Some ideas about how a follower of Jesus might attempt to change the world.
by Jeff Neuman-Lee
I've been doing some work with a group in Denver aiming at helping to keep the worst effects of climate change from happening. It's a big problem. How does one, as a follower of Jesus, work for change in this world?
As I've done my work, what I find is that how the followers of Jesus have done their best work is also the pattern I want to use for my work on such a political issue. I also find that the answers are very important to us at Whittier Community Church as we work to share the Good News and grow the church.
1. – Put a Human Face On It or Talk to People!
The problem of climate change, just like any human spiritual issue, is enmeshed at the core of American cultural, economic, and political life. As America is a diverse place, this problem is seen by many different people in many different ways. For some it is not a problem; for others it is the problem; and for many it is out of sight, something that someone else will care for.
Not matter how it is seen as a problem, the call to end the use of fossil fuels is commonly seen as a call to a radically difficult personal transformation, as well as disturbing cultural dislocation. While my friends and I don't see the problem of changing our energy sources as necessarily being so dramatic, we know that the political will in America is currently substantially stuck in those perceptions.
Not due to the simple technological changes, but rather due to the history that we Americans are so hard to change culturally, the change we call for is perceived to be on the scale of the still unfinished cultural changes away from racism of the 1860's and 1960's. After a couple hundred of years from when the first courageous, far-sighted colonists started that spiritual/ physical/ political work to see all people as equals in dignity, that fight continues.
The difference is that this change from one source of power to another has a clearly defined physical reality that is not shared by our transformation into a non-racist society; the change FossilFuelFreeDenver.org seeks would thwart climactic changes which could, within the life-span of people alive today, simply end humanity's ability to function as civilization. We understand that if we do not accomplish our goals in enough time, the discussion stops. Part of our work is to understand what is going on with climate change. Yes, it is a technical and scientific problem; but even more so, it is also a problem of social perception.
Looking for inspiration to centuries of followers working to spread the Good News of God's Grace to All and more recently to the LGBT movement, we know that personally coming out, face to face with people who either don’t get it or don’t want to get it, is effective. Those who misperceive an issue, who find their tribal identification by working against others, can change by actually knowing someone who is their perceived enemy. It is not simply the logic of an argument (although that does have to hold water), but the personal connection that gains a hearing. It is being "with" that gains friends.