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Instead of waiting for the next generation to ask us these questions, perhaps too late, I would like to ask each of us, as followers of Jesus, as co-inhabitors of this beautiful earth God has bestowed upon us: do we truly understand the urgency of this moment?
When I learned about the Civil Rights Movement as a young kid I asked everyone I knew who was alive in the sixties if they had been a part of the movement. Perhaps this was naïve, but for a child who grew up long after the Civil Rights Act had shaped our country’s laws and affirmative action was an established cultural practice, I thought there was only one side of history the adults in my life would have been on. I remember being a bit disappointed by my parent’s semi-neutral responses. Why had they not marched in Selma? Had they not sensed the urgency of the moment? Why didn’t they remember more than just watching the events of the Civil Rights Movement unfold in the newspapers or on the evening news?
Later in my education, I seemed to divide the seasoned religious leaders I encountered into two separate camps: those who participated in the civil rights movement and those who just watched. This narrow evaluation of others challenged me to think about my own involvement—both as a follower of Jesus and as a citizen—in the current issues of my time. I often ask myself, what will my children ask me in twenty years? Will they be proud of me or semi-disappointed by my lack of action?
I believe one movement today with the same significance, the same potential to reshape our nation and our relationship with others, is the environmental movement. One day our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, will ask us, “What did you do to save the earth?” or perhaps they might ask us more simply, “Were you green?”
I am sure one day my children will criticize me for driving a mini-van and ask why we didn’t own a hybrid earlier. They may ask how I could have just watched some of our neighbors throw out piles of trash week after week and not confronted them about recycling more. It will be difficult to explain the challenges I faced and the complex choices before me during this time. For example: Is it better to live in an old house that leaks like a sieve in the winter than build a new, more efficient home which requires more natural resources to create? Will my children be satisfied to know that we did many things in our older home to increase its efficiency, like lower the water heater’s temperature, change the filters in the old furnace regularly, and make sure all the windows were sealed properly? Will they be satisfied if I answer their earnest questions with, “Well I was using canvas bags for ten years before everyone else was. And I used cloth diapers for all of you. And heck, I was the first person on the street to install solar panels” I’m not sure. My guess is that like most teenagers they will be critical. But perhaps underneath their critique they will really be asking if I grasped the urgency of the moment? This is a question I am not sure I can answer honestly.
Instead of waiting for the next generation to ask us these questions, perhaps too late, I would like to ask each of us (especially myself), as followers of Jesus, as co-inhabitors of this beautiful earth God has bestowed upon us: do we truly understand the urgency of this moment? Are we ignoring the climate crisis that scientists around the globe are describing? Is this a top priority in our individual lives and in our life as community or are we ruled by old habits, conveniences, and an unwillingness to change?
Thankfully, there are some faithful folks out there who are really trying to answer this question. If all you do is follow them, you will be taking a step in the right direction. Check out their urgency:
Peace to you on this scary journey.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.