The Greening of the World's Religions and The Great Warming DVD Release
World's Religious leaders have been slow to embrace the the serious questions that relate to environmental stewardship. Two items that came across my desk today point to changes that are occuring in that arena. The interface between Interfaith Relations and Environmental Justice will be a concern I will give greater attention in the future. In this I will partner with the Environmental Justice program of the National Council of Churches.
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First, in an excellent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim elaborate on this question. They write:
Until recently religious communities have been so absorbed in internal sectarian affairs that they were unaware of the magnitude of the environmental crisis at hand. Certainly the natural world figures prominently in the major religions: God's creation of material reality in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the manifestation of the divine in the karmic processes underlying the recycling of matter in Hinduism and Jainism; the interdependence of life in Buddhism; and the Tao (the Way) that courses through nature in Confucianism and Taoism. Despite those emphases on creation, many religions turned from the turbulent world in a redemptive flight to a serene, transcendent afterlife.
The questions arise, then: If religions are willing to stand by and witness the withering of the earth, has not something of their religious sensibilities become deadened, or at best severely reduced? Why have religions been so late in responding to environmental issues, and what are the obstacles to their full participation? Has concern for personal salvation or redemption become an obstacle to caring for creation? Why has apocalyptic thinking come to interpret ecological collapse as a manifestation of the end time?
Some within religious communities, such as the cultural historian Thomas Berry, do acknowledge the critical nature of our present moment. The concern arising in some religious and environmental circles is whether humans are indeed a viable species — whether our presence on the planet is sustainable. As the Greek Orthodox theologian the Metropolitan John of Pergamon has written, the problem is not simply about creating a stewardship ethic in which humans "manage" the earth. Rather, he suggests that the current crisis challenges us to reformulate our ontology, our very nature as humans.
Read the entire article here
Second, from Faith in Public Life, an advocacy group based in Washington DC comes the following press release about the release of the DVD movie The Great Warming. This action is endorsed by religious leaders of many traditions. Here's the press release:
Religious, Enviro Coalition Aims to Screen Climate Change Film in 10,000 Churches Prior to ’08 Elections: DVD Release of Movie Announced
Emblematic of the growing movement that pairs religious leaders with scientists, a national coalition of clergy, religious groups, policymakers, scientists and environmental groups today announced the DVD release of the critically-acclaimed climate change film The Great Warming and the goal of getting the movie screened in 10,000 churches prior to the 2008 election. Already seen in 500 churches by at least 30,000 people, The Great Warming presents climate change as a moral, ethical and spiritual issue.
The DVD release is part of a major initiative to engage Americans in proactive action and advocacy to make environmental stewardship and creation care a top policy priority. A special package is being offered to churches, which includes a copy of the DVD and a set of downloadable guides specifically designed for religious audiences, including a Sunday School discussion guide and a 60-page Creation Care sermon guide with source material from the Old and New Testaments.
Rev. Dr. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, a signer of the recent statement by evangelicals and scientists demanding policy and lifestyle changes to combat global warming is one of the faith leaders in the film. In an NAE letter recommending the film, Cizik wrote, “The Great Warming presents an objective, balanced, overview of climate change – the science, the consequences, and, most importantly, the solutions. It also features a major sequence about the evangelical response to climate change, emphasizing Christian action… May this film challenge, inspire, and ultimately change you, as it has me!”
Following months of calls from people who viewed the documentary in their communities and churches, Regal Cinemas released the film on the big screen last November. Now, convinced that the movie must reach a broad audience in order to galvanize action on climate change, clergy and religious organizations from across the country are all working to promote the film’s DVD release to their congregations and constituencies.
Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, pastor of the 12,000-member Northland Church in Longwood, Florida who recently stepped down from becoming the president of the Christian Coalition because of the organization’s refusal to broaden its focus, is among the many pastors who have hosted church viewings of The Great Warming. Dr. Hunter is also a member of the Evangelical Climate Initiative and a signer of the recent climate change statement by evangelicals and scientists. "I'm part of the religious right, and am one of those leaders who wants to expand the agenda... to the compassion issues that really care for people and really care about God’s creation," Dr. Hunter said on a teleconference promoting The Great Warming Call to Action.
Also featured in The Great Warming is Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, Pastor of Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta: “It became crystal clear to me as I watched The Great Warming that environmental concerns must become an integrated, active part of the life-sustaining messages in the African-American community. These essential messages must be mandatory teachings throughout all faith traditions, if we are to survive.”
Click here for audio from the teleconference with evangelical leaders -- Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, Rev. Dr. Paul de Vries, and Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo -- announcing The Great Warming Call to Action in October 2006, which has included airing ads on Christian radio stations and widely distributing a unified statement through churches and religious organizations.
DVDs of The Great Warming and the special church exhibition kit can be ordered online by visiting http://www.thegreatwarming.com/ or by calling 800-493-9369.