The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
Through sermons and discussion groups, prayer gatherings and dramatic readings, video screenings and postcard-writing sessions to their U.S. Senators, people of diverse faiths across the country recently arose to proclaim the urgent need to address climate change. Interfaith Power and Light’s annual Preach-In campaign over Valentine’s Day weekend prompted some 1,700 congregations to action on this topic.
People of faith everywhere proclaim the moral dimensions of climate change, and it’s a message that won’t go away. More and more faith groups are getting involved, roughly in sync with the steady increase in what scientists tell us are symptoms of climate change. As the reality of climate change hits home through repeated extreme weather events and other impacts, our changing climate has become a personal issue for many.
Our civilization will not likely respond much to our climate dilemma until more and more of us feel it in our gut and connect it to our deepest values. The golden rule, common to all faiths, pretty much spells out the problem and the solution: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Humanity’s carbon emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels and deforestation, now wreak havoc across the world, threatening the lives and livelihoods of all people.
Sadly, those most vulnerable to climate change contributed the least to the problem – the poor, our children and the world’s future generations. Climate change is less an environmental problem than it is a matter of justice, fairness and equity. Our faith traditions hold these values high and specialize in fostering them.
Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder and president of Interfaith Power and Light, offers some insightful reflections on this matter in a short video the U.S. Baha’i community recently produced to help spur involvement in the Preach-In. Citing the Book of Genesis, she reminds us, “God put us into the garden to till it and keep it,” one of the “first bits of instruction” imparted in that sacred book. In a related passage, she notes, God gives us dominion over all living things.
“Properly translated,” Sally explains, “dominion means stewardship – of the water, the land and the air. If we don’t take care of those things, we ourselves won’t be healthy.” In Sally’s words, “Taking care of creation is a matter of faith. It’s as important as love, justice and peace.” Recognition of the relevance of these principles to the unsustainable path humanity has been traversing drove Sally many years ago to take to the pulpit and make caring for creation the central focus of her ministry.
She notes that every major movement in America (e.g. the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, the education of women and children) has been influenced in a big way by the kind of moral authority that comes with religion. Sally’s hopes and prays that more and more people come to the recognition that caring for creation is “a moral, spiritual, religious issue.”
My perspective, informed by the Baha’i teachings, sees it exactly that way. The Baha’i writings convey that nature reflects the divine; through it and through the world’s sacred scriptures we can learn of God’s attributes and work to mirror them in our own lives.
The central Baha’i principle, the oneness of humankind, calls for a change in the present day order, the likes of which we have yet to witness. When we begin to see all of humanity as constituting a single family, drawing upon the forces of love and justice, it will have profound implications for our approach to the climate issue – and to just about every other issue, as well:
All men are servants of the One God. One God reigns over all the nations of the world and has pleasure in all His children. All men are of one family; the crown of humanity rests on the head of every human being. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 138.
So let’s summon all our spiritual attributes and apply our most creative thinking toward the resolution of the climate crisis. We can do this best when both solid science and our deepest religious principles guide us. That’s what motivated so many to take part in the recent Preach-In, and that is what will empower us to find the solutions we seek as stewards of creation.
To learn more about what the U.S. Baha’i community is doing at the national and local levels to combat climate change, visit the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs website.