July 29: Earth Overshoot Day

th

July 29: Earth Overshoot Day

TODAY we cross a dateline for our planet.  The Global Footprint Network calls it the Earth Overshoot Day.   I encourage you to visit their website to learn more at: https://www.footprintnetwork.org/.

Earth Overshoot Day is the date each year when human beings begin to consume more of our natural resources than can be replenished in that year.  July 29th, 209 days into the calendar year, is when we have burnt through the natural resources available to the world’s populations for the year.  For the remaining 164 days of 2019, we will be overdrawing nature’s accounts.  We are writing bogus checks on our world’s future replenishment abilities.  HEbtKI-P_200x200.jpgWe are using up our natural resources 1.75 times faster than they can be replenished! 

I think of it as a tragic environmental Ponzi scheme, a plundering of nature — a using resources which should be set aside for our children and grand children. This over-exploitation increases each year.  We in the United States lead in this extractive exploitation.  If the entire world lived as we do it would take the resources of FIVE EARTHS to provide sufficiency.

Enter Wes Jackson — someone who has been thinking about this dilemma for four decades.  Jackson is co-founder of the Land Institute in Salinas Kansas (Land Institute) Elaine and I stopped to visit on July 15th.  I had read several articles and books he had authored or co-authored.  I knew of his friendship and shared work with Wendell Berry; and, I confess to being more than a little star struck.  After all Wes was one of the early recipients of a MacArthur Fellowship.  I expected our visit to last an hour and then be on my way.  

IMG_0950
Wes Jackson and his “computer” July 2019

In fact we talked through the entire morning.  We toured of the institute research facilities and farm research plots in Salinas.  (Other research goes on around the world where institute scientists are working to discover new paths of regenerative agriculture.) 

I found in Wes a friend… and mentor — someone with a deep concern, clarity about his vocation and a surprising light-heartedness.  He confessed the dilemmas we all face.  The human contradictions faced as we move from our extractive and fossil-fuel based systems.  We laughed often; spoke of authors who had influenced us (Ivan Illich, Walter Brueggemann) and spoke of the need for a broader dialogue between science and religion.  We talked about a possible conference where theologians and scientists might talk about the sustainability of our ecosphere.  I loved it when Wes brought out his “computer” to take notes. It turned out to be his old Underwood typewriter!

I found in Wes Jackson a person who had done more theological thinking about our creatureliness and relationship with the ecosphere than most formal theologians I have known.  It was not a surprise to learn that Wes and John Cobb were friends and correspondents.  There were more than two dozen scientists and interns at The Land Institute at work that morning seeking to establish perennial polycultures. They are developing perennial grains, legumes and oilseed varieties that can be grown together replicating the patterns evident in native ecosystems.

IMG_0953
Wes Jackson at Land Institute, July 2019

We stopped on one hillside and Jackson pointed out the native prairie grasses and the cultivated fields below.  “Modern agriculture” he argued has been moving in ever more destructive ways for the past 10,000 years. The Green Revolution, and the heavy use of nitrogen fertilizers, did produce more in the short term; however at the same time they were depleting the resources of our soil, water and fossil fuels ever more rapidly. 

As we looked out across the fields, I thought of my own experiences in seeking to encourage our United Methodist Churches in Indiana to consider the gifts of creation and to work toward living more faithfully as those who are to care for the earth as God’s gift.  I recalled with sadness the ways leaders in the Indiana Annual Conference blocked small pieces of legislation designed to encourage care for the creation.  We were told that such efforts were “too political.”
I left the Institute with a commitment to find ways to bring theological educators into greater conversation and relationship with the folks in Salinas.

On this Earth Overshoot Day, I give thanks for the true “master theologians” of our time like Wes Jackson.  I don’t think he would like the title.  In fact he told me he had been “excommunicated” from his United Methodist Church in Kansas several years earlier by a pastor who considered him a heretic.  I wish the church had more heretics like him.  Maybe with time we will.  Let’s work to make this happen sooner rather than later.

On Earth As In Heaven

On Earth As In Heaven

As a preacher I am blessed to hear a great sermon.  I know the challenge of crafting words and theology designed to move believers to live more faithfully or welcome unbelievers into the faith.  Fortunately, I hear such preaching often as I travel or attend worship at my home congregation St. Marks United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Indiana. 

