BEING PROPHETIC — SOMEDAY

September 26, 2009 at 7:05 PM 11 comments

I noted in the previous thread some doubts about whether my denomination’s response to its perceived calling was quite serious yet.  Several environmental items this past week caught my attention in this regard. Let me set them up by quoting some recent Community of Christ Scriptures relative to the environment and note the dates they were canonized:

Stewardship is the response of my people to the ministry of my Son and is required alike of all those who seek to build the kingdom. The spiritual authorities are urged to so teach with renewed vigor in recognition of the great need, and let nothing separate them from those who have more specific responsibilities in the temporal affairs of the church. In this regard you are reminded of the instructions given to you through one of my servants at an earlier time. Repression of unnecessary wants is in harmony with the law of stewardship and becomes my people.” Community of Christ, Doctrine and Covenants, Section 147:5. Given March, 1964.

 “These are portentous times. The lives of many are being sacrificed unnecessarily to the gods of war, greed, and avarice. The land is being desecrated by the thoughtless waste of vital resources. You must obey my commandments and be in the forefront of those who would mediate this needless destruction while there is yet day.” Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants, Section 150:7. Adopted April, 1972.

 “God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.

The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.” Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants, Section 163:4. Adopted April, 2007.

So, at minimum, the first teachings about cutting consumption and moving toward a notion of environmental stewardship appeared in the Community of Christ canon 45 years ago — a not-insignificant fraction of our entire history. Yes, we all fall short of fulfilling most of Christ’s teaching, but sometimes we don’t grasp how short the fuze is becoming.

From the September 20, 2009 New Scientist:

FAIR CARBON MEANS NO CARBON FOR RICH COUNTRIES

WHAT might a truly fair and effective solution to climate change look like? One answer to that question has just been released and it makes for disturbing reading. For one thing, the scale and speed of emissions cuts required by developed nations is far greater than the commitments governments are currently willing to make. The new analysis is based on the idea that each person on the planet has the right to the same carbon footprint.”

The analysis actually computes this “per capita footprint” by nation-state, which introduces a number of issues (intra-state equality, global economic welfare, etc.) in itself, but it is a useful starting point in seeing how short the fuze actually is before opportunities to fulfill the commandments of CofChrist scriptures start to vanish.

“Researchers … looked at the impact of this fairness principle on attempts to limit the average global temperature rise to a level that is widely regarded as necessary to avoid disaster, such as high rises in sea level. Calculations published earlier this year (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature08017) suggested that no more than 750 billion tonnes of carbon can be released between now and 2050 if the world is to have a 2-in-3 chance of staying within the [applicable]  2 °C rise.”

“… many developed nations would face almost immediate carbon bankruptcy. With 4.6 per cent of global population, the US would receive a 35 billion tonne allowance between now and 2050, which it would use up in around six years at current rates. The European Union’s budget would run out in 12 years and China’s in 24.

Please understand what “bankruptcy” means in this case. It means no burning of fossil fuel for any purpose: not growing food, not generating power, not building or replacing any material thing. No travelling to our jobs, but, of course, no jobs would exist anyway. The only way to avoid world wide economic collapse would be to start encroaching on other nations’ carbon budgets.

So we really have to get serious about regulating our lifestyles and compensating the poor fairly for using up their carbon budgets. Right?

Not really. Talk about your double bind. Consider the following from the September 25 Washington Post:

“Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world’s leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program.”

Although the 2100 temperature rise is the focus of the story, the more relevant number in light of the 3.6 degree “highest safe limit” noted in the earlier quote from New Scientist is “How soon do we cross the level?” An accompanying chart to the article shows the crossing is well before 2050 under the most stringent regime even being discussed, and occurs only a couple of years later than if we do nothing.

Other discussions of the “cap-and-trade” legislation now dying behind a health care reform bottleneck in the Senate point out that the legislation, if passed, would require the US to achieve per capita carbon emissions last seen in 1875, and that may have been exceeded, due to wood burning, even during colonial times. Does that seem economically or politically realistic? Or are we just picking our poison?

If our political leaders are to be believed, the world economic system may have only narrowly avoided the abyss in the past few months, and may be far more fragile than the environmental system to which it is coupled. And the international political system hasn’t been looking all that sane this week either,  given the speeches at the UN General Assembly, and the G-20 announcements concerning Iran.

