When I found out that the current issue of Unbound focuses on “Hope for Eco-Activists: Discovering an Environmental Faith,” I joyfully, yet naively thought, “of course, another article on faith and the environment.”
I say “naively” because while I work day-in and day-out on the intersection of climate change and faith, sometimes I forget that the rest of the human population isn’t doing the same. That’s not to say that the world isn’t full of diverse issues that need our attention. But I find myself so immersed in my work, that when a journal such as this finds its way to my desk, my first reaction is, “Of course! Of course this is a journal about environmental issues and faith. Isn’t that what all journals are about?” And then I remember, feeling somewhat saddened, that my reaction reflects my perspective on how things should be, not how they actually are. In fact, religious journals such as these completely focused on environmental issues are a rarity, a true gem, in my line of work.
But, such notions are becoming less rare every day. Look at the work of NCIPL; in fact consider the work of all of the IPL’s across the country. Recall all of the congregations that we work with, those who are lowering their congregation’s carbon emissions in countless ways. One by one, we are making the connection between what our faith calls us to do and what it is that we actually do. And if you are reading this blog post, maybe you are, too.
So what about the actual issue itself? I haven’t read the entire thing, as it isn’t all released yet. When Unbound announced the theme of this issue, they received so many entries that they had to stagger the release of the publication. That so many people had much to say about the intersection of faith and the environment but also hope, faith, and the environment is hopeful in and of itself. Praise God!
The journal has several categories — eco-spirituality, eco-relationships, and eco-community. I found that each category mapped out yet another theological model for why faith and living mindfully with the rest of life go hand-in-hand.
One author explains that maybe we don’t see more work like this because:
We have tended to view the gospel as a token for getting into heaven, rather than an invitation to the purposeful, embodied work of representing the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Our pronounced emphasis on personal spirituality and sin-avoidance has led to a truncated view of the gospel. […]. In the same way that we have compartmentalized our lives into the sacred (the “religious”) and the secular (the “sinful”), we have compartmentalized the gospel. We have extracted the gospel for the individual from the gospel for the world, and effectively elevated the former over the latter. Yet in order for us to be a part of God’s redemptive work on earth, our first step is to recognize the sheer scope of the gospel—that not only are we personally reconciled to God in Christ, but that God is in the business of “reconciling the world to himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19, NIV). In this way we can arrive at a gospel that is good news for all of creation and not just for the private human sector.
In his opening editorial, Patrick David Heery says that “this issue asks a simple question: What gets us out of bed every morning and gives us the will to fight another day for sustainability, earth care, and eco-justice?” I think Nina captured my answer to that question; I get out of bed every day and continue this work in hopes that our civilization will one day fully understand the gospel, all the gospels for that matter, and see them as one “that is good news for all of creation and not just for the private human sector.” I get out of bed in hopes that one day, I can rationally say “Of course, another journal on faith and the environment.”
— Allison Reeves Jolley, PHW Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator
North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light (NCIPL) is a program of the North Carolina Council of Churches. NCIPL works with faith communities to address the causes and consequences of global climate change and promote practical, hope-filled responses through education, outreach, and public policy advocacy. Please visit our website for information on our current programs, campaigns, and events.