Walking Back from the Climate Cliff: "Pray-In" at the White House, January 15

Photos of Hurricane Sandy disaster; click to expand

To put the bottom line first: Below is an invitation to join in  and/or support a Multi-faith Pray-in for the Climate at the White House on January 15.

For months, various politicians have been warning us of the dire effects on our grandchildren of the federal deficit and insisting that when the Fiscal Cliff arrives this winter we must drastically cut Federal spending on schools, our infrastructure of bridges and sewers and railroads, Medicaid, and renewable energy.

For me, grandchildren are not a political abstraction. I have five of them, ranging from three years old to twelve. When I imagine their futures, I am much more worried about how empty-headed education, worsening health, a rotting infrastructure, and especially more disasters like Superstorm Sandy will affect them.  

Much more dangerous than the Fiscal Cliff is the Climate Cliff we are facing, as the growing number of extreme weather events -- Superstorms, fierce floods, drastic droughts --- wound us and warn us.

Our religious communities should join with labor unions, small businesses, PTA’s, coops, neighborhood associations, and our college faculty and students to demand a set of changes that will sow the seeds of greater change, by cutting the power of the Carbon Lords and committing the President and Congress to vigorous action. If we go over the Climate Cliff now, my grandchildren – our grandchildren – will live in misery and suffering.

What can we do, when can we take the next careful steps back from the Cliff? One time and place will be a multi-faith "Pray-in for the Climate" January 15, in front of the White House. Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) is planning the pray-in. The Shalom Center is a member of IMAC, and I am a member of its coordinating committee.  Here is IMAC's Call to the Pray-in:

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Call To Action:  A Pray-in For the Climate

Dear Friends,

We are facing a Climate Cliff, and we are calling upon religious and spiritual leaders, other believers and all people of good will to join us to address its danger by participating in “A Pray-in for the Climate” in front of the White House on Tuesday, January 15, 2013.

Super-storm Sandy, the drastic droughts in our corn country, record-breaking Arctic ice melt, and unheard-of floods in Vermont, let alone disasters in Australia, Russia, Pakistan and Africa, all warn us: the disruption of our planet will not wait for our “normal” political paralysis to end.

We are inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose 84th birthday we celebrate on January 15th:

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.... Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words:  ’Too late’.”

If we go over the Climate Cliff now, our grandchildren will live in misery and suffering.

Fifty years ago, our country faced a crisis of racial inequality in the USA that was a basic threat to justice and democracy. Religious communities and others acted, and we made a difference.

Today’s deepest crisis is the danger facing the web of life upon our planet, including the human race - especially the poorest and most vulnerable.  We are especially concerned by the effects on local communities and our planetary future of destructive, extreme energy extraction: mountaintop removal, fracking, Arctic and deep sea offshore oil drilling and tar sands mining.

Out of our moral commitment to protect and heal God’s Creation, our religious communities need to be calling for a set of first-step changes that will sow the seeds of greater change, by committing the President and Congress to vigorous action. And we should pose those demands in such a way that we are addressing not only our government, but also religious communities throughout the country.

What can we do? When can we take the next careful steps back from the Cliff? One time and place will be mid-day on Tuesday, January 15th in front of the White House. Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) is planning “A Pray-in for the Climate.”

IMAC is a collaborative initiative of religious leaders, groups and individuals that came together in 2011 in response to the pressing need for more visible, unified, prophetic action to address the climate crisis. As people of faith and spirituality, we feel compelled by our traditions and collective conscience to take action on this deeply moral challenge.

Please note that some participants may feel called to risk arrest by nonviolently disregarding the conventional regulations and assuming positions of prayer in the area near the White House fence.

We expect to be joined by survivors of Super-storm Sandy and their religious leaders from communities like the Rockaways and Staten Island in New York.

January 15th is close enough to Inauguration Day (January 21) to make the connection with what the President should be doing in his second term, and far enough away that the action won’t drown in the media swamp.

And, it is the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The action will be carried out in the spirit of his work. We will gather at 11:00 am at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, a few blocks from the White House. At noon, we will walk there in a religious procession and join our voices in a prayerful vigil. We will be praying that President Obama and all of us find the strength and wisdom to lead our country and world away from the Climate Cliff.

What will we be urging that the President do to meet the needs of this critical hour in planetary time?  He must break the silence by taking necessary actions, such as these:

1. Permanently refuse permits for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, because tar- oil is among the most dangerous of the planet-heating forms of carbon

2. Call a National Summit Conference on the Climate Crisis that includes leaders of business, labor, academia, religious communities, governmental officialdom, science, and other relevant bodies

3. Publicly support and advocate for a carbon fee that will generate hundreds of billions of dollars, with provisions to ensure that working families and the poor are not harmed by higher carbon prices; for an end to subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industries; and for substantial subsidies for research, development, and use of renewable, sustainable and jobs-creating clean energy sources.

We invite and urge you to join us on January 15th at the White House.

To our President and Congress we address the prophetic words of Dr. King spoken at another moment of crisis:   

“This is a time to break the silence!”

With blessings of shalom, salaam, pax, paz, peace,

Members of the IMAC Steering Committee

Rev. Tom Carr, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Hartford, CT, Interreligious Eco Justice Network, CT
Rev. Terry Ellen, Executive Director, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice in the National Capital Region
Ted Glick, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Cynthia Harris, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate
Dr. Mark Johnson, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Fr. Paul Mayer, Climate Crisis Coalition
Ibrahim Ramey, Muslim American Freedom Society
Karen Scott, Center for Liberty of Conscience
Lise Van Susteren, MD, Center for Health and the Global Environment, NWF
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

Questions? – Please contact the IMAC Steering Committee through Cynthia Harris at cynthiaharris4930@gmail.com

Contact info:  http://interfaithactiononclimatechange.org <http://interfaithactiononclimatechange.org/> ; Cynthia Harris at cynthiaharris4930@gmail.com, 202-288-8788

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My comments and invitation:

The Carbon Lords seem determined to throw us off the Climate Cliff, to maximize their profits.   IMAC is proposing careful beginner steps to start walking us back from the cliff.

We don’t imagine these steps will be “enough,” just as the Montgomery bus boycott and the early sit-ins were not “enough.” Looking much further back in religious history, Moses’ first challenges to Pharaoh, the Palm Sunday procession that Jesus led, and Mohammed’s original confrontations with Abu-Jahl in Mecca were not “enough.” 

But change did come.

Indeed, the Passover/ Holy Week imagery and meaning -- especially drawing on the ancient Exodus story to address the modern "plagues" brought on us by the modern "pharaohs" -- will be the next focus of IMAC’s and The Shalom Center’s work.  After January 15, I will write more about those plans.

Meanwhile, first steps. If you want to sign and support the IMAC Call, even if you cannot be present at the White House on January 15,   please write me a note at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org with your title, name, postal address, and phone. If you plan to take part in the action, let me know.

One last thought. Ten years ago, as the Bush Administration dragged us all into the disastrous  Iraq War, The Shalom Center took part in similar peaceful, prayerful protests. Our judgment in those days proved to be wise, and our actions to be worthy. I think we are facing now an even bigger test. 

Those of us who are deciding whether to risk arrest on January 15  need your spiritual help – your prayers that we be rightly guided by the Breath of Life – and your material help. To send the former, simply pray.  To send the latter, please click on the “Donate” line on the left margin.

 Many thanks, and my blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace – Arthur



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