So planning to be prophetic –but not yet — may just not meet God and/or history’s timetable.  The times have been “portentious” for at least a generation. The fuze burns.

In a thread — sorry, I’ve forgotten which one — on one of the LDS blogs, someone spoke of his son giving the “wrong” answer in Sunday School to the question: “How many Mormon prophets are there?” The boy’s answer was: “All of them.”

Regardless of which religious or secularist culture one comes from, the little guy’s answer had better start being the right one. We must start thinking about how to help each other through an era of consequences we may no longer be able to avoid.

Entry filed under: Community of Christ, current events, Doctrine and Covenants (Community of Christ), environmental sciences, peace and justice, political science, scripture. Tags: .

REFLECTION ON AN APOSTOLIC EPIPHANY GUEST POST: GOD OF GOO

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. TH  |  September 28, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    Fire Tag,

    You and I have been privately discussing the importance of learning to sense and follow the direction of the Spirit precisely because the rate of change is speeding up and things are too complex to be able to rely on our own ability to understand and coordinate changes that need to take place. The Spirit must coordinate change and we must respond to the directions we receive.

    There is a poem by William Stafford that reminds me of the importance of being ready:

    “You can’t tell when strange things with meaning
    will happen. I’m [still] here writing it down
    just the way it was.”

    ““You don’t have to prove anything,”
    my mother said. “Just be ready
    for what God sends.”
    I listened and put my hand
    out in the sun again. It was all easy.”

    One of the things that comes to mind is what we can do while we are “in between directives.” What I have observed is that it is our ability to tolerate anxiety, or perhaps said another way, our self esteem that enables us to have the strength to do what we are called to do. One way we can grow our capacity to be prophetic is to make one small change in our life and commit to it. It could be as simple as responding to one blog a day, wearing the color red more often, making healthier food choices, having daily prayer time, or exercising more regularly. By comitting to that change, we show ourselves that are able to follow through and we, for lack of a better way to say this, show God that we are willing for the next round of the mission/s.

    Reply
    • 2. FireTag  |  September 28, 2009 at 3:48 PM

      Good point. Small steps can be valuable, IF they are a symbol of our willingness to learn to follow WHEREVER God calls. But if they’re bargaining chips offered to God, we get into the position of the NT Scripture about being neither hot or cold.

      To use a more modern analogy, the WORST place one can be is standing in the middle of the road, caught in the headlights, and telling yourself it isn’t happening.

      Reply
  • 3. TH  |  October 2, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    In keeping with the discussion on being prophetic on this blog and in other places, a piece about continuing revelation by the prophet/president of the Community of Christ, Stephen M. Veazey, got my attention.

    In the writing, President Veazey affirms that continuing revelation is one of the Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles. These comments are available on the church’s website (http://www.cofchrist.org/EnduringPrinciples/revelation.asp).

    The piece is well written. Any seminary student would be proud of its logic and language, and yet it is also written in a way that makes it accessible to those who are not well versed in theological studies and principles. The points that President Veazey makes include that (a) revelation is an expression of God’s love and freedom of expression, (b) the purpose of revelation is to help us align with God’s will, and (c) that in order to see revelation, we must expand our worldview, even though this is often disorienting and difficult.

    One passage in particular caught my attention:
    “I believe one calling of Community of Christ is to keep the tradition, principle, and practice of continuing revelation alive. Expressed succinctly in one of our beloved songs (Hymns of the Saints #309) we affirm that:

    We limit not the truth of God,
    To our poor reach of mind,
    …The Lord hath yet more light and truth,
    To break forth from his word.”

    The piece ends with stressing the importance of paying attention to the latest Doctrine and Covenants passages. It doesn’t talk about paying attention to the news, or to how God’s Spirit calls us to change things in our families, schools, workplaces, or simple daily decisions. I find that to be confusing.

    President Veazey states that the purpose of Community of Christ is to keep the praxis of continuing revelation alive. Is the purpose to keep continuing revelation alive for the church, so the church can be in alignment with God’s will? Or is the purpose of the church to keep the principle alive beyond the scope of religion, so that people can become prophetic?

    As it has already been stated that continuing revelation is a gift from God (therefore God keeps it alive), I am assuming that this means that we are to keep alive the importance of developing our capacities to see the revelation and to respond in alignment with it.

