Jeff Walton is Communications Manager for the Institute on Religion & Democracy and directs the Anglican program. He graduated in 2001 from Seattle Pacific University and is a member of Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, VA.
Interfaith officials gathered for a climate change “pray-in” and risked arrest before the White House as part of attempted civil disobedience this morning. Warning “this may well be humanity’s last chance to choose between chaos and community,” the gathering began with a service at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and continued with a soggy three-block silent walk under gray skies to the White House, where clergy and other activists held a vigil.
While one organizer noted that turnout was not as large as hoped, umbrella-toting activists called for ending the use of energy sources that they allege are the chief cause of climate change. The event also had occasional diversions to other Religious Left causes, including de-nuclearization, opposition to war, and a prayer for university students working on anti-Israel divestment campaigns.
“Republicans discovered that you can’t win the White House without us,” declared Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia. Quickly adding that he “did not intend to be partisan,” the Muslim official encouraged the approximately 80 assembled activists to “continue to raise voices, values and votes,” with the refrain “this is our time.”
Between Quaker, Reform Jewish, and old line Protestant speakers, participants sang a version of “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” modified into “We’ve Got the Whole World In Our Hands” and a native American chant.
“I come from a mother / you come from a mother / we all come from a mother / from a mother earth,” the group sang to guitar accompaniment in the sanctuary of Abraham Lincoln’s Washington, D.C. church.
Describing the image of the entire planet from outer space as “the icon – the revelation of our time,” Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism called for a transformation of environmental policy. Religious institutions practicing not just recycling and energy conservation but also speaking out on public policy would result in a “transformation” according to Saperstein.
“This Earth is our garden, and this time we face not expulsion but devastation,” the Rabbi ominously concluded.
Before the march to the White House, activists were commissioned by former National Council of Churches General Secretary Bob Edgar. Recounting his anti-war advocacy during the Vietnam conflict at the same church many years ago, the Common Cause official led the gathering in reciting “this is our time – we are the leaders we have been waiting for.”
Noting that the green ribbon with globe and dove on his jacket was something he wore each day, the United Methodist clergyman revealed that it stood for addressing “fear, fundamentalism and Fox News” while he sought after “peace, prosperity and planet Earth.”
After a large papier-mâché globe was lifted off of the altar and processed out the sanctuary doors, the gathered clergy unfurled banners and a Buddhist drumming circle joined the sidewalk procession. Upon arriving at the White House, activists heard prayers offered by Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim and Christian clergy at the vigil as some in the gathering prepared to be arrested afterwards for civil disobedience. A Jewish activist blew a shofar horn, while a stole-wearing Christian clergyman prayed to “the spirit of divine love” and repented of sins against the “pan-biological and pan-geological” mother Earth.
“There are those who hate us for what we are doing today,” proclaimed former National Association of Evangelicals official Richard Cizik. “You are my heroes,” the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good president gushed to the soggy potpourri of Religious Left activists.
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