America and Americans need healing. Our faith communities can help.
For centuries, our churches and faith communities were among the most important providers of physical healing and health care, first caring for the ill in monasteries and on battlefields, then building hospitals. We were there in times of crisis.
This year’s elections are over. The pain that was inflicted, and the need for healing across our great nation, are still with us, however. Many of us are brokenhearted. We have lost valued relationships with family, friends and colleagues over political differences. But, as we look across our faith community’s congregation, we do not see people who would destroy the economy, people who are fascists, communists or anarchists; we do not see people who hate others for who they are, even though we belong to more than one political party. We see a family of believers who love and support each other and who try to work together for the good of society. We have differing ideas of how to grow our economy and protect our country, but none of us are only right or only wrong. Our sense of community allows for a mutual respect of these differences.
Unlike the church, social media — so pervasive in this era of COVID-induced isolation — allows us to interact without knowing the other person, making it easy to demonize the "other side." When we dehumanize, we often inflict damage that we would not consider if face-to-face. Luke 4:18 says, “He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted.” Our faith communities can heal when we listen, we talk, we care.
Just as we are in crisis, so is the Earth. The climate has changed due to human actions, and impacts from this shift are accelerating. A healing of our land, waters and sky is needed — a place where our faith groups are already helping.
This is not the first time humans have caused serious damage to our ecosystem, though it is the most serious. Acid rain from power plant emissions was destroying the forests in the eastern United States 30 years ago. Laws and policies led to cleaner air, which greatly slowed the forest destruction. Human release of certain chemicals, CFCs, caused the ozone hole over Antarctica 35 years ago. Ozone is critical for the survival of all lifeforms on Earth. This problem could only be solved with worldwide support. Every nation in the United Nations eventually joined in ratifying the treaty to ban CFCs, leading to reduction of the hole; the Montreal Protocol was lauded as the single most successful international treaty to date.
Climate change, too, is a worldwide problem. It requires that we stop inflicting harm and choose alternatives, which are available. We have seen that companies, municipalities, states and, yes, even faith communities, can contribute to solving these wicked challenges when we come together.
A Montana Chapter of Interfaith Power and Light formed in 2019. IPL "inspires and mobilizes people of faith and conscience to take bold and just action on climate change." They work with faith communities to become more energy efficient or install solar arrays, and to adopt measures on climate change through personal choices. Six congregations in Montana have installed solar in the past two years! Faith communities take their charge seriously to "replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Like the Bible, the Quran also describes mankind as being stewards of the earth.
Our bodies, our spirits, our minds and our earth are all temples. The sense of community we feel within our buildings of worship can extend beyond the walls. Let’s work on healing our communities and the Earth together!
This opinion is signed by members of the Faith, Science, Climate Action group in Montana: Dr. Robert and Lori Byron, Friends of Faith, Hardin; Rev. Jody McDevitt, First Presbyterian Church, Bozeman; Rev. John Lund, ELCA, Missoula; Rev. Duffy Peet, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, IPL-MT Board Member, Bozeman; Terry Anvik, Farmer, Pella Lutheran Church, IPL-MT Board Member, Sidney; Rev. Connie Campbell-Pearson, St. James Episcopal, Bozeman; Anne Carlson, The Wilderness Society, Choteau; and Abby Huseth, Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Bonner.