    It follows that spiritual formation, as President Veazey states, becomes a key piece of what the church has to offer its members and others who are not members. Having participated in, and led, many spiritual formation activities sponsored by the church, I find it odd that when spiritual formation is mentioned, it deals primarily with disciplines like silence, fasting, worship, scripture study, prayer, service, etc.

    These are all good things to do, but I wonder why it is limited to being done with religious emphasis. I have yet to attend a spiritual formation workshop, where people read the newspaper and then spent some time listening to if and how they were called to respond in a particular way to the situations of the day. For example, I have heard emphasis placed on journaling as a spiritual discipline, but I haven’t heard much about blogging as a spiritual discipline. Why not?

    I don’t think that most people, particularly those of you who participate in this blog and in others, would disqualify blogging as a way to develop our spiritual lives. I have even heard those who are interested in spiritual formation agree that spiritual formation includes every area of our life because it is about how our whole being is shaped in the image of Christ. Yet the things that get labeled “spiritual formation,” don’t seem to reflect that broad understanding.

    I don’t think there is any bad intent behind this. As humans operating in time and space, we have to limit what we talk about and how we talk about it…otherwise communication is so vague that it loses its meaning. It’s okay to talk about being prophetic as a principle of the Community of Christ, or to talk about spiritual formation as the religious disciplines we do to train our “spiritual muscles,” just like shooting and passing drills in hockey or basketball. However, we have to be careful not to allow ourselves to forget that when we do that, we are using the “poor reach of mind,” mentioned in the song.

    It is very easy to get stuck in the patterns and traditions of the religious, and limit God to religion. God is just as much a part of science, literature, art, business, or any other field as God is in religion. Perhaps we could all benefit from spending less time trying to discern how God calls our religions and our religious life, and more time trying to use the key insight of religion–that God exists and it’s important for us to know God and live God to the best of our understanding–to develop our own capacity and to help others develop their capacity to see God in those other areas. Let us not limit the truth of God.

    Reply
    • 4. TH  |  October 3, 2009 at 8:55 AM

      Just wanted to point out a quick type: In the last sentence of the second from the last paragraph, beginning with “However…” I meant to write “However, we have to be careful not to allow ourselves to forget that when we do that…” OR “However, we have to be careful to remember that when we do that…”

      Thanks.

      Reply
      • 5. FireTag  |  October 3, 2009 at 12:46 PM

        The comment has now been edited to reflect your intent.

  • 6. FireTag  |  October 3, 2009 at 12:36 AM

    The insight about blogging and reading current events as part of a spiritual formation process was something that hadn’t occurred to me before, but I think you’re absolutely right — at least in my case.

    In fact, I even see that going back almost 30 years in pursuing research questions.

    I really feel like God was revealing Himself to someone like me through equations, even to nudging me toward certain jobs where. only later, I would realize gave me the tools and techniques to expand my worldview.

    Of course, given how unusual my worldview, has become, not everyone would say my spiritual development has been entirely successful, but I’ll keep on plugging away at it until the electric power in my computer or my heart runs dry.

    Reply
    • 7. TH  |  October 3, 2009 at 8:58 AM

      After the electric power in your heart or computer run dry, I think you will still be plugging away. Just through a different form of energy. :-)

      I’m looking forward to seeing what others have to say about being prophetic.

      Reply
  • 8. Margie  |  October 9, 2009 at 9:28 AM

    I believe its important for all of us to be prophetic and open to the nudging of God’s spirit. There are many ways to be prophetic. This morning I wrote a letter to the editor of my newspaper concerning the president’s recent naming as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

    I think such actions are important because if they are read, and evidently mine are since I get many comments about my points of view, they may prompt others to think rationally.

    That’s just one more way to be prophetic.

    I am a great believer in being an influence for good in your world…your own community.

    Reply
  • [...] given my recent post on the inconsistency between the professed environmental concerns of the Community of Christ and its responses to environmental issues, and given also my personal experience in giving [...]

    Reply
  • 10. Church Reboots and Science Fiction | Wheat and Tares  |  April 16, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    [...] have become accustomed to such a dichotomy in the Community of Christ. We are perfectly happy to be prophetic — someday — by proclaiming that we must act, but refuse to admit we do not know what to do, lest resources be [...]

    Reply
  • 11. Crewing Lifeboats Now | Wheat and Tares  |  November 13, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    [...] example, I wrote here two years ago about how rapidly the options were closing on equitable sharing of economic [...]

    Reply

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