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

Is This the One?
distributed 9/8/17 - ©2017

The text which provides an intuitive springboard for today's Notes comes from the Gospel of Matthew (11:2-5). Jesus has been travelling through the region, teaching and healing, attracting the attention of both the people and the authorities.

"When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, 'Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?' Jesus answered them, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.' "

The news that provides the factual springboard for today comes from all the media sources. Hurricane Irma has been travelling through the region, demolishing everything in its path, attracting the attention of both the people and the authorities.

When Peter heard in Denver what the hurricane was doing, he pondered, "Is this devastating storm the one that finally makes the threat of climate change evident, or do we need to wait for another?"

Peter answered himself, "Go and tell your readers what you hear and see: it ain't just this one!"

The list, of course, could go on and on.

Jesus let the evidence speak for itself. "Go and tell John what you hear and see." A collection of dramatic events provided credibility to the assertion that he was the anticipated messiah. There wasn't just one healing, or one powerful teaching. The cumulative experience reinforced the claims. What was heard and seen meshed with expectations about what a messiah would be.

So, too, with the climate news. It isn't just one big storm, it is a series of them building through the years around the world, all fitting to the expectations of what happens with hot oceans and moist air. It isn't just one hot spell, it is year after year of rising temperatures. It isn't just one melting glacier, it is ongoing ice loss virtually everywhere.

There is a danger, though, in encouraging people to "tell what you hear and see" these days, because people tell contradictory stories. (They always have, but the fringe ones spread more easily and widely now.) So for today, I'll add some conditions. Tell what you hear and see, but be sure that you can document your stories, and be sure that your stories come from many reputable sources and diverse fields of study.

As Hurricane Irma aims directly at the Florida peninsula -- the second monster storm in two weeks to hit the southern US -- as fires and smoke and heat continue, I wonder. Is this sequence of climate effects the one? Or do we have to wait for another? And if we have to wait for even more compelling evidence, how bad does it have to be?

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"Are you the one?" was a dangerous question for John to ask Jesus -- which may be why Jesus didn't give a direct answer. Claiming to be the Christ, and for others to recognize and affirm him, meant a rejection of other religious and civil powers. Believing what was heard and seen would bring conflict and danger for all the followers of Jesus. But yet they did believe what they heard and saw, and it shaped their lives, and they proclaimed it to others. "Are you the one?" is a transformational question.

Tragically, today, there is renewed and heightened conflict between those who are convinced by the climate evidence, and those who refuse to hear and see -- especially in the United States. It is now the policy of the Trump administration to reject the overwhelming science, to place "deniers" in key positions, to defund research, and to silence even the mention of climate change.

"Is this the one?" is a challenging, dangerous and essential question for us. Is the evidence of devastating climate chaos clear enough and strong enough that we are persuaded? (I know -- most of the readers of Eco-Justice Notes were persuaded of that truth years ago!) But is this the year where dramatic evidence, in stark conflict with empowered denial, moves us to new levels of witness and proclamation?

As people who hear and see the evidence, will we be the ones who speak out about the linkages between climate change and extreme storms and scorching fires and melting ice? Will we say that Irma is not just an awe-inspiring fluke, but the predictable consequence of a warming Earth? Will we join the fight against Trump's agenda that denies climate realities while enriching fossil fuel industries?

Is Irma, and this year of climate horrors, the one that compels us into passionate action, advocacy, witness and resistance? I hope so, because I don't want to imagine the sort of catastrophes that would be needed to make a more compelling case.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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