Who will testify?

fracking-infographicThere are certain liabilities attendant to serving a church two blocks from the State Capitol.  Because of my proximity, I am (too) often asked to testify before Senate and House committees.  As Moses said to the burning bush, “If it weren’t for honor of the whole thing, I’d just as soon not go.”  

However, I have agreed to address the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government this afternoon, January 25.  The Committee is taking up Senate Bill 318, which, among other things, declares null and void actions taken by local governments to ban fracking in their jurisdictions, and calls for a million-dollar study to see if fracking might be safe, and preserves as “trade secrets” the list of chemicals used in fracking.  

Of course, the bill doesn’t speak of “fracking.”  It talks of “high-pressure well stimulation” — a much less volatile phrase.

I was asked to make the moral case against the bill — in less than two minutes.  So here’s what I plan to say to the good senators:

Thank you for your service. According to John Calvin, public service like yours is the highest form of service – far above that of pastoring a church.

I urge you to consider the moral case against SB 318, and indeed, the moral case for a ban on fracking in the State of Florida.

I stand in a religious tradition that affirms that “The earth is the Lord’s and fullness thereof . . .” (Ps. 24). You and I are not the owners of creation. We are the stewards of creation. As stewards, we are responsible to God and to our neighbors to manage the earth’s resources with regard to the good of all.

We do not need a million-dollar study to tell us what is already known about what the bill calls “high-pressure well stimulation.” The harm caused by fracking is already well documented in peer-reviewed studies. The jury is not out on this matter; it simply is the case that fracking cannot be done safely. The questions in this bill regarding groundwater pollution and harm to general health have already been answered, and to maintain otherwise is either misinformed or, frankly, disingenuous.

This bill overrides the decisions of elected officials who have already declared a ban on fracking in their jurisdictions, undermining the will of the people who elected them and undercutting their proper authority. It also prevents ordinary citizens from knowing what’s being injected into the earth beneath their feet.

You may not share my religious conviction that we humans do not own God’s creation. But, as members of the human race, regardless of your religious convictions, you owe it to your fellow human beings to protect them from the harm that fracking clearly causes. You have this obligation not only to this generation, but also to our children’s children for generations to come. In other words, all of your true constituents have yet to be born.

God will not thank you and me for doing our job as stewards of the earth. That’s our job. But I do thank you for weighing this matter in a morally responsible way.

Shared Faith, Different Visions

Screenshot 2016-01-11 08.06.05Just down the street from the church I serve, Franklin Graham, my brother in Christ, will be holding a prayer rally in front of the old Capitol building.  According to Brother Graham’s website, the purpose of the rally is to challenge Christians to share and live their faith at home, in public, and at the ballot box.  I join Brother Franklin in the fervent hope that Christians in American will do just that.

At the same time my brother is appealing for Christian unity through prayer and action, however, he is fanning the flames of homophobia and Islamophobia.  As I read his tweets in social media, it is clear to me that he and I differ as to how Christians should live out their faith, both in private and in the public square.

I won’t being attending the rally.  Three busloads of immigration reform activists are coming to our church on the same day.  Our congregation will provide hospitality, including, meals, showers, a warm place to sleep.  We think partnering with the Florida Immigration Coalition is a good way to live out the gospel.

But I will pray.  Here’s what I’m praying for.

I pray for Christians in American to reach out to neighbors – especially to neighbors who do not share their race, religion, or culture.  I pray this because I believe that Christians are to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love neighbors as themselves.

I pray for elected leaders to seek justice for what the Bible calls “the least of these” – the people on the margins of society — the hungry, the naked, the thirsty and the imprisoned.  That means reforming our penal system, restoring civil rights to ex-prisoners, and amending immigration policy so that families are not torn apart and children who know no other home than America can share the American dream.

I pray that my fellow Christians will follow Jesus Christ, our mirror to the human and our window to the divine, by crossing boundaries and welcoming the stranger, the outcast, and the dispossessed.  It seems to me that’s one of the best ways to share what we Christians call “The Gospel,” that is, the “good news” of Jesus Christ.

I pray that all Americans of all faith traditions will not fall victim to fear and hate, but instead will seek to understand the variety and complexity that is part of every faith tradition, including Christianity.  Before we decry the speck in the eye of the one who differs from us, we need to remove the log from our own eye.

According to his Facebook page, Brother Graham believes that “The problem we have in this country is sin.”  As a Christian and a Calvinist, I couldn’t agree more.  From my theological perspective, “sin” means, among other things, falling short of God’s best hopes for us.

The way I see it, Brother Graham and I have much in common.  We differ, however, in our vision of what Christians are called to be and do.

That Christians in America are falling short is clear.  I have faith that God will sort out our divers prayers and answer those that conform to God’s best hopes for this fallen world – this world God loves.