The Soul of the Nation is Still on the Ballot
And the soul is our environment
Slavery was our country’s original sin, and one that tarnishes the nation’s soul to this day; a terrible legacy that has reverberated through generations. Now there is another sin our country is in danger of committing that will possibly have even farther-reaching consequences: destruction of the environment that leads to catastrophic climate change.
Just as the incoming Biden administration is mobilizing on the COVID crisis, it must mobilize now on climate. Unchecked global warming will make this pandemic look like child’s play. As a long time civil rights activist and pastor, I don’t think of myself as a “fire and brimstone” preacher, but today I tell folks that you won’t have to go to Hell to see fire and brimstone — you’ll be seeing it right here on earth if we don’t act swiftly to protect God’s creation and respond to the urgent warnings we are getting every day. From the apocalyptic wildfires out west to the hurricanes too numerous to name, it’s happening now. If unaddressed, global warming will cause the largest human catastrophe the world has ever seen. The homes of billions could be uninhabitable by the middle of the century. Even Americans could find themselves among the refugee populations.
The appointment of a senior statesman like John Kerry as climate envoy is a good sign that the Biden administration intends to take it seriously. But the administration cannot do it alone. Our country must mobilize and join the rest of the world, applying lessons learned from fighting the COVID pandemic. One thing we’ve learned is that global challenges require global cooperation – what affects one affects the other. People of faith must ask themselves, and ask the candidates on our ballot this January — where are your values when it comes to climate change? Will you protect Creation and our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, whether here in the US or in low-lying island nations? As a longtime civil rights advocate, I cannot separate civil rights from climate justice. We know that people of color, both here and around the world, are bearing the brunt of climate disasters.
This environmental struggle is a continuation of the struggle for civil rights, which is really a struggle for justice. I certainly didn’t expect this battle for fair voting rights to continue right into 2020, even after the passing of my friend the late Rep. John Lewis. Yet I don’t despair, because I see progress every day.
As a Christian, I often look to scripture for guidance. In Isaiah 40:31, God tells a weary people to not give up — that they will be given the strength of eagles. We too must trust in God to give us strength as we face the turbulent winds challenging our frustration and disappointment as we fight to achieve climate mitigation. We will “mount up on wings of eagles and not grow weary nor faint”.
America’s soul is always a work in progress, and we have been warned against hubris. We have a chance to take a step forward, toward justice, and Georgia voters have the eyes of the nation upon us. My prayer is that we all answer the call, and make it known that protecting our environment is not a partisan political issue or even optional — it is about survival. America’s soul — and the environment that gives life to all God’s creatures — is truly on the line. The climate crisis is deeply bound up with racial injustice, and now the diverse state of Georgia will make some consequential choices. I urge my fellow Georgians to express their values through their ballots this January and begin to redeem the soul of America.
Rev. Durley is on the Blessed Tomorrow Leadership Circle, and is the Board Chair of Interfaith Power & Light. He is also the Pastor Emeritus of the historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, where he served for over 25 years.
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