Imagine this scenario, which I will call “The Politics of a Burning House”: You wake up in the middle of the night, smelling smoke. You jump out of bed, run into the hallway, and discover that your house is on fire. The hallway is filled with flames, and it is spreading fast. You quickly open the doors of others in your house, and announce loudly: “The House is on fire!” But the others in your household respond: “We don’t appreciate you making political statements in your address.”
This seems like a preposterous situation, but I have seen two examples of something very similar on this very day. The first example comes from an assignment my wife Jennifer worked on this week. Jennifer is a seminary student, and her assignment was to present a sermon on a Psalm, which other students were asked to critique. Jennifer chose a Psalm that praised nature, and used her sermon to talk about the environmental crisis and our need to rethink our care for the earth. Most of the responses she received focused on her statements about the environment. Many of her colleagues told her that they didn’t appreciate her talking about the environment because they don’t like sermons to deal with politics.
The second example is the news of today: A major new report released today sounds a stronger alarm about climate change and its speed. To talk about this alarming new report, President Obama has invited meteorologists to the White House for a discussion. Yet the report itself is becoming overrun by all the controversy concerning the politics of it all. Once again, it seems that the issues of the environment are bound up in politics.
I’m not sure how it happened, but it seems that our needed conversations concerning the state of our planet have become clothed in politics, and because of that, we can’t deal with the issues. Pastors are pressed to avoid addressing environmentalism in the pulpit for the fear of becoming political, and presidents must weigh the political costs of addressing environmental issues with a group of meteorologists. But our environment is not political. It is our home: For all of us. And in many ways, it is on fire. The environmental crisis supersedes national politics. It supersedes international boundaries. It supersedes religions, languages and cultures. It even supersedes human interests. This planet, with its environment, is the house of every living thing on earth, and it must be talked about: In our pulpits, in our classrooms, and in our White House. And to say that we shouldn’t talk about it because it is political is just like the Politics of a Burning House!