Recently I heard one such finely crafted and moving sermon delivered by one of my pastors, the Rev. Jimmy Moore.  I invite you to read it, to consider the wisdom it contains and to be moved by his call to live with a more robust theology of Creation.  Here it is:

Creation Groans, Creation Glories

[Prior to this sermon, Rev. Moore Interviewed Dr. Jeffrey White, Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Director of the Integrated Program on the Environment at Indiana University.  This interview is available through St. Marks United Methodist in Bloomington.]

Sermon:  I want to tell you about a friend of mine.  She is great.  She is one of the most reliable friends I have ever had.  When my dad died when I was fourteen, she was there for me.  She just didn’t place any restrictions on what I needed.  When I reached my late-thirties and had a time of depression she was there for me.  She just said, “you come and be where I am, and you don’t need to say anything. Just be here and it is fine.” She is intriguing. She is graceful, and she is full of mystery and wonder.  And her name is Nature.  I have found that she has a really big job to do.  This is a big world with a lot of people in it.  She helps feed and clothe this world. 

I think that part of what I needed to know this week is that she is still present for me.  You see, this is not how I expected this sermon to begin.  This has been one of the more challenging weeks in my pastoral ministry.  Some of that I won’t be talking about and some of that I will.  I am doing a funeral tomorrow night for a family Mary Beth and I know.  This is public story, so I am not speaking out of turn, but a twenty-three-year-old man took his life. Then on Thursday, one of you called me to let me know there was a seven-month-old baby in Riley Hospital who was nearing the end of her life.  The family wanted a baptism. I went over there, was with this family and baptized this baby who is still on life support, only so that her organs can be harvested for other children in the hospital.

Often during the week I wonder how what is happening the week is going to run into what is going to happen on Sunday morning.  I didn’t see this one coming… but my heart has been super heavy and full.  My mind knows it is not smart enough for what I’m having to deal with.  I needed my friend.  So, ironically, I was doing a wedding in Greenwood and because I am not of good cheer when I drive up Indiana highway #37 (with all the construction), I drove through Nashville and up Highway 135. And the woods were there.  And, she brought some of her healing… and I will need more.  And so, will some of these people. 

What I will tell you is that I know most of you here.  I know you and I know if you had a friend and someone was treating your friend badly, you would intercede.  My friend needs help.  My friend needs you.  So, I actually do believe that the Doctrine of Creation is as potent for us as the Doctrine of Redemption.  It tells us how we are here and how God’s life breathed into the life of the world, and breathes still. 

Dr. White, in our interview, used the word, “sanctuary.”  I told the Sunday School class this morning if someone vandalized this room with ugly graffiti, you would be livid.  I would be.  Yet, the world is our sanctuary.  The cosmos is our sanctuary.  I do not believe it is the will of Jesus for us to ignore the fact that this world is in need.  I think one of the things that happened in the Christian tradition is that in earlier translations of Genesis, the word “dominion” was used to describe what humans were to be given in terms of our responsibilities in creation – we had “authority.”  I think that came subtly, and not so subtly, to mean we could do whatever blessed thing we wanted to do with the world and it would be alright.  More recently those who study scripture are liking and valuing the word “stewardship” more than “dominion.”   Stewardship says we have this care, this gift that has been given to us. 

I know that you have people in your lives that have been given to you – your children, your friends, your parents, your partners and your congregation members.  I am deeply convinced, deeply convinced, that the responsibility we have is the responsibility of love. We are called to treat creation like we would our children, our partners and our friends.  To love it that much.  To love it exactly that much.  And so, the Psalmist says, in Psalm 19 “The heavens are declaring the glory of God.”  Now, I have already told you that I don’t believe that science and religion are at odds. I do believe that when I step into this world I am stepping into a holy place filled with glory — FILLED with the possibility of being healed and blessed, filled with the fact that I am in a world that is here for us and in a world for whom we are to be present and caring and responsible. 

I will also reject the notion that somehow it is a violation of Christian calling to care for the environment.  I have heard people say, “if it is going to be burned up anyway, why should we care?”  Please don’t take that view toward my home!  It makes no sense.  This is the world you are given… right now, this is it.  This is the world where unless something unbelievable happens, your children will be living, and their children will be living, and their children will be living.  It is part of Christian calling to invest in that.

