‘An Interfaith Challenge for Climate Change Action’

‘An Interfaith Challenge for Climate Change Action’

The media recently reported that the Earth is hotter than it has been in the last 120,000 years. And no, this report is not the reactive gasp to the hottest summer on record. Scientists studying the ratios between magnesium and calcium in sea water, species makeup, marine acidity and other factors ascertain what we all felt in the withering heat. In near unanimity meteorologists continue to prove our experience that we ourselves are warming the pot for us all, even as deniers hurry to the defense of industries with a dog in the fight.

In Camden, the Center for Environmental Transformation is hosting a talk open to the public on this issue. The eighth annual Thomas Berry lecture will meet at Sacred Heart Church in Camden at Broad and Ferry Avenue on Oct. 23 at 2 p.m. Rabbi Arthur Raskow, a renowned Philadelphia environmentalist, will speak on “One Earth, One Family Together: An Interfaith Challenge for Climate Change Action.” There will be a reception afterward.

This will be an outreach to persons and groups wanting to face up to the responsibility all people have to reclaim our common habitat, as Pope Francis recommended in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’. This ecumenical and interfaith document was a wake-up call to all people regardless of religion to join forces, so we Catholics can do no less: Pope Francis just declared Earth consciousness the eighth corporal work of mercy, a global fact of interest in this Year of Mercy.

Rabbi Raskow directs the Shalom Center in Philadelphia and has joined with 425 other rabbis to issue the Rabbinic Challenge on Climate Crisis, and with many Muslim leaders as well to share concern about a human matter of growing proportions. For nearly 50 years he has distinguished himself as an advocate of the ordinary person, arguing for disarmament in the 1960s to questioning the energy industry’s practice of fracking in the present.

In this year of a presidential election, the global warming crisis assumes even greater weight. Americans are preparing to elect a leader who will manage legislation for four years that has to do justice to environmental matters. So often, voters voice the wish that they could get information to guide their choice at the polls on social concerns. To whom should we listen? Opportunities like this do not come often. This lecture is open to all and promises to clarify some of the campaign confusion.

In his above encyclical, Pope Francis counsels conscientious readers to take action on seemingly secular matters governed by politics and economics, subjects that daunt the average voter. Politicians know this and respond by spot commercials flooding the airwaves with half truths and outright lies, televised repeatedly. There seems to be no obligation to tell the truth, and there seems to be no responsibility of authority to fact-check campaign rhetoric. We are on our own.

As this column has inferred before, religious authorities such as Pope Francis or your parish priest may and in fact must speak as nonpartisans about the moral aspects of secular political and economic issues. The Vietnam war removed some hesitancy of clerics to engage such sermon topics because it was a fact of morality that soldiers and civilians were dying in a war of questionable morality. And our moral leaders, ahead of our political and military leaders, have preeminent right to speak in pulpits about moral issues like the extinction of life on Earth in pursuit of profit. We do have a moral injunction telling us that we shall not kill, and it applies to every person and to the planet as well.

Church efforts like this Oct. 23rd one are comparatively rare because church leaders usually back away from controversy, aware that their credibility on secular issues could jeopardize their stance on unarguably religious or moral ones. Some argue that this hesitancy has compromised the teaching authority of clergy among the young, who were especially responsible for the precedent-setting position of the American church leaders on the morality of war. Seeing little action, youth turned its back on church membership, and we are still suffering the consequences.

Yet Pope Francis has acknowledged the prophetic courage of youth in such matters as the environment or race or war. Come to Sacred Heart on Oct. 23rd and show your discipleship. We Americans must lead: on a recent trip to Italy, I saw solar panels on the roofs of gas stations.