OF SACRED AND SECULAR
Maybe if more people could see the fishermen who have lost their vocations forever in the Gulf Coast, or see the Catholic Charities lines filled with men and women who used to be self-sufficient, they would think differently about their connection to the oil spill.
The 420 birds harmed by oil found on the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and the 190 found dead give some indication of the fallout for wildlife. But until people can make a heart connection, until they can relate to the humans who are affected by the spill in a deeper way, those of us who are further removed will continue to be part of the problem and not the solution, faith leaders who toured part of the Gulf along the Louisiana coast said Wednesday.
“Whenever there’s a crisis, we have to look within that crisis for change,” the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, the founder of Interfaith Power and Light, said during a teleconference. “This is the time for us to start putting more effort into finding clean and renewable energy. We just need the political will and the moral integrity to make that switch. That’s the change that needs to happen in America, and it needs to happen now.”
Anyone who has been paying attention to news about BP’s response, cleanup efforts and the economic damage to the region has to feel like it is in some ways way beyond the scope of what one person can change. Even Bingham said that while the Sierra Club-organized tour offered her more tangible insight into the scope of the spill, she said she felt like they had been spared seeing “what was more important,” like the oil beneath the high water. “Some habitats will never recover; many fishermen have lost their vocations forever. It’s an insult to God and a sin against creation. Our country needs to get off its addiction to oil.”
Religious leaders are hoping that the oil spill will add more people to the ranks of what is being called the green religion movement or the push to promote environmental stewardship as an extension of belief in God and God’s Creation.
“For me, the jury is still out on what real recommendations we’ll make about change. It’ll be how we take what we saw to a spirit level,” said the Rev. Brenda GirtonMitchell with the Progressive National Baptist Convention. “Some may already understand the systemic nature of what we’re seeing. When we can go home and put a face again on this and help interpret this in terms of individual families … when we can help people who believe in God understand that other humans are suffering as a part of this,” that’s when individuals will be “able to get to a heart place to have it translated for them and hit home,” she said.