So as the Romans passage tells us, all Creation is groaning.  This groaning is swept up into reconciliation, into the longing of God to bring all things together.  Not only by creation but also by redemption, God is bringing us together to care for this world.  There are some bad things happening in this world.  There are some bad things happening in this State.  In Indiana, we are one of the most polluted states in the country.  That is not an opinion, that’s a fact.  So, we could talk about arctic temperatures warming.  We could talk about draughts in Australia or Africa. We could talk about what climate change is doing in the world.  But, I am asking you to do something different today.  I want you to know that our call today is to recognize what is given to us.

So, In the span of eight days I will do a funeral, a memorial service, I will have baptized an infant and will have done a wedding.  What all of these have in common is the word “cherish.”  In funerals and memorial services, we are invited to cherish the memory of the ones we love and cherish the faith that calls them to God.  In our marriages we are called, not only to endure marriage, but to cherish each other. You can laugh at that.  Everyone who is married knows what I’m talking about.  If you feel you are doing more enduring than cherishing, there is a problem. Right?  When we baptize babies, even when babies only have a few hours to live, we are cherishing the breath that is in them and the hope that is in them and the love that surrounds them.  And, we are called to cherish this world.

IMG_3998.jpg
Oregon Coast, Spring 2017

Let me close mentioning two theologians.  One is named Matthew Sleeth who was an emergency room doctor until he was on a vacation with his wife.  Sitting on a beach, she asked, “What is the biggest problem in the world?”  He said, “It is the fact that we are poisoning ourselves and it makes my job as a doctor more difficult.”  She responded, “Well what are you going to do about it?”  He quit as a doctor and became a pastor and works in creation care. 

He tells the story that around this time he took his son fishing.  It was a small town on a river and they took a guy named John with them.  He said my boy caught a fish and John said “Well, that’s a trout.”  The boy said “Dad, can we keep it?” and Matthew said, “No it needs to grow some more.” He released the fish and John looked at him in a strange way.  Then his boy caught another fish, not quite as big as the first and asked, “Dad can we keep it?”  Sleeth said, “No son, it’s smaller than the other one, right John?”  John said, “Well, frankly, I’ve lived here all my life and the trout you are holding up there is the second largest trout I have seen in my life.  The one you threw back was the largest.”  Sleeth said to his son, “Okay, we’ll take it home.”  As they were walking back to their car, John grabbed Sleeth’s arm and said, “I need to tell you something.  Do you see that sign right there?  It says that ‘This river is full of dioxins’.  Your boy, if he takes a bite of that fish, take it away from him and don’t let him eat anymore.  Children in this area aren’t supposed to eat more than one fish a year.”   

You, you good people of God aren’t supposed to eat fish more than twice a week.  This is a problem, in the making of paper and other products we have released these toxins and all over the community this is happening.  As Walter Brueggemann would say “This is an issue of neighborliness.”  What we do, does impact the other.

One more theologian is A. J. Swoboda, who is a Pentecostal Christian.  He calls himself a Pentecostal Environmentalist.  He says we should know that there are three things about Pentecostals.  He says: 1) “We believe the Spirit is moving and so God is involved in what is happening right now.” 2) “We believe in caring for the marginalized. This issue is marginalizing people everywhere because of what it is doing to their environment.  It effects the poor more than those who can get away from it.  3) Finally, he said, “We cry.  If you go into a Pentecostal church, you will find Kleenex all over the place that means we can be moved.”

Then he says this, “We believe in two conversions.  The first conversion is to God.  The second is a conversion (which sounded outright Wesleyan to me) is a conversion to be back to the world.  This is the conversion I am preaching today – that the God who loves you says, “love my world.”  Don’t pretend that what is true is not true. Christians don’t do that.

Wendell Berry said “We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us was good for the world.  We were wrong.  Rather we should adopt the assumption that what is good for the world is good for us.”  To go back to my earlier point, Wendell Berry, like Jeff, like me, like you, finds grace in the world. 

This is Berry’s poem The Peace of Wild Things that many of you know:

“When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go lay down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief.  I come into the presence of still water

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

Waiting with their light.  For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Good people of God, this world, this grace-filled world, this groaning world is given to us. The call in the invitation of today, the request of today, is to take care of what we do with it.  It is full of glory and full of longing and we are called to be in it.  That’s the Gospel too.  Amen.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

IMG_3968.jpg

Thy kingdom come on earth” is a core element of our foundational prayer… the Our Father.  How then shall we live?  How can we sing the great hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth” in these days?  What if we had the eyes to see God’s realm in our every day living?

