Earth Day, April 22, 2014, came and went without much notice by many churches or Christian organizations. Some observed the day and called for followers of Jesus to care for God's creation and to address the issue of climate change. But for many in the Christian community, Earth Day is not on the top of their agenda. Indeed, some believe climate change is not even "real" so it has no concern for them.
We live in time where convenience and comfort go a long way to determine our life choices. Whether we live near the equator or near the Artic Circle, we want to live in a comfortable room temperature of 20 degree Celsius. As a result, we use up the earth's resources to make sure we live and sleep within that comfort zone with little thought to what it does to our earth and the affects it has on climate change.
For many Christians, stewardship has become more about giving our money to the church than caring for God's creation. We have often misunderstood Genesis 1:28, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground" to legitimize human domination of the earth and reinforce our own selfish agenda.
Christians have a long history and tradition of domination. Christians in the name of evangelism have gone to the ends of the earth to convert people to Christianity. European immigrants, many of them Christians, came to North America and conquered the people, participated in genocide and dominated the earth. Many Christians still live in this mentality of domination to subdue the earth and to exploit it.
In my third book, Colonialism, Han and the Transformative Spirit, I discuss how Christians participate in domination, globalization and colonialism to the detriment of the marginalized people and the earth. We are creating great harm to the earth and its inhabitants; our selfish ways are creating han. Han is a Korean term that is difficult to translate into English. One of the best translations is "unjust suffering" and "piercing of the heart". Han is about immense pain and suffering perpetuated by an individual, a group, or a system.
Through the distortion of the Christian message, we Christians are major participants in distressing and damaging the earth. When we consider the damage we inflict on the earth as we destroy and rape it, when we realize the depths of suffering this damage does to the created order including the human family, we recognize that we have become the perpetrators of enormous han to the earth.
Many scientists argue that we cannot continue to live in the same manner than we are presently living. Ice caps are melting and the sea level is rising. Contrary to what many Christians may believe, climate change is real and affects people world-wide. We must evaluate and stop our abusive living. Even President Obama sees the urgency of climate change and is taking action to tackle this issue and protect the earth.
Some churches are recognizing this urgency to change its ways or suffer the consequences. The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a world-wide group of churches which strive to seek unity, become a common witness, and participate in Christian service. It's Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland and as a fellowship of churches is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.
"The WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians." The WCC is a unique group that reflects, discusses, acts, worships, and works together. It strives to challenge the church and to wrestle with pressing and pertinent ideas.
The WCC Working Group on Climate Change will meet in Wuppertal, Germany from May 12-16, 2014. This will be the second year I will attend and participate in this working group. The agenda is extensive and the goals are difficult and may feel unattainable, but there is still hope and a desire to take measures to save the earth.
From the 10th General Assembly meeting held in Pusan Korea from October 30-November 8, 2014, the WCC adopted a Minute on Climate Justice which reads:
We live in a time of global crises. Economic, ecological, socio-political and spiritual challenges confront us ... By the flame of the Spirit in our hearts, we pray to Christ to brighten the world: for his light to turn our whole beings to caring for the whole of creation and to affirm that all people are created in God's image. Listening to voices that often come from the margins, let us all share lessons of hope and perseverance. Let us recommit ourselves to work for liberation and to act in solidarity. May the illuminating Word of God guide us on our journey.
Other groups and organizations are also working toward saving the earth. There will be an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change on September 21-22, 2014 in New York. It is part of a global effort to mobilize action on climate change. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited Heads of State and Government along with business, finance, civil society, and local leaders to a Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York.
Actions are taking place to work toward saving the earth. However if we all do not do our part, there will not be enough time to save the planet from destruction. Every single church group and body needs to recognize the urgency of this matter and take part in eco-justice. We are all called to be stewards of the earth, and we need to act now. The elimination of Earth's han will begin if we begin to live a life of eco-sufficiency and eco-justice. For the earth, the actions we take today are already a day late.