Susannah Tuttle and I had the privilege of representing NCIPL at the annual meeting of Interfaith Power & Light last week in Washington, DC. We spent two days immersed in heady discussions with other state leaders about our mutual work with congregations all across the nation – finding ways to respond positively to the theological call to care for creation. Big and small, mature and fledgling state affiliates shared success stories, joys and frustrations, strategies and creative ideas on how to recruit ever more congregations into this critical work. We laughed, we cried, we sang, we did yoga, and we even had an original rap performance! (Stand-by for youtube link soon!) The food was delicious, the presentations informative, the conversation spectacular. It was a stimulating and rejuvenating time – for two days.
Day Three was our day for doing Hill visits to our senators’ and representatives’ offices. Our mission was to encourage support for bipartisan energy efficiency legislation that is pending in both the House (HR 4017) and the Senate (S 1000), and solicit support for the long-awaited carbon regulations on new power plants that were issued in April by the EPA. The Congress was in recess, so we knew we would only see staff, but that didn’t make us any less anxious to present a good argument and develop those all-important relationships that help us with access to our elected officials. Susannah and I had six visits on the Hill. What we heard from each of the six staffers was a very consistent two-part theme. First, the highly polarized political environment that is today’s reality will, for the foreseeable future, make even “no brainer,” bipartisan, job-creating, energy-saving bills like the ones we were talking about very unlikely to pass. Second, if anyone can be heard above the special interests and K Street lobbyists, it is us – the faith community.
Each staffer let us know that the language we use and the motivation from which we speak is unique and highly credible. Our legislators take their faiths seriously and, when a message comes from the perspective of faith, they take note. We were encouraged to speak up loudly and often on matters that our faith, values, moral responsibility require us to care about. By digging down to the source of our motivations grounded in our love of God and gratitude for the great gift of life in all forms, we can speak about the need to change how we live in and of this Earth-home in language that transcends money, partisan politics and special interests. We were told again and again that this message rings true and needs to be heard.
As we were preparing for our Hill visits as a group, we talked about how each of us can use genuine language to speak truth to power about what we face with climate change and how we must work both to minimize ongoing damage to our planet but also adapt to the changing circumstance we can no longer avoid. One simple phrase that captures why we must stop the pillage of our Earth-home driven by our over-consumptive habits and appetites is this – “as we treat the gift so we treat the Giver.” We were given life and a spectacularly beautify home to sustain that life. Not only is care of creation a matter of physical survival, it is more importantly a reflection of our relationship with God. To do less than cherish and protect our planet is a failure to love God with all our hearts, our souls and our strength. This is the message that we need to take to the elected officials in Washington and in Raleigh and in our municipalities and counties. This is the message the staffers in D.C. said could be heard. Please join us at NCIPL to develop that message and sing it to the mountaintops and in the halls of Congress and the state legislature and city hall.
Love God, Heal Earth.
— Kathy Shea, Co-Director, NCIPL