Lent — What Fast Might Be Required?

Lent Arrives — What Fast Might Be Required?

I write this post on Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, the day known for Madi Gras or Carnival in many parts of the world. It is a time for play, for “letting go,” for silliness… and preparation.

Years ago, when teaching in the Republic of Panama, I discovered that in that culture at least, Carnaval lasted for days – make that weeks – with music and dancing till dawn every night and tricksters roaming the streets by day ready to smear the unsuspecting passerby with makeup or face paint.  This frolicking was a counterpoint to what followed, the Lenten season.  These forty days of Lent (excluding Sundays) were the days prior to Easter and were to be a season of fasting, mediation and self-denial.

As an adult, I have come to value the remarkable gift of the alternating seasons of the liturgical year, and alternating opportunities to live more fully, more deeply, into the dimensions of human experience.  Over the course of every liturgical year there are seasons of celebration and times of preparation, reflection and penitence.  This rotation captures the human reality — no fake news here — we humans live with the complications of joy and sorrow, sickness and health, solitude and community.  At best, at our most whole and holy center, appropriate belief and value systems will reflect this alternating dynamic.

Shrove Tuesday, for our family at least, usually means pancakes and perhaps a silly mask or costume… not much more.   No dancing all night or smearing with face paint.  We typically eat pancakes with lots or syrup, fruit and maybe even whipped cream on top.  We do this knowing that the next season will include some times of sacrifice, discipline and prayer.  Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, begins a time of meditation and, perhaps, fasting and self-denial.

images-2

 

Some traditions speak of “giving something up for Lent.”  Perhaps it is sweets that are “given up,” or not going to the movies, or giving up attending a sports event (well, not basketball in Indiana!)  Perhaps some change in diet or giving up some other pleasure is practiced. 

In recent years I have appreciated those who suggest that perhaps we should think about what we might ADD to our daily life patterns during Lent.  Perhaps we should add some acts of kindness, charity or justice.  I like it.  Our pastor, Jimmy Moore, suggests this idea of adding something at Lent.  Then, jokingly, he says that when growing up, he had already given up all the pleasures and excesses of life, because at the time he was a Southern Baptist and had already given up all such temptations.  I laughed, and understand, because growing up in a strict conservative Methodist home, we had already given up dancing, movies, rock and roll music and, of course, smoking, alcohol and playing cards!

As Lent 2018 begins, two realities collide. 

There is scripture that speaks of God’s desire for humanity and there is the proposed national budget presented today in Washington, D.C.   From scriptures, think especially of Isaiah 58:1-11, where the prophet asks what sort of fast does God require of the faithful?  Hear these words written hundreds of years before Jesus of Nazareth, and referenced by him in his ministry.  They still carry a force for shaping the lives of believers today.

Isaiah 58:6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
Then the righteousness of the Lord will go before you;
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
 9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. 
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
[New International Version]

 

Ironically, tragically, these words of guidance and reminder to the faithful, read during this 2018 Lenten season, COLLIDE HEAD ON with the national budget from the White House presented TODAY!  There are deep budget cuts proposed to efforts that provide food, housing and health care for the poorest among our people in the U.S.  [Less than a month ago, deep tax cuts were made that benefited the richest among us.]  Instead of building up our foundations, instead of seeking to strengthen our COMMONwealth here is a focus on walls, on further depleting our environment and the exclusion of those who differ.

So, what fast is required of us?  We shall pray and reflect; however, this is not a season for quietism or passivity.   We will need to find alternating patterns of action and prayer during Lent this year.  Richard Rohr appropriately calls his ministry a “Center for Action and Contemplation.”  These two emphases seem right this Lent.  Perhaps this is one of the sacrifices required this Lent — to do both — act and pray.  Some time normally given to meditation, may be time that will go to writing a congress person.  Maybe the money saved from having no desert should go more directly to offer food to the hungry.

This Lenten season I invite you to add some act of kindness and justice to your normal routine.  I invite you to daily prayer and meditation.  If this is not a part of your routine — this is your opportunity. 

There are many fine resources.  You might subscribe to the insightful reflections of Richard Rohr at the Center for Action and Contemplation CAC Daily Meditation; or, look to the Upper Room Upper Room for the daily devotionals there.

