In November I am off once again to North America to attend the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, along with about 9,999 others. I am involved with the “Ecological Hermeneutics” section of the SBL, which started about twenty years ago with the urgings of Norm Habel, also of Adelaide. I, along with Norm and some others, are part of a small group committed to making the section function.
Ecological Hermeneutics is concerned with interpreting the Bible with a sensitivity to matters environmental and ecological. Over the years, the section has grown from small sessions with less than ten people present to be one of the most popular at the conference – no mean statement when you consider there may be over twenty sessions to choose from at any given time, to say nothing of the mammoth book display. One our best attended sessions was on climate change two years ago.
Since it seems silly to go to the other side of the planet for only one week, I combine the meeting with some vacation, visiting friends along the way. This year, my itinerary is rather full, as I will be visiting friends in San Francisco, San Diego, and Chicago before reaching Atlanta. Climate change has cropped up again in relation to these visits. My friend in San Diego emailed me to say that they are expecting a “Godzilla El Nino” shortly. I confess, my mind boggled as I tried to comprehend this cross between a large Japanese cinema lizard and colloquial Spanish for the Christ Child. My friend’s warning that we may be body surfing to the coffee shop soon reined in my imagination.
Climate change appeared again in my schedule today, as I am writing this message shortly before attending a panel presentation sponsored by the Multifaith Association of South Australia on… can you guess?... climate change, with speakers from several faiths.
What is a Christian response to climate change, I wonder? In fact, let me broaden the question. Climate change is just one of the catastrophes facing humanity at the moment. It makes the headlines but often is second fiddle to other topics, such as the consequences of the fighting in the Middle East and the refugee crisis that has created, or the repeated terrorist events around the world.
What do we, as Christians, bring to such issues? For one thing we have a belief that the world is more than meets the eye. God is present in the world. God’s spirit fills the earth. All people and things are treasured by their Creator God. This means that no matter how broken a situation appears, we cannot give up on it. We bring to everything a hope for a healing resolution. At the core of our faith is the belief that God acts to bring healing and reconciliation, and not just to individuals. We can look at issues from the perspective of this belief, not denying the severity of the situation but being realistic, while at the same time believing healing is possible and living in accord with this belief.
Healing is more than just a return to a prior status quo. God’s goal is the creation of the Kingdom of God, the divine community based on justice, equity and mutual concern for all members. With God, it is not just about “fixing” something broken, but making it “better than before,” that is, closer to the vision of the Kingdom of God, not a return to Eden, but a progression to the Promised Land.
We are party to that goal, not only as beneficiaries, but also as participants in its development. The old saw “Let go and let God,” is inaccurate. The call is to hold on – to God’s love, to God’s vision – and to engage in partnership with God, imitating God. Because of love, we can bring hope and vision.
We can bring these things not just to the Godzilla issues of climate change, refugees, terrorism, and the like, but we can also bring them to any issue, large or small, that we encounter in our daily life. This is the practical place to start – with the little things, in our home, street, local shopping centre as individuals and as a faithful community meeting on a street corner in the city. Let us bear hope and vision as we live in love for the world. Rev Dr Peter Trudinger
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