What the Green Climate Fund Means for The Widow and The Orphan

by Alexei Laushkin

In the summer of 2013, I traveled to Malawi as part of a trip organized by the ministry I serve with the Evangelical Environmental Network. Like many Christians who travel overseas for missions, I was changed by the experience.

What made this trip so unique is that I went simply to listen and ask questions. Over the course of 10 days I got to do exactly that.

There’s something very refreshing about getting outside of yourself long enough to orient yourself around the lives of other people. To see, to taste, to sense how another culture lives and another people, equally made in the image of God, strive for fullness of life.

Malawi has long been a center of vibrant Christianity, which was evident in the people we spoke with. I can remember one interview in particular where we delved into the subject of sorrow and loss, a subject that we approach uncomfortably in the west. There were actually two of us interviewing this woman. She said when she was sorrowful she would go to her closest friend and sing the songs they sang in church.

I’ll never forget when that dear woman sang for me, her song of comfort in the midst of loss. I was deeply moved.

In the last year, Malawi has suffered; suffered from horrible floods, floods that overwhelmed our partner in ministry Eagles Relief and Development. You can read more about these floods and how climate plays into the story here and here.

The relief and development community and corresponding donors have a historic opportunity to look at changes to our natural world and what these changes might mean for those who suffer in countries like Malawi. Changes in rainfall patterns, changes in climatic growing zones, changes in extreme weather, all fueled by changes in the climate need to be examined and looked at.

Congress has a historic chance to do something about investing in that sort of smart innovation through the Green Climate Fund. These funds would be used to pilot programs that look at life as it is, not as we might wish it to be, and make smart and sustainable investments. Investments that can be the difference maker in an extreme deluge and help an often underfunded response team know what to do when the weather overwhelms their capacity.

These are worth wild investments and ones that fit with the generous and farsighted nature of America’s approach to the world. We have always known that thinking about the well-being of others leads to our own well-being. What does Malawi have to do with our problems at home? Well, for such a time as this we have been placed and blessed with the capacity to encourage positive and lasting changes for the least of these around the world. If not us, who? When we act on behalf of the orphan, the widow, and the poor we are living into our true nature as a people set apart for better purposes in the world.

Christians at home face a lot of challenges and worrisome signs in the midst of a culture in change, but even at moments like this we can harken to the angels of our better nature and like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, we can choose to have mercy.

When it comes to the Green Climate Fund let us look towards mercy. Pope Francis is calling the Catholic Church to a year of mercy. May we as a nation live into the first fruits of that mercy and be a part of proactive solutions for the many who are in need.

Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network. 

Laudato Si’ on a Capable Culture

by Alexei Laushkin

The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis (Laudato Si’, 53).

Laudato Si’ makes a number of very poignant observations, perhaps none more so than the need to build and embody a culture capable of confronting the crisis.

Now what crisis is the encyclical referring to? Is it the climate crisis? The technocratic paradigm that helps to diminish human life? Is it our disregard for the elderly or the unborn?

The answer is yes, yes, and yes, but perhaps the biggest problem is what underlies all of those problems, mainly human sin. This putting off of sin has to begin with each of us and has to be embodied in the body of Christ even as we make our views known and push for change in the public square. In this way reaching back to a sense of personal and social holiness/righteousness is key.

In the United States the problem of our culture is particularly evident. On the same week that the President took significant action to reduce carbon, Congress could not pass legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. As Pope Francis has said we do not yet have the culture to confront the crisis at hand. Our inconsistent regard and at times totally disregard for human life as at the center of this crisis.  Here’s Bishop Kalistos Ware on what exactly this image and likeness is that motivates our common concern for human dignity:

The image is that which man possesses from the beginning, and which enables him to set out in the first place on the spiritual Way; the likeness is that which he hopes to attain at his journey’s end.

Laudato Si’ gives fresh impetus to the notion that work to engage issues that have such an impact on human life flow from a similar conviction. Here’s Laudato Si’ on why those of us who are concerned about creation, can’t ignore the unborn:

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away (136).

And further on the interconnection or similar well-spring of concern for human life:

When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature (117).

 

Pope Francis is right we have a crisis of culture, and it’s well time that we address and embody a culture of life. Until we do so we won’t have the culture capable of really valuing all of life well.

Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network

Richmond Pastors Prayer Breakfast

by Alexei Laushkin

Yesterday morning a number of pastors from around Richmond gathered for a prayer breakfast on creation-care and the Clean Power Plan. We were honored to have Levar Stoney the Secretary of the Commonwealth for Governor Terry McAuliffe in attendance with us. We prayed for Levar and gave him a bible continuing the signatures of 35+ pastors who were calling on the Governor to reduce carbon pollution and help ensure energy freedom in the commonwealth. The full statement form the pastors is reproduced below.

Levar Stoney Secretary of the Commonwealth receiving the bible for the Governor.

Levar Stoney Secretary of the Commonwealth receiving the bible for the Governor.

Click here to view a short segment from the sermon I delivered that morning.

Richmond Ministers Calling for the Leadership of ‘Caleb’

In the account of the Exodus, God’s people had a bright future ahead of them, if they only would trust in the Lord and lean not on their own understanding. The days of wandering in the desert aren’t too different than the days we inhabit. Then like now, the challenges seemed stacked against us. Then like now, people doubted and didn’t have faith that God would provide a way through his people. Then like now, God still has more to do with each of us.