Perhaps you would wish to join some in New Harmony, Indiana on March 23 and 24 for a “Finding New Harmony” retreat (check out: www.mycalmcard.com ).

How will you observe this Lenten Season?  What might you give up?  What might you add?

 

 

 

 

 

Restoring Broken Connections 

Restoring Broken Connections

Citizenship depends on connection.   Constructive membership in any group is rooted in the belief that there is space in the institutional ecology for a person’s engagement and contribution.  Novelist, poet, farmer and cultural critic Wendell Berry put it succinctly “Connection is health.”

quote-only-by-restoring-the-broken-connections-can-we-be-healed-connection-is-health-wendell-berry-87-40-31-1.jpgBerry says that it is “only by restoring the broken connections in our society that we will be healed.”  It is not just the edges of institutions that are frayed and fractured today; there is a disconnection at the very center.  Nor, is it only a brokenness between individuals.  Linkages between institutions and their members, and linkages among institutions are also broken.

  • Yesterday, thirteen United States Senators emerged from secret meetings to propose a heath care reform package.  Amazingly the proposal is opposed by the hospitals and/or university health research institutions in their home states. 
  • Polling shows that fewer than one-fourth of the citizens in these states support the proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act, still this proposal is moved forward.
  • A majority of American Roman Catholics in the United States do not support the church’s views on birth control, remarriage, having married priests or women priests (Pew Research on American Catholics) and yet change seems unlikely in the short-term.
  • There is growing evidence that human caused Climate Change is a dangerous emerging phenomenon. (This research has been done not only by independent university or industry based scientists but also by researchers at government-funded institutions like NASA or the U.S. military); yet, recent government policy actions move us away from healthy responses regarding environmental degradation.
  • The opioid epidemic, with increasing death and higher HIV-AIDS rates, is at crises levels.  Local police and healthcare providers now find their own health threatened by the powerful fentanyl powders being used and potentially inhaled by the persons providing care.  These service providers make specific recommendations to address this fentanyl problem; however, our political leaders respond by doubling down on the failed policies from the 1980s.  This disconnect is about life and death for our healthcare and law officers, our neighbors and the communities in which they reside.

The list could go on and on: there is a disconnect between many trade union leaders and their “members,” between the governor of Illinois and the legislative leaders, between the gentrifying neighborhoods in our cities and the people who are losing their residences and communities.

I have long been disheartened by the brokenness in my own denomination, the United Methodist Church.  Not just the divide between those with theological differences, or the young and older members, or the urban and rural ones, but also the divide among our institutions and between institutions and the people.  My work has led me for example to see the brokenness between our seminaries and the local churches they were designed to serve.

images.jpg

I recall the day when serving as a seminary president I spoke with a talented young woman, encouraging her to seek ordination as a pastor.  She paused a moment and said, “I don’t think I can trust the denomination with my vocation.” 

I mention this young woman because she represents, in my experience, a growing number of our younger folks.  Still we seem slow to reconnect with them.  The “disconnects” in the church among institutions, and between our institutions and individuals, some days seems insurmountable to me.  Having been both a pastor and seminary administrator, I understand.  And, I believe there is productive work to be done in healing such broken connections.

More recently, I joined a group of persons seeking to encourage the church to take seriously its commitments of care for God’s creation.  We proposed legislation to the annual meeting of my regional body, known as an annual conference.  There were persons eager to see the church begin to make a difference regarding our environmental actions.  To my sadness, this genuine enthusiasm was met by denominational leaders who sought to avoid any conflict by moving to table the proposals.  It was both astonishing and sad for the group, many of them younger folks, who saw these proposals as a way to seek healing in the divisions between our words and actions, between our local churches and the need for better care for creation.

When all of these signals are flashing danger, how might we respond? 

Well, this is for you to decide, dear reader.  It is also an opportunity to join with others, in existing institutions, and the creation of new ones, to offer places of citizenship and membership. 

For me, I will continue to challenge, and build new relationships, with the leaders of my regional body who seem so opposed to proposals regarding how our congregations might respond to climate change.  I will speak out on issues related to the opioid epidemic and get to know the persons on all sides of this challenge so that I might help make new connections.   I will challenge the efforts of my congressman and senator to strip medical coverage from more that twenty million persons in our nation, while giving large tax cuts to the rich.  I will challenge these congressmen to listen to hospital administrators and university researchers who may provide creative, alternative approaches to providing health care.

