"There is a striking, and regrettable, similarity between right-wing and left-wing intellectuals in the contemporary United States: both of them spend a lot more time on cultural issues than on economic ones. The political right spends a lot of time talking about family values. The political left spends a lot of time talking about cultural diversity. Neither side has anything very concrete to say about how to reverse the growing gap between the rich and the poor." (Richard Rorty, The Intellectuals and the Poor, 2001)
I resemble this remark. As a left-wing intellectual and progressive pastor, I do spend a lot more time on cultural issues than economic ones. And although I do spend time these days advocating for renters' rights, I can't say that I have a lot of concrete proposals on how to shift the economy in a way that would make our economic system genuinely more equitable.
But what I want to do in this space is move one step beyond Rorty's prescience. I'd like to replace "economic ones" in the first sentence with the "the climate crisis." The right and the left are currently battling it out over cultural issues and are distracted from the most pressing issue of our era.
My parishioner Terry Tremwel, retired instructor of sustainability at the University of Arkansas and a vocal advocate for solar and other green solutions to the climate crisis, regularly points out to me that the climate crisis exacerbates essentially all other social injustices we concern ourselves with as a church. So we have before us a triple threat: 1) the left and the right are caught up in a culture war that 2) largely distracts us from the more significant issue of economic injustice, and 3) underlying all of this is climate change, a more cataclysmic issue that requires even larger and significant interventions than either cultural problems or economic injustice.
In light of this, what are communities of faith to do? I think we are called to model that which we want our corporations and governments to do. 2030 Climate Sanctuaries are faith sanctuaries committed to going net zero GHG carbon emissions by 2030. A 2030 Climate Sanctuary makes two commitments. First, they conduct an energy audit to evaluate their current ecological footprint. Then, at the highest level of their organization, they commit to getting to zero carbon by 2030. Climate sanctuaries also advocate for zero carbon by 2030 with their denominations and their members, and where possible disconnect lines to natural gas and other companies who are not net zero.
I turn 50 this year. I've set myself the goal of getting 50 congregations to sign on to this 2030 Climate Sanctuaries goal by the end of the year. It's my hope that by the time my own children are 50 years old, they'll be able to say our generation actually did it, we halted climate change and so prepared the world to be a more livable place for them.
Will you work with your local congregation to sign on? Visit https://www.2030climatesanctuaries.org to learn more.