Monday, August 22, 2022

Guest Essay: God Created Us To Do Good Works - A Safe Climate And Healthy Environment Must Be Part Of That

By Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox and Paul Douglas,
Evangelical Environmental Network

This guest essay appeared in the York Daily Record on August 19, 2022--

"He could have called ten thousand angels. But He died alone (alone) for you and me."
These lyrics, written in 1958 by Ray Overholt who wasn’t yet a Christian, were inspired from his reading of Matthew 26:53, come into my consciousness every time I watch the Christian flag being bandied about at a white supremacist event, an anti-government rally, or the replays of the January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol. 

And my heart breaks.

Ray Overholt got it right, whereas those who spout violence while claiming to be Christians simply get it wrong. Jesus won victory through the sacrifice of his life, not violence. Jesus acted in love and grace, not hate and bigotry. 

Without question, church history is filled with acts of violence from the crusades to the inquisitions to the sexual abuse of children and women today. 

These acts are not the Way of Jesus. They are the product of humanity failing to follow Jesus’s Way.

The Way of Christ is love, care, and truth. In 1 John 3:18 (NIV) we are commanded, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 

Both love and truth seem missing in our nation today and even in some who claim to be Christ’s church.

The absence of love and truth is rooted in fear. That fear has fueled racism and made scapegoats out of people of color for fear of a “new America” where those in the minority will one day be the majority.

While Pennsylvania’s once thriving steel mills, coal mines, electric generating stations, and heavy manufacturing have all but disappeared and so have good paying jobs that went with them, it’s not because of the changing face of America. 

We must stop embracing the lies of politicians and the fossil fuel industries that promote division and make us point fingers at each other.

The truth is coal is not coming back. The blast furnaces of a generation ago are gone and believing the lies, denying science, and creating scapegoats won’t rebuild America. 

But loving one another, hard work, and accepting truth over fiction plus faith is the hope we need. 

We must come together to build a new economy that benefits the former coal miners and the front line folks forced to live in areas with life-threatening pollution through the evil practices of red-lining and other racist practices.

How do we start the process of addressing these problems that have been used to divide us? As evangelical Christians, the Bible is our guide to life, and Mark 12:29-31 (NIV) supplies Jesus’s most important commands:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these.

One of the ways we can love our neighbor is addressing extreme weather. While the past few days have brought relief to our sweltering heat, it’s sure to be short lived. 

Last month clocked in as the third warmest July ever in the United States, with night temperatures the highest ever recorded. 

In our area, the average summer evening temperature has increased 3.6 degrees F from 1970. 

Unless we start reducing carbon pollution that fuels extreme weather, in 40 years York’s temperatures will feel like Nashville. 

Pennsylvanians are not alone in experiencing extreme weather. We all watched the recent flooding in Kentucky, the droughts in the American West and the host of other extreme weather events recorded on NOAA’s website (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

We can do our part to reduce carbon pollution that intensifies these extreme weather events here in Pennsylvania. 

We are the 5th largest carbon polluter in the U.S and our numbers increased by 10% last year. 

We recently joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which can cut dangerous carbon pollution by 227 million tons and help us temper extreme weather. 

RGGI proceeds would add $800 million this year to help build a new economy with family sustaining jobs for all.

Some lawmakers are trying to stop RGGI through state courts and continue denying the truth and promoting lies. 

Instead, we hope the Legislature starts acting in love and deed to help all Pennsylvanians instead of special interests. 

We can invest RGGI proceeds to move residents toward a healthier future, especially for our children who are most vulnerable to dangerous emissions.

It’s time for those who call themselves Christians to live into Jesus’ commands and model his life of love. 

Jesus could have called 10,000 angels but instead God created us as his masterpiece to do good works (Ephesian 2:10). 

A safe climate and healthy environment must be part of that.

The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox and Paul Douglas are with the Evangelical Environmental Network.

[Posted: August 22, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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