve. Their story begins as God forms humanity from out of the dust of the earth. For Christians, our identity is derived from our origins found in the dust of the earth. Humans are irrevocably tied to the earth and to all of creation which was brought forth from the same earth. We are tied to the waters, to every animal of the field, and to every bird of the air. And for this reason Christians and humans have a moral imperative to act against global climate change. We must act to preserve the earth because the earth is who we are.

We are becoming increasingly aware of our lineage, sprung forth out of the earth, as climate crisis threatens. As the earth warms, both drought and flood inhibit the ability of farmers to produce crops. And with the pangs of hunger and starvation our relationship with the earth and our common ancestry from the dust become agonizingly apparent. As glaciers melt, communities around the world will find that the nourishing waters are no longer springing forth from the earth. And with the pain of thirst, our common ancestry from the dust becomes more readily apparent. As global water levels rise, many communities’ ability to merely dwell on the dust from which they came is threatened. And in the midst of exile we are reminded again of our common ancestry from the dust.

It is our moral duty and imperative duty as humans to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsting, and to give shelter to the homeless. We do this because the hungry, thirsting, and homeless are who we are, they are human. In this same way, it is our duty as humans to act to alleviate climate crisis because the earth is who we are.

The beginning is important because it tells us about the end. Not only is our past tied to a relationship with the earth, but our future as well. Our future and hope lies in our terrestrial identity. Our hope is that life will again spring forth from the earth. Especially in this time of ecological distress, our future rests on the earth’s ability to nourish us. Therefore, humanity must move forward aware of our earthly identity and act to combat global climate crisis.

Leia Mais…

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The People’s Decorations for the People’s House

Christmas decorations at the White House include a crèche in the East Room (despite reports that White House social secretary Desirée Rogers suggested that the Obamas were planning a "non-religious Christmas.") Should the White House, whose residents serve all Americans, display a crèche or a menorah or any strictly religious symbols during the holidays?

The People’s Decorations for the People’s House

Since President Obama moved in, he has placed an emphasis on the White House as “the people’s house.” In doing so, the President has emphasized the name by which the home was called before the “White House” caught on. Yet, the display of the traditional White House crèche does not symbolize the President’s estate as the people’s house. Indeed, the White House is the people’s house and its decorations during the holiday season should represent the people whom it claims.

The crèche, itself, was given to the White House in 1967 and certainly does not represent the people of the United States in 2009. In the summer of 1967 race riots raged across the country, most notably the 12th street riot in Detroit where 43 people died. In the 42 years since the crèche was given to the White House, the country has grown radically in its racial, ethnic, and religious diversity to an extent which must have been inconceivable in 1967. Not to mention, the crèche itself is an 18th century Italian work. (Where is the outcry about the display of the anti-American propaganda crèche in the White House?) With the first black president in office, this crèche seems incapable of representing the people of the United States in the here and now. The decorations of the White House during this holiday season must represent the people of the United States here and now. That means decorations from the diversity of religions practiced in the United States and it means Christmas decorations that represent the diversity of Christian expressions now present in the United States.

The White House made great strides in working towards a holiday season which includes and represents the people of the United States when Michelle Obama sent off old ornaments from past White House holiday seasons. They were shipped off to 60 different communities around the country who decorated them with local landmarks and sent them back to the White House to be used. If the White House can be so geographically representative in its holiday decorations, why can’t it be just as religiously representative?

We must also remember that the Obama family is a part of the people who claim the White House as their own. And the White House should be decorated in a way which represents the Obamas. In particular, as a household with two small children the White House should be decorated in a way which helps to express and form their family’s faith. This means decorating the White House with explicitly Christian decorations (the faith tradition which the Obama’s have always claimed) and with decorations which are true to the family’s tradition itself. A crèche that had been traditionally used by the family would be much more appropriate than a crèche from the Lyndon Johnson administration. An authentic expression of faith in decorating the White House would be refreshing and would set an honest precedent for living into the ideal of the White House as “the people’s house.”

Leia Mais…

Monday, December 7, 2009

Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, a Minaret

Q: What's your reaction to Sunday's decision by voters in Switzerland to ban construction of minarets, the slender towers from which Muslims are called to daily prayers?

Look Away, Look Away, Look Away, A Minaret
I can appreciate the power of symbol, in particular the power of public symbols. I come from South Carolina, a state where the government still flies the confederate battle flag on the grounds of the state house. Through years of heated debate and significant economic boycotts the state has continued to fly this flag, a symbol of hate used to create and promote an environment of fear amongst both the state’s population of color and whites. While one might argue that this prominent display of this flag is merely symbolic, it has real consequences as it takes the existing fears and magnifies them spreading fear and oppression into that state’s future. Yes, symbols have power in our culture.

While it may appear that the Swiss ban on minarets is an attack on an Islamic symbol, it is in of itself a symbolic act. It may appear that this piece of legislation is merely symbolic. This ban is a fearful act and is symbolic in the same way that the continual presence of the confederate battle flag on the state house grounds in Columbia is a fearful act. This ban takes existing, irrational, and hateful fears and magnifies and spreads them. And not only does the fear of Islam spread but Muslim’s fear spreads. And a nation, like a state, is divided and pushed apart as people move into the future in fear.

But we do not have to choose symbolic acts which promote fear. In my religious tradition, as we approach Christmas during the Advent season, there is a sense of hope of what is to come on Christmas. Yet, if we are honest, there is also an element of fear. For us, as Christ comes into the world, Christ brings something new and unknown, something we do not know. But ultimately, we proclaim that when God comes into the world our hopes are fulfilled. God chooses hope over fear. And so, as we face an unknown future we are empowered to choose hope over fear. We are called to symbols of hope, not fear, so that this same hope might be magnified and spread in the face of the fears we all possess.

Leia Mais…