By Jim Ruyle, Hillsdale United Church of Christ, Portland, OR
If the United Church of Christ is nothing else, it is a justice church. Consider the many justice issues appearing recently in our national and conference level websites: domestic violence, Native Americans, poverty, disabilities, hunger, violence against women, gun violence, racism, climate change, child labor, literacy, low income housing, refugees, Palestine/Israel, and LGBTQ youth. We are so energized by justice issues that we take joy in shouting them out when we name our local churches: “Multi-cultural, multi-racial, open and affirming, just peace, accessible, new sanctuary movement” and justifiably so. All these issues represent callings from God to the churches and people who embrace them.
But how does an issue qualify as a justice issue? Many seem obvious just to cite them. But what about issues which have received less recognition and are just emerging as matters of importance? How do they rise to a level such that they deserve cries of alarm and the investment of resources? Say for example that scientists predict that by the end of this century, one-half of our plant and animal species may be extinct – one-quarter by mid-century – at the rate we are destroying their habitat.
This prediction has in fact been made by leading biologists and reported recently in a New York Times News syndicate article that appeared on the front page of the September 28, 2014, Sunday Oregonian. It appeared in famous biologist E. O. Wilson’s book, “The Creation” in 2006. This is what our children and grandchildren have to look forward to. They and their descendants will be profoundly affected by this loss including the loss of ¾ of the world’s food supply due to the extinction of bees alone, not to mention the eventual loss of all food due to the extinction of other pollinators. (Wilson) Of course, the impact of this loss will be felt first and most heavily by the underprivileged sectors of the population.
Consider further, that we humans, you and I, are causing this loss of species at alarmingly increasing rates but that we could effectively avoid much of the species loss and its effects if we addressed it as scientists urge us to do. In that regard, consider the conclusion of a leading entomologist that after the loss of habitat to agriculture and cities, suburbia remains as the only available space for restoring sufficient habitat for our nation’s wildlife. Other open space and reserves are not large enough. Suburban residential and other property owners must get involved. (Douglas Tallamy, “Bringing Nature Home”) In view of that conclusion, consider that because of their ownership of property scattered about cities and suburbia across the country, churches occupy a unique position to help avert this catastrophe by demonstrating habitat restoration on their properties, setting the example for their communities, becoming teaching centers with the help of governmental and other agencies, and advocating habitat restoration locally and through their national offices.
Given these considerations, does this issue, which you might call “saving creation” rise to the level of a justice issue deserving the attention and support of “church resources”? If you believe it does, you are urged to make that known to church members and leaders at all levels who might be effective in helping address the issue in a timely manner. Every day brings the loss of more plant and animal species from creation.