By the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal
Minister and President
Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
Stealing from our children... Robbing future generations... No, I’m not referring to the debate on the national debt.
I’m referring to the consequences of a decision now on President Obama’s desk. Obama and Hillary Clinton have the power to approve – or stop – plans to build a pipeline that will transport Canadian tar sands through the heartland of America to Texas where it will be processed into oil.
The temptation to approve the Keystone pipe line is great. Vast amounts of oil can be extracted. But if they are mined and processed, those tar sands will become the second-largest “carbon bomb” to be released into the atmosphere, behind only the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. NASA climatologist James Hansen explained in a paper issued this summer that if we tap them, the emissions would mean it’s “essentially game over” for the climate.
Future generations will look back at this decision as a critical turning point. Obama has the opportunity to stand up for all of creation as well as for future generations and declare that wrecking creation is a sin.
That’s why I went to White House along with numerous climate scientists and other leaders in the environmental movement to engage in demonstrations to convince the President that this is a watershed moment – not just for his presidency – but for all future generations.
Every faith tradition affirms the universal value known as the Golden Rule – love your neighbor as yourself. The challenge our generation faces presents President Obama with an opportunity. He can declare that future generations are no less our neighbors than the people we live and work and play with every day. I don’t care what he calls it – I call it “Golden Rule 2.0." It represents a universal value that offers a moral compass that can guide us to make life on our planet sustainable.
The Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Paul in Alberta, Canada, Luc Bouchard, released a Pastoral Letter on “The Integrity of Creation and the Athabasca Oil Sands.” As the leader of the largest Protestant denomination in the Commonwealth – the United Church of Christ – I applaud his analysis as well as his conclusion “that the integrity of creation in the Athabasca Oil Sands is clearly being sacrificed for economic gain.” He also reminds his people of something Pope John Paul II wrote over 20 years ago. “Faced with the widespread destruction of the environment people everywhere are coming to understand that we cannot continue to use the goods of the earth as we have in the past . . . a new ecological awareness is beginning to emerge - the ecological crisis is a moral issue.” [Pope John Paul II, Jan. 1, 1990. “Peace with god the Creator, Peace with all of Creation” (par. #’s 1 & 15)]
As the first generation to foresee and the final generation with an opportunity to forestall the most catastrophic effects of global warming, this is the time. Now is the moment.
Just as the civil rights movement dreamed of a new order of things and engaged in new behaviors – which were spiritual practices – God is now calling our generation to embrace new behaviors. Our world needs a new moral trajectory based on resilience in place of growth; collaboration in place of consumption; wisdom in place of progress; vision in place of convenience; accountability in place of disregard; and balance in place of addiction.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal is the Minister and President of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, the largest Protestant denomination in Massachusetts and has helped organize Tarsandsaction.org.
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, activist and public theologian. He led the 360 churches of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ from 2006 to his retirement in 2018. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, ...