Climate Change Minute

December 14, 2020 § 4 Comments

I carry a ministry that forms a recurring theme in this blog: that our social witness minutes ought to express our Quaker faith explicitly as the heart of our testimonial rhetoric. In my experience, they rarely do.

Instead they use the mindset and rhetoric of social change nonprofits. They employ arguments from science and social science, and use statistics, rather than a straightforwardly moral argument. Very often, you would never know a religious organization had written them, let alone a Quaker meeting.

They often refer to the “testimonies” and often list some, but almost never explain them or recognize that “testimony” is Quaker jargon that does need unpacking, especially since, in the wider Christian world, the word usually refers to testifying to Jesus’ saving grace in your life, and so many people are likely to misunderstand our usage.

Sometimes, they invoke “that of God in everyone” as a foundation for the testimony, when it isn’t historically, and shouldn’t be theologically. They never quote scripture.

And that’s it, usually.

So I’ve raised my concern with this practice for years, here in this blog and on the floor of many business meetings, including just yesterday in my own meeting.

Today, replying to my ministry yesterday, a Friend sent me a minute on climate change that Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Eco-Justice Collaborative is preparing to submit to the yearly meeting. It’s a good case in point. You can read it here.

I should say that I fully agree with its intent, I am deeply grateful for the Collaborative’s work, and I do not wish to criticize anybody involved in its writing, though I guess that’s what I’m doing. I pray that I speak and write in faithfulness to God’s leading here, and that these Friends will hear my words in the Light I hope I am following.

Anyway, I was inspired to write an alternative minute on climate change as an exercise in following my leading in these matters. Time to put up or shut up, to stop complaining and offer an alternative. It reeks of the pipe. I suspect my peculiar voice will not appeal to many Friends. And it’s addressed to the world as an epistle, rather than as an appeal for action to the yearly meeting, as the Collaborative’s is. Here is my proposed minute on climate change:

To leaders everywhere:

How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? Because of the wrong mind of those who live in it, the animals and birds are swept away, and because people said, the Word of Creation knows not what we do?  ~ Jeremiah 12:4

In the beginning was the Word . . . [that was] the true light, which enlightens everyone, coming into the world.  ~ John 1:1, 9

Divine Wisdom first manifested as Creation, as the long arc of evolution, and it has found its consummation in a creature that now can self-consciously edit that First Book of Code, the operating system of our world.

Meanwhile, each of us humans has within us a Light that enlightens, a direct link to that Word of Wisdom which animates and guides creation. This experience and knowledge of the Light Within is the foundation of our Quaker faith.

Over the centuries, that Spirit of Love and Truth has consistently shown us that violence is wrong, that justice is necessary, that divine guidance is always trying to break through our ignorance and ignore-ance, and that we should live our outward lives as we are inwardly led by this wisdom. Because the world has been given into our care, that voice of Love and Wisdom within us should guide all our efforts at monkeying with its workings.

Thus we must ask: Does it? Does Divine Wisdom guide our stewardship of the earth? Our Quaker answer is—not yet.

Does Divine Wisdom lovingly guide us toward a hothouse planet? Does it demand that we should both deliberately and ignorantly alter the very chemistry of our only home and permanently destroy its God-given balances and purposes? Our Quaker answer is no.

Does the spirit of the Christ intend that this behavior should harm the most vulnerable of God’s children—the least of us—the most? Our Quaker answer is No.

Does the Wisdom of Creation countenance its collateral damage, urging us to destroy the oceans and so many creatures that have been our divinely generous gift? The Quaker answer is NO.

Will we not be answerable at the very least to the inevitable chastisement of nature’s downfall? The Quaker answer is yes.

And can we correct course by turning toward the Light? Our Quaker answer is YES!

Therefore we Friends fervently pray that the leaders of our communities, our institutions, and our governments will heed the Light within them; that they will do whatever they can to slow the cascading catastrophe that human-made climate change is bringing upon us; and that they will see to the needs of those who suffer as a consequence of our failure to do so thus far. We include our own Quaker institutions in our plea.

In Divine Love, we beg you to act. Soon.

Yours in the Light of God’s Love

§ 4 Responses to Climate Change Minute

  • Glenn M Clark says:

    I think this is what prophecy looks like.
    Thank you

  • Thank you! I really appreciate that you have expressed our collective concern about climate change in language that testifies to the guidance from Divine Wisdom that is available to us. Yes, our Quaker minutes need to be a spiritual witness at the same time that they are a social witness.

  • emurer says:

    The link to the minute didn’t work. (Don’t remember it in the mfb packet, which I always read tho I no longer participate.)

    Yeah, there are some stylistic wobbles like ignor-ance and monkeying, but I appreciate the effort. 40 years ago it would have had a chance.


    On Mon, Dec 14, 2020 at 11:11 AM Through the Flaming Sword wrote:

    > Steven Davison posted: ” I carry a ministry that forms a recurring theme > in this blog: that our social witness minutes ought to express our Quaker > faith explicitly as the heart of our testimonial rhetoric. In my > experience, they rarely do. Instead they use the mindset and rhe” >

  • Roseann Press says:

    Thanks Steve for sending this. I am part of the Climate Justice Working Group of NYYM and will share this with that group.

    I hope you are safe and well – all the best,


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