So a Bahai and a Catholic walk into the voting booth … both consider social justice as foundational to their faith. What happens next?
InterfaithISH with Jack Gordon hosted Vasu Mohan, an international elections expert who is also Bahai and me, a Sojourners magazine editor and Catholic for this 60-minute podcast. Give yourself a treat and enjoy a generous and engaging conversation.
As the election approaches, we reflect on the spiritual responsibility to exercise our civil right, navigating the challenges of partisanship, and who we are remembering this All Souls Day. Featuring Vasu Mohan, an international elections expert and member of the DC Baha’i community, and Rose Berger, senior editor at Sojourners magazine and a member of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.
“Keep in mind these two Catholic principles: #1.) Everyone does everything for mixed motives. The right thing gets done for mixed reasons; just as the wrong thing can get done with good intentions. #2.) Social justice is a this-worldly virtue. Thus, all reform is incremental; more social justice will be required tomorrow.”–Bill Droer, Initiatives (March 2014) from the National Center for the Laity
He’s a Sunday school teacher. He’s funny and a little shy. But he’s got a big problem.
He just got a job from God — and it’s not an easy one. It seems to me that Bill’s been tapped to be the new Noah to our faithless generation. It’s his job to warn us that we have “grieved the Lord in his heart” and that the flood waters will rise again if we don’t get back to working within our “original contract” and reverse climate change.
Remember the Bill Cosby skit about Noah and the Ark? Noah’s neighbors didn’t think much of him, and Noah himself didn’t know what he was doing half the time. But he had a job to do, and cubit by cubit, two by two, he did it.
Bill’s like that.
Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured his latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit’s whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill’s article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.
So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can’t seem to grow a spine about it.
What I liked about Bill’s article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there’s still time.
If we do these three things, there’s a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.
Here’s the plan:
1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don’t want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you’re not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of “planet-killing” profits. This is the economic part of the plan.
2. Push for carbon “fee-and-dividend” laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn’t they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.
3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta’s unconventional “tar sands” oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That’s why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.
The threat of climate change is overwhelming. It’s been hard to sort out what to do. But Bill McKibben has given us a plan — one that everyone can join in, one where everyone can take part.
And even though he presents it in a folksy manner, this stuff has been vetted from the farmers on the ground to the economists in the think tanks to the scientists running the algorithms. When governments fail, people stand up.
This plan may not work to completely reverse climate change. But if anything is going to succeed, we’ve got to listen to Noah this time. Or rather, Bill.
ColorLines editor Kai Wright always provides incisive commentary. As the Republican candidates move from New Hampshire to South Carolina and on to Florida, I’m wondering how to push Obama to change abusive economic policies and practices that “crush my people, and grind the face of the poor into the dust” (Isaiah 3:15). Wright says that the collapse of the Republican party may allow Obama to maintain a politics of the mushy middle, rather than the progressive reforms he campaigned on. Here’s an excerpt from Wright’s recent column:
” … [O]nce we set the horse race of partisan politics aside, the Republican collapse begins to look less gratifying. Here’s the thing: Elections are for incumbents all about being held accountable for their choices. And what the Obama White House needs more than anything at this juncture is a jolt of accountability from the social justice reformers who believed in the change it sold four years ago.
Democratic Party leaders have for generations distracted their own base with the horrific threat of their Republican challengers. From LGBT people to unionized workers, the message is too often the same: Never mind our failings, look at the scary other guys. That’s long been a winning strategy for uniting the Democratic coalition. But the Obama team has wielded it against progressive critics with particular vengeance. Indeed, the tea party has in some ways been as helpful a distraction for the White House as it has been an obstructionist tool for the Republicans.
In this light, the Republican field that’s emerging from Iowa and New Hampshire is tailor made for the Obama administration to avoid a much needed reality check with its own reformists supporters. The president will be able to run simultaneously against the lunacy of a Rick Santorum—or, whoever wins the so-called “conservative primary”—and the weakness of Mitt Romney. The latter poses little threat with voters and the former keeps picky progressives off his tail. As long as he faces no meaningful challenge, the president has little reason to vow a course correction from the choices of his first term. …–Excerpt from Why The GOP’s Spectacular Collapse Isn’t Good For Social Justice by Kai Wright
As Iowa considers taking up anti-American laws targeting immigrants modeled after Arizona, Catholic sisters in throughout the Midwest are leading a public education campaign about what Jesus says about the situation.
