How Can Liberal Religious Educators Support the March for Science?

22 03 2017

In this age of divisive rhetoric, the need for collaborative work between groups from different faith traditions to heal ailing society is indeed growing stronger every day. Words and deeds of the 45th Republican administration have already got the Humanists, UUs and the Christian Left mobilized.

But consider the religious naturalists. These wild lilies may or may not be found in any church or humanist organization. They may or may not spin their stories or clothe their mission in the language of theism. But they are nevertheless engaged in deeply religious work.  In the words of Sophia Fahs, “life becomes religious whenever you make it so.”

For example, on November 29, 2016, MIT professors published a statement recommitting to shared values at the core of the university’s mission: rejecting every form of bigotry, discrimination and hateful rhetoric and action; endorsing open, respectful discourse of ideas from the widest variety of intellectual, religious, class, cultural and political perspectives; and upholding the principles of the scientific method, of fact- and reason-based objective inquiry.[1] More than 600 faculty and many more MIT community members have signed the statement. When we recommit and bind ourselves (religare) to our highest principles, this is a religious act.

Astrobiologist David Grinspoon recently recalled the words of Carl Sagan’s wife, Lynn Margulis.[2]  She challenged the notion of evolution in the small and in the large, and spoke powerfully about the role of symbiosis and cooperation in our understanding of how the world has come to be as it is. When we reread and reflect on (relegare) our sacred stories, this too is a religious act.

This Earth Day—April 22, 2017—the Earth Day Network and the March for Science are co-organizing a rally and teach-in on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.[3] This is a vital moment for clergy and religious educators to join the effort to educate the public that health, quality of life, and the state of the world we leave our children all vitally depend on science.

Many clergy have already planned sermons around Earth Day. It is important to realize that 2017 is not a year of advocacy as usual. For one thing, the #ScienceMarch takes place on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. The #PeoplesClimateMarch takes place the next weekend, April 29, 2017. Satellite events will be happening on both Saturdays and during the week, organized both locally and in connection with #FaithClimateActionWeek.

In addition to sermonizing about science and climate action, 2017 presents a singular opportunity for liberal clergy and religious educators to minister to the science and activist communities.

In this pivotal moment, we can:

  • Hold space for and respect the leadership of Native Americans, on whose land we are guests and whose activism predates our own
  • Provide spiritual care to the organizers of and participants in the March for Science—for many this is a stressful first-time exposure to intersectionality[4]
  • Name religious naturalism, demonstrate that it flowers right in our own communities, and welcome religious naturalists into our congregations
  • Be mindful that many scientists are non-theists: If we #PrayForClimate, we must invoke and affirm reason, too
  • Provide a counter-narrative to the Right’s dismissal and demonization of “godless scientists”
  • Rally the environmentalists within our congregations, and renew the ties of allyship with activist groups that support science
  • Make new allies with activist groups at local universities
  • Invite congregants to make Brain Caps for the #ScienceMarch, and contribute unifying gestures, such as carrying the American flag, or waving a sign saying “Truth, Justice and the American Way!”
  • Put our bodies on the line—in Washington and in our local communities—by offering a ministry of presence in support of the scientists
  • Educate ourselves to provide community ministry at protests[5]
  • Witness the anger of the scientific community
  • Advocate for those who may be targeted by the police
  • Offer a ministry of hope, through words, gestures and songs that inspire love, courage and healing for the beautiful world we share
  • Discern a way forward beyond the March for Science, by engaging people in ethical conversations—using reason in relationship—about how we want to treat each other and the earth

Let us bind ourselves in love to all our relatives in the interdependent web of all existence. Let us reconnect with the story of science, and see the dedicated humanity and patient work that has illuminated and continues to illuminate the workings of this web. Let us choose to make a religious commitment to supporting justice through the human endeavor of science.

[1] http://www.mitvalues.org/press/

[2] https://eapsweb.mit.edu/third-annual-william-f-brace-lecture-david-grinspoon

[3] http://www.earthday.org/marchforscience/

[4] https://www.statnews.com/2017/03/22/science-march/

[5] Download The Protest Chaplain’s Handbook, by Abigail Clauhs: http://bit.ly/2njE0DE

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