Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catastrophe and Faith

Today’s Daily Office lessons include Habakkuk 3:1-18, which ends with these words:

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom,
   and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
   and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
   and there is no herd in the stalls, 
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
   I will exult in the God of my salvation.

The prophet Habakkuk describes a catastrophic scene, a complete crop failure coupled with a loss of livestock. This description of desolation ends, though, with a strong statement of faith: despite this utter calamity, I will celebrate in God.

November tree
I rejoiced to see this passage this morning, as I was thinking about a sobering piece that Joe Romm posted on Climate Progress yesterday. “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice summarizes ten of the biggest stories in climate science in the past year. The picture that emerges from these summaries is a catastrophic one, with our only hope being a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions very soon. All of these stories will affect us in Nebraska in one way or another. Perhaps of most immediate concern to us in the Great Plains are these two: a prediction from the National Center for Atmospheric Research  of drought patterns fifty years in the future if emissions are not controlled, with our section of the country predicted to be experiencing a worse drought than we did in the 1930’s Dust Bowl days, and a prediction from the UK Meteorological office of average temperature increases between 13 to 18 degrees F. over most of the United States in the next fifty years if we keep on our current emissions path.

November daisies in Nebraska
It’s important to share this sort of information in this blog, but it’s also important to place it in a faith context that helps us figure out what to do with the information.  Christian hope in the face of news that could easily lead to despair has been the subject of several other Green Sprouts posts; a major contribution of religion to the discussion of environmental degradation is the ability to shine light into darkness, to bring hope where there is despair. And even when hope is hard to come by, there is still the hope that we can rejoice in God and as we rejoice to come to love God’s creation enough to save ourselves from total disaster.

A theme of Advent is the coming of the light into the darkness. As we move into Advent in the next couple of weeks, it’s a good time for Christians to take a deep and prayerful breath, look straight into the darkness climate scientists tell us we are entering, and bring some light into the darkness. Faith isn't denial of the darkness; faith is the ability to find God in the darkness.

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