Ancient Answers

Guidance for Today from Scripture and Early Christianity

36 Degrees to Armageddon

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Frank Schaefer is a noted Orthodox writer, speaker and blogger. He recently received a request from a friend in the Chicago area: “Please let me know if your contacts know of any truly loving Orthodox (Greek, Russian or other) churches or missions in Chicago or within an hour’s drive of Chicago.” Frank wrote on his blog: “I don’t have an answer. Do any of you?” I don’t see any responses on his blog. Is it really such a rare thing to find an Orthodox church that is truly loving?

It was in the news last week about a mosque in Chantilly, Virginia, that was “vandalized” –  not with messages of hate like other mosques around the country, but with messages of love! “We love you,” “We are your brothers and sisters,” “You are loved,” “We are with you!”

We need more vandalism of that sort! When Jesus in today’s Gospel reading told one man to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and then follow Jesus, he was talking to one specific man with a specific problem, a specific attachment that kept him out of the kingdom. Perhaps money is not your spiritual problem; perhaps not mine, either. Perhaps it is something else. Whatever it is that has power over you and how you see the world, Jesus today tells you and me: Go, get rid of it, and come follow me.

This year’s election was mostly about identity politics: LGBT, transgender bathrooms, white nationalist, Black Lives Matter, immigration, abortion, gun issues, legalized marijuana… . Only one issue didn’t make it to the floor of any debate or any major campaign speech of either party. And it is the one issue that will make all those other issues irrelevant! The one issue? Climate Change. Global Warming.

Oh, I can hear some of you thinking: Father is talking politics now! No, I am not talking politics, because neither political party seems to care about climate change or is talking about it. Okay one party tends to deny it while the other party gives it occasional lip service. But they’re all liars. They don’t care. We are all merrily marching along to Armageddon. Climate change is not a political issue. People make it a political issue so they can disagree about it and put it off for another year or decade, or even century.

I read yesterday that Arctic ice is at a record low for this time of year. The temperature in the Arctic right now is 20C above what it should be this time of year. And yes I should translate: 20C = 36F. 36 degrees Fahrenheit above what it should be this time of year. Imagine Maine 36 degrees above what we should have this time of year. It’d be a balmy 80 degrees out there.

Bathrooms for transgender people? Abortion rights? Open-carry rights for gun lovers? Higher minimum wage? Legalized marijuana? These are political issues, and you’ll never hear me speak for or against any of them. But all become irrelevant when the very fate of the planet is at stake. A wall to keep out illegals? We can build walls against illegals, but we can’t build any walls that will keep our own city of Portland from going under water.

Liberals should consider that identity politics and human rights won’t mean much as the planet dies. And conservatives should consider that gun ownership and prayer meetings will not hold back the warming and dying oceans.

Climate Change IS political – but not in the way you think. While left and right can disagree on practically everything, climate change is the one issue that can unite us and should unite us.

There is no one solution to the problem, which is why we should be talking about it. Human beings have shown incredible ingenuity and ability to work together when facing threats. There is plenty wisdom on all sides of political divides. We can do it – but we can’t ignore it for much longer. Climate Change WILL unite us, WILL break down political divisions of left and right. The question is whether it will unite us when we are together facing the irreversible catastrophe; or whether it will  unite us now to find creative ways that will save life on this planet and also enrich our own quality of life.

As a follower of Jesus I have no choice but to be hopeful. I have to overcome my own tendency to label people who don’t see the problem the way I see it. Jesus tells us in the spirit of today’s reading: Let go of everything that divides and come, come follow me into an exciting future.

In a recent movie, Arrival, aliens come to earth to help humanity – because humanity will help them 3,000 years in the future! Mutual help seems to be a universal code of conduct. Let’s start here in our own world. Let’s help each other live better lives. Let’s love one another, let’s work together. Let’s learn from each other. And that dear friends is the only politics you’ll ever hear from me – the politics of unity and mutual respect. It’s the only politics that will save us, the only politics that Jesus can use.

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