“Rooted in the Gospel and the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare,” say the Franciscan sisters of Dubuque, “we publically proclaim that immigrants have God-given rights to be treated with respect and dignity, to work and to access services that satisfy their basic needs. Basic human rights, the right to life and to migrate in search of the means to sustain life, are conferred not by citizen ship but by person hood. We support comprehensive immigration reform that will respect these right.”
Liberian president and Catholic Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 72, Liberian “peace warrior” and graduate of Eastern Mennonite University Leymah Gbowee, 39, and Yemen’s Arab Spring activist Tawakkul Karman, 32, accepted their Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday. As all three women make clear in their acceptance speeches, they represent millions of women around the world who decide every morning that today is the day they will fight for justice, risk for peace, and defend human dignity. Thank you all …
Below are quotes from the wonderful Nobel lectures offered by these three.
What Martin Luther King called “the art of living in harmony” is the most important art we need to master today. In order to contribute to that human art, the Arab states should make reconciliation with their own people an essential requirement. This is not merely an internal interest, but also an international one required for the whole human community. The dictator who kills his own people doesn’t only represent a case of violation of his people’s values and their national security, but is also a case of violation of human values, its conventions and its international commitments. Such a case represents a real threat to world peace.
Many nations, including the Arab peoples, have suffered, although they were not at war, but were not at peace either. The peace in which they lived is a false “peace of graves”, the peace of submission to tyranny and corruption that impoverishes people and kills their hope for a better future. Today, all of the human community should stand with our people in their peaceful struggle for freedom, dignity and democracy, now that our people have decided to break out of silence and strive to live and realize the meaning of the immortal phrase of Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab, “Since when have you enslaved people, when their mothers had given birth to them as free ones.”
When I heard the news that I had got the Nobel Peace Prize, I was in my tent in the Taghyeer square in Sana’a. I was one of millions of revolutionary youth. There, we were not even able to secure our safety from the repression and oppression of the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. At that moment, I contemplated the distinction between the meanings of peace celebrated by the Nobel Prize, and the tragedy of the aggression waged by Ali Abdullah Saleh against the forces of peaceful change. However, our joy of being on the right side of history made it easier for us to bear the devastating irony.
More than 170 economists have signed a statement in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, according to Econ4.org.
“We are economists who oppose ideological cleansing in the economics profession. Equally we oppose political cleansing in the vital debate over the causes and consequences of our current economic crisis. We support the efforts of the Occupy Wall Street movement across the country and across the globe to liberate the economy from the short-term greed of the rich and powerful “one percent”.
We oppose cynical and perverse attempts to misuse our police officers and public servants to expel advocates of the public good from our public spaces. We extend our support to the vision of building an economy that works for the people, for the planet, and for the future, and we declare our solidarity with the Occupiers who are exercising our democratic right to demand economic and social justice.”–Econ4 Statement
If you are between the ages of 55 and 100, I encourage you to watch this video and consider how you can stand with the Occupy Movement. Rev. Jim Lawson, Rev. Phillip Lawson, Rev. Nelson Johnson, Dolores Huerta, Joyce Johnson, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, Dr. Vincent Harding, send messages of celebration and affirmation as Occupy continues to expand the work of the Beloved Community in our time. If you are between the ages of 12 and 54, I encourage you to watch this video and consider how you can show respect and gratitude to our elders in the movement.
Thanks to Catherine Woodiwiss over at Center for American Progress for a good article on religious involvement in the movement to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. She writes:
Beth Norcross, vice chair of Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, believes that environmental concerns are squarely in line with religious social traditions. “It’s all interconnected,” she said at the rally on Sunday. “You can’t work on poverty and ignore the environment.”
Rose Berger, a Catholic poet and leading tar sands activist for the Christian social justice network Sojourners, agrees. “Most environmental groups were motivated by faith and spirituality at their root,” she says, so “it’s not surprising that faith is involved. Climate change affects the poor first.” In fact, Berger estimates, due to increasing awareness of climate change, “creation care” has become one of the top concerns of many congregations nationwide.
Numbers bear her out: Research from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicates that nearly half of those who attend worship services hear about environmental concerns from their clergy, and the environment consistently ranks above abortion and gay marriage as a priority for all Christians except white evangelicals. — Catherine Woodiwiss