Hundreds of thousands marched in New York recently for climate “justice” in “The People’s Climate March,” convinced that human industry is heating the earth to apocalyptic levels.
Naturally there was a religious auxiliary to the Global Warming jamboree in the form of the Interfaith Summit on Climate Change, sponsored by the World Council of Churches, among others. And of course it included earth-friendly worship at the flamboyant Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, whose theologically provocative services some critics have labeled earth worship.
Those critics would have found vindication at the cathedral on Sunday, where “The Religions of the Earth Multi-faith Service” paid homage to Mother Earth by asking worshippers to pile stones on the altar to confirm their climate commitment. Over a thousand concerned religious activists filled the pews, praying for and at times seemingly to the earth, beneath two giant sculptures of feathered phoenixes that soared overhead in the huge gothic worship space.
Urging on the stone bearers was Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Lakota spiritual leader and 19th Generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle. He explained that rocks were first in the Great Spirit’s creation, worriedly adding, “Spirit Mother is sick, and has a fever.”
“These [rocks] are not inert matter, they are not dead matter,” further explained Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva. “They are life. And with this rock, I commit myself every moment of my life to bring into reality the beautiful peace prayer that my tradition has given us. Because protecting our species, defending the climate, and protecting the rights of people, is about making peace with the earth, and peace between people.”
An Eskimo elder from Greenland pledged with his stone to “somehow melt the ice in the heart of man,” as he summoned help from his ancestors with what one report called a “deep, piercing call that echoed off the walls and arches of the cathedral.”
Episcopalians often cherish their blue blood genealogy, but shrieking out for dead ancestors in church is not typical at traditional Episcopal worship. Not bound by orthodox tradition, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine has for decades experimented with and hosted highly non-traditional rites often focused on earth veneration that verge on pantheism.
Al Gore preached at the cathedral climate service of course, although his remarks seemed relatively tame, amid the rock piles, piercing appeals to the ancestors, and giant phoenixes flying overhead.
“We have a duty to be watchful, not just by opening our eyes but by opening our hearts,” Gore intoned in his Baptist voice. “It is time to be wakeful and to be alert. That is my pledge. To be wakeful, to be alert and to call on others to do the same.” Gore insisted the evidence for human induced cataclysmic global warming is “incontrovertible.”
But skeptics of Global Warming scare talk point out that global temperatures have largely been flat for nearly 17 years. And a former Obama administration official from the Energy Department declared in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in time for the New York climate festival: “We often hear that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ about climate change. But as far as the computer models go, there isn’t a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing human influences.”
Such modesty and nuance were largely absent from the secular and religious hoopla surrounding “The People’s Climate March.” The Interfaith Climate Summit and especially its fulsome, rock-strewn worship at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine better illustrate that much of the intense Global Warming activism is more based on dogmatic theology than objective science.
With similarly fearful devotion, the Religious Left once marched for population control based on urgent fears of imminent global mass starvation and overcrowding. Later it marched for unilateral nuclear disarmament based on theories of nuclear winter and the illusion of moral equivalence with the Soviets. Ever in search of imminent apocalypse to justify its worst apprehensions, in recent years the Religious Left has pleaded against fossil fuels as the ostensible poison that will suffocate the earth.
Of course, all of these apocalyptic causes demanding precipitate political action conveniently have synchronized with the Religious Left’s hostility to political and economic liberty in favor of heavily centralized authority. The increasing plentitude of inexpensive fossil fuel supplies benefiting the American and global economy is a special threat to hopes for curtailing economic growth and free markets.
The greatest beneficiaries of cheap, plentiful fossil fuels are the global poor, who are less and less dependent on the old oil cartel, and for whom environmentalist dreams of complete reliance on expensive and unreliable solar and wind alternatives were never feasible.
Hundreds of millions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America need more oil, gas and coal if they are ever to escape chronic poverty and ever hope for living standards approaching the wealth of typical worshippers at the Cathedral for St. John the Divine in New York.
“By this stone, we are reminded life is about circles,” pronounced one celebrant cradling a rock at the cathedral’s climate rally. Circles and metaphors might be fine for gurus and activists. But for most of the world’s population struggling to survive, progress and growth offer more tangible hope.