Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Energizing Choices
distributed 10/22/04 - ©2004

Colorado is a "swing state" in this year's elections, and the energy levels in this campaign season are sky high. There's a message for churches in that energy.

The conventional political wisdom had long placed Colorado in the reliably Republican column. But then our senior Senator chose not to run for re-election. The hotly contested race for our open Senate seat has shifted the dynamics of the Presidential race. The latest polls show Colorado with only a very slight Republican edge.

The awareness that votes cast here could tip the electoral college and select the next president has ignited passions in both parties. Not only are we seeing an amazing number of candidate visits (Kerry, Bush and Cheney will all be through the state this weekend) and a numbing volume of campaign ads, the ordinary citizens are turning out in force.

I participated in two campaign activities last week where far more volunteers turned out than the organizers expected or even hoped for. Along with the party stalwarts and the political junkies, there were lots of people who had never volunteered to support a campaign before. All of them were eager to share their time for the cause.

As we waited for our precinct lists, or as we hand-wrote postcards, the conversations kept coming back to the same themes. People know that there is a clear-cut difference between the candidates. They believe that the outcome of the election will make a significant difference in their lives and in the world. They hope -- in the richest sense of that word -- that their efforts can turn the tide in this election.

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Over lunch a few day ago, Jim told me about his recent visit to an evangelical church.

Now, Jim is "mainline" to the core, and he's not feeling any temptation to switch his church membership. He was deeply impressed, though, by what he saw and heard in that unfamiliar congregation.

The pastor had asked for patience from the visitors while he took a few minutes to deliver an "in house" message to the regular attendees. The members of this thriving, growing church were reminded of how important it was for them to go out and deliver their message of faith to others in the community. They were warned against "sheep stealing" -- told that they shouldn't try to recruit folk who are already members of another church. Their charge is to find people who don't know about Jesus, and tell them about the life-changing good news of the Gospel.

Jim was impressed by two things: the caution against snagging members from other congregations, and the passion of these believers that their message makes a difference.

Over lunch, Jim reflected on his own church, and wondered how long it had been since the members of that established congregation had been told that the message of their faith really makes a difference, and is worth sharing with others. The contrast between the committed evangelicals and the predictable mainliners stirred Jim to some deep thinking about the role of the church in his own life, and in his community.

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The questions raised by Jim, and the passions being evoked in this campaign season, touch on matters that are at the core of Eco-Justice Ministries.

In all of our programming, in our preaching and teaching, our advocacy and our organizing, we stress that there are choices to be made -- urgent choices between strikingly different alternatives -- and those choices will make a profound difference in our personal lives, our communities, and our world.

At the most basic level, the choice is between our society's current path of unsustainable, ecologically devastating and socially unjust exploitation of the Earth's resources, and a path toward eco-justice, "the well-being of all humanity on a thriving Earth."

That choice can be framed in theological terms, and we do use that language as we work with congregations and church members. Where will we place our trust, our hope? Will we place our ultimate confidence in "the invisible hand" of the market, in military power over others, in a quest for personal status and security? Or will we place our trust in God, claiming a biblical vision of community, justice, compassion and service?

The passionate involvement of volunteers before this election and the spirited evangelism of folk who claim a meaningful faith reveal the same truth: a decisive choice that makes a real difference will bring commitment and energy. Eco-Justice Ministries believes that calling people to make that choice will be good for the world, and for the church.

I challenge you to see if the keys to energy and commitment are present in your church.

  • Are your members presented with a choice between real and important options? Are they clear that your faith community stands for something distinctive?
  • Is that distinctive choice claimed as making a real difference in personal lives, in the life of the community, and in the world?
  • Are people given a way to share that message, and to act on their choice, that is urgent and effective? Do they believe that it will really make a difference if they take a stand, and live out their commitments?
I pray that our churches will offer a clear and decisive choice to our members and our communities. May we call on them to choose the faithful path of eco-justice, and may we be blessed by the new energy that is called forth by that choice.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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