We are not alone.  Others are seeking to build connections as well.  Let me tell you about my friend.  A young pastor, serving in a small and conservative town in my state.  What is remarkable is that this young man would be considered by many to be too liberal, too concerned about the poor, too invested in environmental justice to fit in this small town parish.  So, when I asked how he was doing, I was prepared to hear about his difficulties, his disappointments.  Instead, I saw a broad smile and heard him say, “It’s great!  This is just where I am supposed to be!”  He acknowledged that he had his differences with some folks, but that he was enjoying learning from them and they from him. 

I have known this young man for many years now and seen him mature.  He completed his undergraduate and seminary work as an honors student — top of the class.  He becomes for me a sign of hope.  He understands Wendell Berry’s call to restore broken connections. 

How can I not strive to do the same?

 

 

 

 

 

An Ecology of Hope

Truth on the Scaffold and An Ecology of Hope

I find it difficult to be hopeful these days — about many things — especially our nation’s commitment to the care of God’s creation.  With Scott Pruitt confirmed as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency we quite literally have a case of “the fox guarding the hen-house.”  What might we do and where might we find hope?

I spoke to this yesterday at the University of Evansville Founder’s Day event.  In this address (attached below) I cited the comments made by environmentalist, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken.

Harken gave a surprisingly hope-filled address at the University of Portland in 2009. It was titled You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring.  When asked,” he says, “if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse… Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, re-imagine, and reconsider.

Like Paul Harken, I am hopeful, despite the climate change deniers, skeptics and so-called “luke warmers.”  Still optimism does not come easily.  It requires that we join our voices in full-throated demands that we dare not continue to destroy the gift of God’s creation.

img_3771
Trains loading at Gibson County Coal Mine

In my address at the university I noted that “There are more toxic super polluting power plants around Evansville, Indiana than around any other large or midsized city in the nation.  Millions of pounds of toxic air-pollution are produced within a thirty-mile radius each year.  Of the twenty-one plants identified as super polluters in the United States, four of them are in this circle. (There are five super polluting plants in Indiana and four of them are within fifty miles of the campus.)” 

See full address at: ue-founders-day-2-19-17.

Dr. Stephen Jay of IUPUI’s School of Public Health notes “In Indiana industrial greenhouse-gas emissions are second only to Texas domestically, and exceed those from Israel, Greece and 185 other countries.”Emissions from coal-burning plants are not good for our health and they bring rapidly increasing destruction for our planet. A growing number of studies demonstrate this. Such pollution is correlated with higher incidences of heart disease, pulmonary problems and certain cancers.

img_3787
Cayuga coal power plant in Vermillion County

Way back in 1979, in an article for Sojourners Magazine, I quoted the Spencer County coroner who seeing the increasing incidence of serious health problems and death said, “If the people knew the truth, they’d panic.” Long time local activist and photographer John Blair puts it simply, “we’re subsidizing the coal industry big time with our health.”

James Russell Lowell’s poem spoke of times when “Truth was on the scaffold.” Today is such a time – regarding our environment – and so many other issues of morality, human respect and basic governance. 

Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indigenous Peoples Demeaning Mascot

Chicago Cubs Vs. Cleveland’s Indigenous Peoples Demeaning Mascot

Okay, so that we are clear, I am a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.  There was a time when as a preadolescent I had a brief fling with the Cincinnati Reds and, I confess, I admired the St. Louis Cardinals for a brief period, but it was always, first and foremost, the CUBS!  So you can imagine how marvelous it was to sit with my daughter at game five of this year’s world series with Cleveland and see my beloved team win a world series game there for the first time in seventy-eight years! 

img_2017

It was magical — nerve-wracking but magical.  After the Cubs had a great year (the best in baseball with 103 wins) they are struggling against that Cleveland team.  The Cubs are up against some extraordinary pitching, especially from a guy named Miller who is the best closer I have seen in, well, forever.

