Walking Back from the Climate Cliff: “Pray-In” at the White House, January 15


December 6, 2012

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The Shalom Center

To put the bottom line first: Below is an invitation to join in  and/or support a Multi-faith Pray-in for the Climate at the White House on January 15.

Why? For months, various politicians have been warning us of the dire effects on our grandchildren of the federal deficit and insisting that when the Fiscal Cliff arrives this winter we must drastically cut Federal spending on schools, our infrastructure of bridges and sewers and railroads, Medicaid, and renewable energy.


For me, grandchildren are not a political abstraction. I have five of them, ranging from three years old to twelve. When I imagine their futures, I am much more worried about how empty-headed education, worsening health, a rotting infrastructure, and especially more disasters like Superstorm Sandy will affect them.  


Much more dangerous than the Fiscal Cliff is the Climate Cliff we are facing, as the growing number of extreme weather events — Superstorms, fierce floods, drastic droughts —- wound us and warn us.


Our religious communities should join with labor unions, small businesses, PTA’s, coops, neighborhood associations, and our college faculty and students to demand a set of changes that will sow the seeds of greater change, by cutting the power of the Carbon Lords and committing the President and Congress to vigorous action. If we go over the Climate Cliff now, my grandchildren – our grandchildren – will live in misery and suffering.


What can we do, when can we take the next careful steps back from the Cliff? One time and place will be a multi-faith “Pray-in for the Climate” January 15, in front of the White House. Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) is planning the pray-in. The Shalom Center is a member of IMAC, and I am a member of its coordinating committee.  Here is IMAC’s Call to the Pray-in:


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A Call for Multi-faith Action on January 15, 2013, in Washington, D.C.


 We are facing a Climate Cliff, and we are calling upon religious and spiritual leaders, other believers and all people of good will to join us to address its danger by participating in “A Pray-in for the Climate” in front of the White House.


 Superstorm Sandy, the drastic droughts in our corn country, record-breaking Arctic ice melt, and unheard-of floods in Vermont, let alone disasters in Australia, Russia, Pakistan and Africa, all warn us: the disruption of our planet will not wait for our “normal” political paralysis to end. 


 If we go over the Climate Cliff now, our grandchildren will live in misery and suffering.


 Fifty years ago, our country faced a crisis of racial inequality in the USA that was a basic threat to justice and democracy. Religious communities and others acted, and we made a difference.


 Today’s deepest crisis is the danger facing the web of life upon our planet, including the human race.


 Out of our moral commitment to protect and heal God’s Creation, our religious communities need to be calling for a set of first-step changes that will sow the seeds of greater change, by committing the President and Congress to vigorous action. And we should pose those demands in such a way that we are addressing not only our government, but religious communities throughout the country.


 What can we do? When can we take the next careful steps back from the Cliff? One time and place will be mid-day on Tuesday, January 15, in front of the White House. Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC) is planning “A Pray-in for the Climate.”


 IMAC is a collaborative initiative of religious leaders, groups and individuals that came together in 2011 in response to the pressing need for more visible, unified, prophetic action to address the climate crisis. As people of faith and spirituality, we feel compelled by our traditions and collective conscience to take action on this deeply moral challenge.


 January 15 is close enough to  Inauguration Day (January 21) to make the connection with what the President should he doing in his second  term, and far enough away that the action won’t drown in the media swamp.


 And it’s the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The action will be carried out in the spirit of his work. We will gather at 11 am at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church a few blocks from the White House. At noon we will walk there in a religious procession and join our voices in a prayerful vigil. We will be praying that President Obama, as well as all of us, find the strength and wisdom to lead our country and world away from the Climate Cliff. Some participants may feel called to risk arrest by nonviolently disregarding the conventional regulations at the area near the White House fence.


 We expect to be joined by survivors of Superstorm Sandy and their religious leaders from communities like the Rockaways and Staten Island in New York.


 What will we be urging that the President do, to meet the needs of this critical hour in planetary time?


 1.  Permanently refuse permits for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, because tar-oil is among the most dangerous of the planet-heating forms of carbon.


 2.  Call a National Summit Conference on the Climate Crisis that includes leaders of business, labor, academia, religious communities, governmental officialdom, science, and other relevant bodies.


 3.  Publicly support and advocate for a carbon fee that will generate hundreds of billions of dollars, with provisions to make sure that working families and the poor are not damaged by higher carbon prices; for an end to subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industries; and for substantial subsidies for research, development, and use of  renewable, sustainable and jobs-creating clean energy sources.


 We invite and urge you to join us on January 15 at the White House.


 We look forward to hearing your thoughts about this action.


 With blessings of shalom, salaam, pax, paz, peace  —


 The IMAC Steering Committee


Peter Adriance, National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the US     
Rev. Tom Carr, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Hartford, CT, co-founder of Interreligious Eco Justice Network, CT,  
Rev. Terry Ellen, Unitarian Universalist Association
Ted Glick, Chesapeake Climate Action Network  
Cynthia Harris, IMAC
Rev. Mark Johnson, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Fr. Paul Mayer, Climate Crisis Coalition
Jacqueline Patterson, Director, NAACP Climate Justice Initiative
Ibrahim Ramey, Muslim American Freedom Society
Karen Scott, Center for Liberty of Conscience
Lise Van Susteren, MD, Center for Health and the Global Environment, NWF
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

Contact info: <> ; Cynthia Harris at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), 202-288-8788


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My comments and invitation:


The Carbon Lords seem determined to throw us off the Climate Cliff, to maximize their profits.   IMAC is proposing careful beginner steps to start walking us back from the cliff.


We don’t imagine these steps will be “enough,” just as the Montgomery bus boycott and the early sit-ins were not “enough.” Looking much further back in religious history, Moses’ first challenges to Pharaoh, the Palm Sunday procession that Jesus led, and Mohammed’s original confrontations with Abu-Jahl in Mecca were not “enough.” 


But change did come.


Indeed, the Passover/ Holy Week imagery and meaning — especially drawing on the ancient Exodus story to address the modern “plagues” brought on us by the modern “pharaohs” — will be the next focus of IMAC’s and The Shalom Center’s work.  After January 15, I will write more about those plans.


Meanwhile, first steps. If you want to sign and support the IMAC Call, even if you cannot be present at the White House on January 15,   please write me a note at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with your title, name, postal address, and phone. If you plan to take part in the action, let me know.


One last thought. Ten years ago, as the Bush Administration dragged us all into the disastrous  Iraq War, The Shalom Center took part in similar peaceful, prayerful protests. Our judgment in those days proved to be wise, and our actions to be worthy. I think we are facing now an even bigger test. 


Those of us who are deciding whether to risk arrest on January 15  need your spiritual help – your prayers that we be rightly guided by the Breath of Life – and your material help. To send the former, simply pray.  To send the latter, please click on the “Donate” line on the left margin.


 Many thanks, and my blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace – Arthur