With this post we are pleased to introduce you to Chelsea Jackson, who has begun working with PA IPL as a short-term Project Coordinator, supporting constituents who are raising hopes and concerns about clean energy, climate change and the health of our Common Home with their legislators at Town Halls during the August Congressional Recess.
Chelsea writes “For the past four years I have served as an assistant pastor at a United Methodist Church in New Jersey, where I worked diligently to center faith-rooted conversation about climate change, and encourage the congregation I was serving to help protect the environment. Earth care inspired many of the sermons I wrote, trips I planned and the two community Eco-Art Shows I created and curated. As a person of faith I believe there to be a direct connection to how people view God and how they treat all of Creation, and I continuously tried to help my congregation see and make those connections for themselves. Therefore, to understand me as a person of faith who clings tightly to Earth care, it may be easiest for you to dive into one of my sermons. Below are excerpts of a sermon I wrote for the 2015 Interfaith Power & Light Preach-In. The sermon was met with both thankfulness and angry outbursts. Still: the most important thing was that it felt like a spirit-gifted message that needed to be said. Please enjoy:
It’s no secret the Christian and Jewish Scriptures begin with the creation of the world, this ordering of Chaos into water and earth, light and dark, human and non-human creatures, and it is this Creation as a collective whole, that God deems ‘very good.’
The early Genesis story, along with countless other Bible passages, reveals that God is in relationship with the Earth itself, and often cloaks God’s-self with the Earth when interacting with humans. For example, we see God emerge in fire, in a windstorm, a burning bush, as light or at the top of a mountain. In these instances, as in so many others, it’s as if the Earth is a form of God’s expression; like a piece of art, and we often look at art as a part of the artist who made it. We understand a painting isn’t the actual artist, but is rather an extension of who they are. An imprint of the artist is in the art s/he creates, that is part of what makes it so beautiful and powerful.
What if it was the same with God? What if we looked at not only humans, but also the Earth, as made in the image of God, as an extension of God’s-self? How would we treat the Earth differently?
Would it change how often I drive my car? How I use energy in my house? Would it change how I interact with politics or how I raise my children?
Would it change how I act as a consumer? Where I buy from? How much I buy? I mean everything we buy was at one time part of the natural Earth in some way; part of the original artwork of God. And though using the Earth for provision is indeed necessary for our survival, when does production or consumption become empty of purpose, empty of thoughtfulness or meaning?
If we dig deeper, recognizing God’s imprint on Creation would influence how we eat. The most intimate way we interact with the Earth is how we use it to nourish ourselves; how we partake in, and literally internalize its provision. That’s why it is so important to learn where our food comes from, and how both our plant and animal based food is raised. Is it done in a humane, safe way that recognizes God’s artistry, or is it disrespectful and even damaging to the original work of art?
One of my professors really brought this point home when she talked about Communion and asked what it meant to partake in the body and blood of Christ when the grain was grown with pesticides or the grapes were farmed by someone who did not receive a fair wage? How does it change the meaning of this sacrament meant to be loving and liberating?
These are all important and very difficult questions. And when faced with them we can respond in a variety of ways.
1. We can become defensive:
When faced with the reality of climate change and all the ways poor environmental practices permeate our lives, we can automatically list off reasons why we can’t change our interaction with the Earth, including: “changing the way we do things is too hard,” “it would mess up the economy,” “climate change isn’t that serious and won’t affect us much in the U.S.”
All of these claims are not only false, they also ignore the larger issues at hand. The fact is that real change is not a luxury at this point, we must change if we want to ensure survival for even generations 100 years down the road.
But even if we don’t want to focus on the impact of climate change on the future, another problem remains; treating climate change as a non-pressing issue means denying the reality, humanity, dignity and worth of the individuals and communities being affected right now. Continue reading