Leading us: Church and State

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The State of the Union speech was this week, so we had a chance to hear the President’s views on energy, climate, and goalsetting.  We’re always thinking about leadership by, in and for communities of faith, but with SOTU sandwiched between the national IPL Preach-In mid-February, and MLK day mid-January, it’s certainly in high relief at the moment.  

Wondering how to join the Preach-In?  We’ll help!  Ready to find some new ways to step forward in congregation or community?  Give us a call to share or brainstorm.    Below find our thoughts on the State of the Union.  Share yours on our Facebook page.  In the meantime, here is the OpEd from PA IPL, as well as a statement from a coalition of Pennsylvania groups concerned about the climate. 

Looking for more perspectives?  Check these out

President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night offered a renewed call to action on climate change.  The president praised our reductions in carbon pollution, adding “But we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods.” He once again placed cutting carbon pollution squarely in the context of our moral responsibility to the next generation, saying “when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

There is every reason to turn the wheel by dropping subsidies for large fossil fuel corporations, but the President is wrong about one thing: he asked Congress to invest in new infrastructure to move cars and trucks onto natural gas.  We need to transition beyond fossil fuels.  Congress, don’t chain us to limited imagination.  Respond to the challenge by building charging stations instead.  Fueling stations are for one fuel only.  Charging stations can be fueled by the best, least polluting technology available, and can adapt as we innovate.

As I person of faith, I believe that we are called to be stewards of Creation, and we have a moral imperative to act to protect our children’s future.  If we sit in our deck chairs and fiddle for another 15 years, the next generation will have to resort to drastic measures to maintain the livability of the planet.

The recent holiday honoring Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a reminder of the power of a moral calling, and how faith leaders can mobilize our country with spiritual and nonviolent tactics to address social injustice.  That’s why Interfaith Power & Light is organizing 1,500 congregations and 500,000 people of faith in a National Preach-In on Climate Change this Valentine’s Day Weekend.

The theme of the Preach-In is “Doing our Part.” Congregations all over the country are doing their part by using energy more efficiently, choosing clean electricity in the marketplace, supporting congregants as they make changes at home, and urging our leaders to safeguard our climate. We must also urge members of Congress to apply their recently re-discovered abilities to negotiate constructively to enacting common sense solutions to climate change, and they won’t have to do it alone.  Outside the Beltway there are proposals from Right and Left with common elements and goals.

It is good news that the president seems to understand the urgency of climate change, and is communicating it on a national stage. It is good news that the EPA is releasing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. And it is good news that US recently brokered a side deal with China to phase out some of the most potent climate-warming industrial chemicals.

But it’s clear that this will not be enough. We need action from every sector: federal, state and local governments, as well as the private sector. We need a galvanization of the country, along the lines of the Civil Rights movement, and we all must do our part.

On February 14-16, faith communities will preach sermons on loving Creation and our neighbors. They’ll hold prayer vigils, and study groups will focus on climate change.  Many congregations will sign postcards to let their lawmakers know that we need their efforts, too.

We often look for leadership from our government, but fail to recognize that our leaders are looking back at us to inform their decisions.  No president forces major social advancements by himself. Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that when he responded to entreaties from the labor leader A. Philip Randolph by agreeing and then saying, “Now go out and make me do it.”

That’s exactly what congregations all over America will be aiming to do on Feb 14th: our part to show the president and Congress that we must act on climate change before it’s too late.

IMG_8891Cricket Eccleston Hunter is the executive director of PA Interfaith Power & Light, and works all year long to help congregations respond to climate change.  Right now, PA IPL is helping congregations to buy clean electricity affordably – signaling the market that we want electricity and clean air, without paying more.