Over at my personal Facebook page I have a vast diversity of friends. Conservative Christians, radical anarchist atheists, loads of queer Quakers, hunters, vegans, ministers, sex workers–you get the idea. Surprisingly we don’t often get into heated angry debates. Folks disagree no doubt, but somehow we keep it civil.
One friend, Jennifer, who also attended the Love in Action gay reparative therapy camp like I did, is married to a man with a delightful tribe of children that rivals Jacob’s many sons and daughters. She often let’s people know that God changed her; she is living proof that Change is Possible as the old Exodus slogan went. While this ruffles lots of feathers among the hundreds of FB friends who also went down the path to de-gay themselves, I usually respond by saying,
I understand that is your story, but for the vast majority of us, such a change was not possible and turned out to be harmful. If you are happy and healthy pursuing a straight life, then I am happy for you. Please realize though I believe it is normal to be gay and dangerous and unnecessary for most people to force their orientation.
We have the same exchange about once a month, and it always ends with mutual affirmation and respect, even as we continue to disagree.
When it comes to climate change, Jennifer does not believe the planet is warming. She sees Al Gore as a hypocrite and believes the science on climate change cannot be trusted. She likes to tease me whenever a snow storm buries us, asking, “How is that global warming going?” Lots of people react to Jennifer’s posts with articles to prove her sources are faulty. It gets tense; it gets personal. My response though is always different. It may because I have a friendship with Jennifer that extends beyond Facebook. I like Jennifer. I know her as a concerned, passionate person who has a lot of faith in God. She is a fierce protector of her children. When I talk about things like carbon taxes, she reminds me of the cost on the working poor. She has publicly shared about the financial struggles she and her family face and the possible disastrous effects of a climate tax on her family.
Earlier this week she posted an article claiming that fossil fuel pollution resulting in climate change is a hoax and that sunspots are instead to blame. As expected, climate hawks swooped down with their talons drawn to destroy the argument and overwhelm the conversation with data about the theory, the scientist who proposed it, and the blog that posted it. I have to say though when I read the article Jennifer shared part of me leaped with joy–what if it were truly a hoax? That would be the best news in the world. Here is my response:
Personally I wish the story Jennifer posted was correct. How glorious to discover that climate change is not actually happening, that the planet is not warming. I would love that more than anything else. Who can face the reality that this planet, that has seemed so stable for all our lives is shifting under our feet and over our heads? How can people of faith accept the facts that we are facing the greatest challenge ever? What does that do to our belief in a God who is always in control?
Living in the USA we are sheltered from tribulations and crisis. But for many people in the world, they have already faced “end times” when civilization has broken down and a safe protected life could no longer guaranteed. We are sheltered from much of this. And most people cannot imagine a worse life for their own children. It is too upsetting, too disruptive, too life changing.
I sympathize with people who cannot yet accept the times we are in and who cannot see the handwriting on the wall. Not that we are in hopeless times. There is still much work we can and must do–work that goes far beyond simply recycling, changing lightbulbs, and driving less. We have the chance to come together to create a safer, more stable, more just world. And we desperately need believers to see they have a vital role in this world.
We live in a time when acts of mercy and caring for each other will be needed more than ever, like the times of deadly plagues in the Rome when Christians famously cared for the sick and dying regardless of their own safety. We live in a time when hope and comfort are in high demand. We live in a time where we will be called upon to look after each other like never before in recent history.
These days I am often reminded of my mother when she was first diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2004. My sisters, my dad, and I could not believe it could possibly be that bad. Mom was indestructible–too big to fail. Surely the doctors were wrong. But sadly the diagnosis was correct and we had to live in a new world, one with a mother who was weakened, failing, dying. Once we understood this–and it took time to fully grasp it–we suddenly found new strength and abilities that we did not know we possessed. It was sad and dreadful, but we also learned how to love each other more deeply as a result.
I see these days to be very similar for all of us–time of change, dangerous times, but the greatest danger is that we will not see the signs of the time, then we will be unavailable to take our role on this new planet.