In the book of Numbers we find the account of Caleb. Moses through God led the Israelite refugees through Sinai to the edge of “The Promised Land.” He then sends twelve men to explore this land of milk and honey. After 40 days, they return. One, Caleb, sees the hope for a better future. The other eleven forget what God has already accomplished and ferment yet another fearful revolt against God and Moses ” crying out, “If only we had died in Egypt.”

Returning to Egypt was an oft repeated demand throughout the Exodus. For many of us when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, we want to separate, go back, go our own way often without God’s guidance or leading.

Whether we like to admit it ” most of us fear change. That’s where we stand today when it comes to climate change.

According to the American Lung Association State of the Air Report, 35.6 million kids in the United States live in areas with unhealthy air. In Richmond alone, the number of children with pediatric asthma exceeds an astounding 24,000. The childhood epidemics of asthma, autism, AHDH, and allergies impact as many as 1 in 3 children in the United States, with strong links to the overuse of unclean fossil fuel-based energy. We in the developed world have benefited greatly from our past energy sources, but not without costs borne by our children’s health. The decision to be stewards of our children’s health is ours. Today we stand on the precipice of a clean energy revolution – one that could provide energy freedom for all, grow our economy, empower families to generate their own energy, protect our children’s health, and protect national security. This isn’t an illusion or pipedream. Business giant Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) says the clean energy transition is now self-sustaining and inevitable.

The Clean Power Plan will help us get to this future, and that’s why we are calling on Governor McAuliffe to lead. We urge Governor McAuliffe to boldly embrace his opportunity to implement limits on carbon pollution from power plans so that we can protect our future generations. It’s time to be a Caleb.

African American Evangelicals Urge Virginia Governor to Lead on Climate

by Alexei N. Laushkin

Tomorrow ministers will gather for a day of prayer for creation care at St. Paul’s (815 E Grace St, Richmond, VA 23219). I spent a good portion of today praying and fasting for Governor Gov. Terry McAuliffe, whose leadership is crucial when it comes to creation-care and energy freedom in Virginia.

Tomorrow the pastors gathered will cite the example of the Exodus and the biblical example of Caleb as we call on Governor McAuliffe to take up bold leadership under the Clean Power Plan that will reduce pollution and create jobs.

Today I also had a chance to visitRichmond Hill. Right after the Civil War the Sisters of the Visitation established a monastery and girls school. Since that time daily prayers have been offered for the healing, reconciliation, and welfare of the city, and today I was able to pray for our current moment when it comes to creation-care and human life.

The prophet Jeremiah takes time to note that because God’s people had turned away from the one true God and instead served their own idols and neglected justice and righteousness that the animals and the plants also were neglected. The flourishing of creation was muted because God’s people did not take their stewardship seriously.

When we see that kind of evidence today, what I mean is the 24,000 children in Richmond alone who suffer from pediatric Asthma. The latest childhood epidemics are Asthma, Autism, AHDH, and Allergies  impacting as many as 1 in 3 children in the US with strong links to petrochemicals and fossil fuel energy. When we see that kind of evidence than indeed our starting point must be prayer.

But not just prayer but prayer that leads to personal transformation and private and public action. You see Jesus is now the ultimate Lord and steward of creation, and we must follow his example when it comes to striving for a better way to steward our Father’s world. We all have a role to play. Come Lord Jesus.

Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network

 

A Conversation with Richard Alley

Listen in as Alexei talks with Dr. Richard Alley, the Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences at the Pennsylvania State University and the host of PBS’ Earth the Operators Manuel. They talk about Dr. Alley’s work and some of the latest trends in climate science. Be sure to listen in!

 

 

 

 

https://www.ipadio.com/broadcasts/CreationCare1/2013/3/26/A-Conversation-with-Dr-Richard-Alley

Evangelicals Weigh In on Wind Energy

WASHINGTON, DC – Evangelicals from across the country are urging that Congress extend the Renewable Energy Tax Production Credit (aka “Wind Tax Credit”) during the fiscal cliff negotiations.  In a press call earlier today, evangelical leaders from the Good Steward Campaign and Evangelical Environmental Network outlined a national grassroots and media campaign to mobilize Christians on this issue.  The call featured Rev. Mitch Hescox, President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and Rev. Steve Fortenberry, Pastor, Common Ground Church, North Lima, Ohio.

“Conservative pro-life Christians are deeply concerned about the continuing impact of pollution on children and the impact of toxins like mercury on the unborn.  Our commitment to protect current and future generations has led us to conclude that renewable energy, including wind, is essential in protecting the health of present and future generations,” said the Rev. Mitch Hescox. “While we’ve made progress in protecting our kids from toxic pollution more needs to be done. Every parent knows you can’t put a price on the health of our kids.”

This current campaign builds upon successful advocacy efforts earlier this year in which more than fifty thousand pro-life Christians petitioned the EPA in favor of clean energy.  In the last week, thousands of Christians have signed a petition in favor of Wind Tax Credit as part of an ongoing email campaign to 9 million evangelicals and Catholics and renewed outreach from evangelicals to key House and Senate leaders.

Wind is a big part of America’s current and future energy needs. Over 35% of new electric generation over the last five years has come from wind power.  In 2011 alone, wind helped displace over fifteen thousand short tons of nitrogen oxide emissions and over one hundred million short tons of sulfur dioxide emissions, resulting in cleaner air and a safer world for our children.