Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day: "Interfaith Power and Light" connecting faith and ecology

A religious ecology group called Interfaith Power and Light recently sponsored a nationwide "preach-in," focusing on global warming and climate change, and our religious responsibility as stewards of God's Creation. A very nice segment about this group aired on PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly in connection with Earth Day this past weekend, called Religion and the Environment. Featured are members of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim congregations that are focusing on this issue.

Extended interviews with some of the people in the episode are also available online at PBS:

Jewish: Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb,  leader of Adath Shalom synagogue in Washington D.C., a congregation that has become a model for green energy initiatives.

Christian: Reverend Sally Bingham, founder of Interfaith Power and Light.

Muslim: Sarah Jawaid  director of Green Muslims, a relatively new organization seeking to re-connect with Islamic teachings about caring for the environment.

Also mentioned in the PBS segment (to give both sides of the issue) is an anti-ecology video called Resisting the Green Dragon, put out by a  bunch of extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalists.  I link to them here only because I think we need to know our enemy. "Know what to answer the unbeliever," says the Talmud.  In this case, the "unbelief" is outright denial that climate change exists or that we are responsible for taking care of God's Creation.  The group also claims that developing green energy is oppressive to the poor -- a stance that I find absurd.  Their full video is not free to view online, but believe me, the 12-minute preview is all you need to get the gist.  UGH!!!  (See comments area below for  instructions on how to access it.)

Chinese Jade Dragon carving
I also find it really strange (or shall we say ignorant?) that they would call ecology a "Green Dragon," given that dragons, especially jade dragons, are a positive symbol of wisdom, health and happiness in Chinese philosophy -- very different from the nasty dragons of Christian mythology that were slain by medieval knights.  One does not kill a Chinese dragon.  In fact, Chinese dragons were once believed to control the weather, and offending a dragon could result in droughts, floods, and famines -- definitely issues connected to global warming.

Now granted, that's just mythology, but such symbolism can be powerful.  So I have no problem with being labeled a Green Dragon -- let's turn the pejorative into a compliment!  And maybe this right-wing group should be called Green Ostriches, since they are putting their heads in the sand about a threat to our planet that affects everyone and everything living on it.

Unfortunately, right-wing Christians are not the only ones with their heads in the sand.  I have run across a lot of climate change denial in the Jewish community as well, especially among the Orthodox, who tend to lean to the Right politically.  I have more than once been told by fellow Hasidim that global warming is a hoax invented by Al Gore.  One of the reasons I founded this blog was to reach out to my fellow religious Jews and say, "Learning Torah includes ecology, too -- if 'the Earth is the Lord's' (Psalm 24:1), then we are offending God by polluting and destroying it."

And so, for my part in Earth Day today, here is the link to my short video "Saving Our Imperiled Planet: Part 1, Earth and Torah,  which deals with why Jews today are often so disconnected from nature and the environment, and my own journey toward reconnecting with the Earth. (although this video is more about animals than global warming per se,  feedlots and factory farms do contribute a lot of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.)   There are both historical and spiritual reasons for this disconnect from nature in the Jewish community, as well as the very practical reason that most Orthodox Jews nowadays live in urban environments where there is little contact with the outdoors.

I encourage you to check out all these links, and give some serious thought today as to how you are relating to nature within your own spiritual practice.  Let's make every day Earth Day!


Richard Schwartz said...

Kol hakavod, Rav Yonassan for this great posting and your continued efforts to increase awareness of Jewish teachings related to environmental threats. I hope your efforts, along with others, will help break through the apathy, denial, misinformation, and resistance that are preventing the changes needed to help shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

Yonassan Gershom said...

In order to watch the 12-minute promo for "Resisting the Green Dragon" you have to first email the fundies for a link and a password for a private viewing on vimeo -- even though it is free to watch. Why not just put it up there on YouTube? Afraid to hear what the more educated public might say? Or was it maybe banned on YouTube as hate-mongering?

Most likely, they want us to go through their website because they want to collect a mailing list. (Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean nobody is following me!)

Anyway, here is the vimeo link and password if you would rather not end up on some list compiled by these crazies, but you still want to nauseate yourself with their cult propaganda:

Password: RESIST

Believe me, 12 minutes is probably all you will be able to stomach -- don't waste your 50 bucks on the whole set. (I sure didn't). The film would be hilarious if it were not so dangerous -- unfortunately, ignorant people believe this kind of stuff. Forewarned is forearmed.

Velda said...

This is cool!