Faith in the Face of Global Warming

Snowless?  45 degree days in January?  Sure, like everyone else I’m reveling in the sun’s warmth and I appreciate being able to bike through this winter, but every time fellow Minnesotans wax poetic about this lovely weather I feel an awful sense of doom.  The elm trees need long periods of icy temperatures to ward off Dutch Elm disease.  Cold wards off the tent caterpillars; it permits native fish to survive in our lakes.  I’m afraid the immediate pleasure of warm afternoon walks could blind us to the long-term gifts of our normally cold climate.

Emily has begun a weekly Qi Gong practice of praying for the earth’s healing.  Usually in such matters I’m infinitely practical:  If I want to end global warming, I need to radically change my lifestyle and support those working for systemic change.  This is prayer in action.  To some small degree I am culpable in the harm done to the earth; asking God to do something about it seems hypocritical and irresponsible.  God has no hands but ours, Theresa of Avila taught, so we must pray with our hands.  Thus Emily and I rarely purchase new items, we share a car, we grow vegetables, we write letters and donate money.

But these choices seem paltry in the face of, say, the ongoing drought in the southwest that threatens my sister’s home with fire or the torrential rains in Guatemala that have caused a ten-foot rise in Lake Atitlan, forcing people from their homes.  The problem is huge.  I feel hopeless, powerless.  And yet it is precisely circumstances like these that invite us beyond ourselves, out of a practical mindset and into faith, the realm of possibility and mystery.  Praying for the earth’s healing isn’t a cop-out; it is a way to invite a loving, generative, just energy more fully into ourselves and the world.  Prayer helps us acknowledge our limitations.  Prayer also breaks apart those limitations by foisting us into a place of interconnection.  What is possible in the invisible, soulful realm can be birthed onto our fleshy earth.

So let us pray.

–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

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