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Greta Thunberg, one of our major young climate prophets, on the day after the Notre Dame Cathedral fire began, told the European Parliament (April 16, 2019) they need to act as if their “house was on fire.” She urged her audience “to switch to cathedral mode.”
Thus opens this short but worthy book: “Cathedral on Fire: a church handbook for the climate crisis.”
One of its great strengths is that it is only 50 pages. Still it manages to cover some crucial matters in helpful ways, from theology, to some history of recent climate justice activism, to Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si”. That shows serious effort – it impresses me!
The last chapter, short like all the others, is my favorite. Here are a few quotes to get the flavor.
The sources of our faith tradition provide an ethical foundation that is generally lacking in our society today. p46
A couple of the other chapters make this more clear.
The Bible is much concerned about how we treat other humans, directly and indirectly.
The Bible … continually orients itself to both past and future generations. p46
While future generations receive blessings, they also receive the consequences of sin. … descendants one could very well see in one’s own lifetime. p47[In Mary’s Magnificat] Mary praises a God who “has brought down the powerful from their thrones” … Jesus’ birth speaks to a coming cascade of justice. p48
Berndt’s point here is that climate change is very much a justice issue
– “generational justice” and “intergenerational solidarity” – both as it impacts current citzens of Earth, and very much so in that it will impact coming generations profoundly – and they didn’t ask for it.
Pope Francis spoke of generational justice … “intergenerational solidarity is not optional … since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” p48
Then Berndt strongly emphasizes some quite young climate prophets
who are already here among us, very well informed, feeling it deeply, and vocal about their just concerns.
When it comes to the damage done to our climate, no voice is as morally powerful and persuasive as that of youth. p49
Hand over the microphone and the pulpit to a climate prophet of the younger generation. p49
Climate realists – those with at least a basic understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change … even among this group there can be a profound lack of the moral urgency required. p49
The young climate prophets of today possess not only a moral power but also a theological power, a sense of calling … Like Jeremiah’s call as a youth to confront the government … youth today are experiencing a call to provoke a moment of moral reckoning for our government and for our society at large. p49
… an interfaith campaign called “Justice for #EachGeneration.” It calls for more than a thousand sermons preached in solidarity, and it especially encourages youth to preach. p50
Youth such as Greta Thunberg, Xiye Bastida, and Jamie Margolin have forced a reckoning today when it comes to the climate crisis. They are raising their voices to say, “Woe to you politicians and wielders of power!” p50[Thunberg at the U.N.] “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight. ” p50
When it comes to the “uncomfortable” numbers of climate science, these grown-ups are “still not mature enough to tell it like it is.” p51
Greta won’t abide claims of hopelessness …. Hope comes to those who act, so it is up to us to get out there … to join our kids and grandkids in the street. p51
This chapter is short, not really sweet, and quite moving to me. You could get a copy of the book for the price of one or two over-priced cups of coffee. 🙂
(See also “Only Justice Can Stop a Curse” – from 18 years ago!)