I will not mention the name of the Cleveland team because… well… because of… this:

th
Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo

Come on Cleveland, time to clean up this image of your mascot.  I have often defended you as a fine city.  You are not “a mistake by the lake.”  In recent visits I have marveled at the vibrancy that has come to your downtown and the renewal taking place in many neighborhoods.  You have had some good political leaders and some not so good (Stokes, Kucinich, Voinovich, Campbell, Jackson).  I won’t mention which I think were the good ones.  You have many fine educational and cultural institutions.  Of course, there is also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

I admit to being a Chicago partisan in this World Series but just a few months ago I was pulling for the Cavs to surprise everyone and come back from a 3 to 1 deficit to become the world champions in the NBA.  THEY DID!  So, now, a few hours before game six, I will be pulling for a similar comeback, this time for my dear Cubbies.  I am pulling for the Cubs to beat the team I shall call the Cleveland Indigenous Peoples Impersonators.

Is the Chief Wahoo image racist?  Of course it is!  Don’t pretend differently.  Ask the people who have the most right to be offended.  The National Congress of American Indians published a poster recently that covers the situation all too well.  Just imagine:

mascot_hats-jpg-crop-promovar-mediumlarge

Anything more need to be said? 

So, win or lose, Cleveland friends, please clean up this racist name and image.  It’s an important step.  Go to the website of the National Congress of American Indians to learn more (National Congress of American Indians).

Oh yes, and those of you NFL fans of a certain football team in Washington D.C. known as the R*dskins — you too can join in the fun of eliminating such demeaning symbols.

These may appear to some to be small matters; not significant.  Some may say I am being “politically correct.”  Others may say I should focus on matters of more substance like the Sioux Nation’s efforts to protect land and tribal rights at Standing Rock in North Dakota.  I get that and I also think this is all a part of the same package — names of mascots, environmental threats, and small bigotries are all a reflection of our nation’s sinful acts against the First Peoples and our continuing discriminations.  It is our enduring embarrassment and, yes, it will require more than just changing a mascot’s name.

As I write, game six of the Series is only a couple of hours away.  So, Go Cubs, Beat the Cleveland Indigenous Peoples Impersonators!

th-2.jpg

Filet

 

An Ecological Dawning?

An Ecological Dawning

I am an early riser, one who enjoys watching the sun spread across the sky.  This morning I couldn’t help but consider it a metaphor for the new light I believe is on the horizon regarding our environment.  One reason for this is the reading I have been doing of late on this topic.  Yesterday, it was my honor to preach at Wesley United Methodist Church adjacent to the campus of the University of Illinois.  It was called a “teach in” as part of a national focus on faith and the environment.  I believe a new day is dawning in terms of public awareness and constructive action.

IMG_1327

It is not my intent to offer a reprise the sermon here.  Instead I have attached a link to a copy for those who are interested.  Here is my take away.  First, we face enormous challenges as a society, as a global community.  The damage has been severe, it will be difficult to reverse.  NASA now suggests that climate change is our nation’s most serious security risk.  Note the changes in the Arctic as our early warning system.  (The Petermann glacier in Greenland is receding more than twenty miles a year!)   Increasingly we are seeing a link with floods, wild fires and drought.  We will have more than fifty million environmental refugees by the year 2020.  This doubles the number of the estimates just twenty years ago. 

I know the dangers of climate change are very real — difficult (some say impossible) to reverse.   On the other hand, there are signs of hope, a dawning of awareness among nations, corporations and the general public.  It is my sincere hope that the U.S. Congress will one day soon catch up with the scientific evidence.  As the research is overwhelming clear, the Paris agreements are tentatively in process, and corporate and technological leaders are investing billions of dollars toward constructive change, it is our duty as citizens to press the case with Congress.  The cost of solar and wind energy continue to drop in price.  

It was a joy to be with a university community and see the commitments made by that congregation.  I spoke with several students who indicated a deep appreciation for the sermon — but more importantly a personal commitment as future engineers, chemists, business leaders and farmers to a different way of thinking about our economy and ecology.  Hooray for the gifts of great universities!  (Look for a post soon challenging the larger church to rethink our investments in and valuing of campus ministry.)

I know that change will be difficult.  Actually, it calls for a conversion — an ecological conversion, on the part of individuals, the culture and the economy.  The witness of people of faith is essential as part of any solution. All people of faith – especially the local church… these communities will need to find voice on these matters. As Pope Francis demonstrated with the issuance of the encyclical Laudato Si, Christians can bring a perspective, insight and inspiration for the future — for the dawning just ahead.

For the complete text of the  sermon, see: WesleySermon – Feb 14, 2016