Pentecost and the (Trump) Tower of Babel
By Doug Bland, AZIPL Executive Director
This Sunday Christians will be celebrating Pentecost, the day when Holy Spirit descended “like the rush of a mighty wind” and with “tongues of fire” (Acts 2). The gift of the Holy Spirit was that people from all over the known world suddenly understood each other and found common accord even though they spoke different languages.
Two years ago there was another Pentecost moment. Nearly 200 nations gathered in Paris to work on a climate initiative. They spoke many different languages and came from many different cultures. But this was the 21st year they had met together to talk about the climate crisis, so they had a lot of practice listening…
*to each other
*to a planet in distress
*to the poor who suffer the most from global climate
*to species of plants and animals endangered by climate change
*to their various religious traditions that teach Earth stewardship
*to the future generations from whom we have borrowed this planet
So, in an act that many said was nothing short of a miracle, they agreed to join together to take steps to reduce the causes of climate change by voluntarily reducing their carbon footprints. And the rivers clapped their hands and the mountains sang for joy! (Ps. 98:8)
This week, President Trump pulled out of the Paris Accord saying that it was a threat to our economy and our way of life. Those who are familiar with the Bible may hear echoes of other ancient voices: At Babel, people spoke one language, but it was a language of arrogance and greed: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top to the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” Seeing their pride, God scattered them around the earth and confused their languages.
Listen! As discouraging as the covfefe in the Rose Garden was this week for those of us who love the Earth, Pentecost happens! It’s happening today! You can hear the cacophony of voices crying out for Earth justice! Listening to the different accents and languages affirming our will to care for the Earth and each other is music to my ears and medicine for my soul.
At the end of April I joined 200,000 people at the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C.. It was for me a Pentecost experience of God’s diversity united in common care for the Earth. We were given a map that showed us where each group was supposed to line up in the march. THE PROTECTORS OF JUSTICE led the way. They were indigenous people and people who are most immediately impacted by climate change, those from sub-Saharan Africa and people from pacific Islands threatened by rising sea level. Next came the CREATORS OF SANCTUARY, those providing safe places for immigrants. LGBTQ, women, Latinos, Land rights advocates. After them came the BUILDERS OF DEMOCRACY—labor and government leaders, and voting rights advocates. Then the GUARDIANS OF THE FUTURE—Kids, parents, elders, youth students, followed by DEFENDERS OF THE TRUTH—scientists, educators and health care givers. Then came KEEPERS OF THE FAITH—-religious and interfaith groups—Jews and Christians and Muslims and Bahia and Taoists and Unitarians and religious traditions I’d not ever heard of. We were led by Muslims all dressed in white. Then came RESHAPERS OF POWER, anti-corporate and anti-nuclear groups, fossil fuel resisters and renewable energy advocates. Finally there was a group called MANY STRUGGLERS, ONE HOME—environmentalists, climate activists and more.
Our path took us down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the Trump Tower of Babel, and then to march around the White House. At 2 p.m. 200,000 diverse marchers sat down wherever they were on the march and there was silence. And out of that silence, half a million people began making the sound of a heartbeat on our chests, for 90 seconds, and then everyone joined together to shout for climate action and climate justice. It was like the sound of a mighty wind!