One privilege bestowed on me by writing this blog is the number of emails I get from all over the world, in general, and from people of different religions, in particular. I have a faith of a certain kind and I enjoy talking about the dependence of human health, happiness and security on the well-being of our planetary habitat within the context of faith.
The other day a Christian woman from Idaho named Katie did me the honor of engaging me in an email discussion about global warming. I say that she did me the honor because to some extent Katie disagrees with me on the global warming subject. She could have dismissed me and what I have to say and this blog out of hand but instead she cared enough about this world and her God and the Truth to engage me. That's why I say she did me the honor.
Now, I don't necessarily call myself a Christian. In fact, my particular type of brain seems to be most receptive to the experiences of God (or the Oneness or the Universe or the Mystery or Just Plain This) I have when practicing Zen Buddhist meditation. I receive that wavelength best. But when someone asks me if I'm Buddhist, I often say, "Yes, but I'm also a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu or just about any other religion you can think of."
I say that because I'm not interested in putting up a barrier in my conversations with anyone. The labels are divisive. My spiritual belief, really, is to do what is good and not do what is bad and to try to figure out how the hell to live life in the lane that squeezes very narrowly in between those two lines (and believe me, I'm mostly a failure).
The religions, to me, are different paths up the same mountain. I know some people of faith don't believe that all the paths are created equal, and that's okay for them. I'm just saying I think it's really fun to talk about getting up the mountain with people whose paths are different than mine.
I'm reading Kurt Vonnegut's latest, posthumously published book Armageddon in Retrospect. In it, Vonnegut talks about how he was a POW in Germany. One of his German guards had one cigarette left. The guard had just discovered that Allied bombs had just killed his wife, children and both parents. But he still shared his cigarette with Vonnegut, an enemy soldier.
I like that story because it acknowledges that we're all the same. And, also, it seems to me that, in more ways than one, there is just one cigarette left.
So the thing is, Katie agrees with me that stewardship of the planet is important. “We were put on this Earth to be good stewards of this beautiful, wonderful planet by God,” she wrote to me.
But she disagrees with me that manmade global warming could substantially harm the planet’s ecosystems and our ability to live on it. Katie wrote, "He [meaning God] promised never to send another flood--that polar ice will never melt and flood us again. His sovereignty will prevail--whether people believe in Him or not."
But there's a corny story about a guy in flood--slightly adapted here--and the guy stood on the roof of his house and prayed to God to save him. A man came by in a canoe, but the guy said, "No thanks, I have faith in God." A helicopter came, but the guy said, "No thanks, I have faith in God." And then the waters rose some more and the guy drowned.
He got to heaven and he said to God, "I waited for you but you never came! Was my faith in you misplaced?"
And God said, "I sent a canoe and a helicopter, but you didn't climb in. The real problem here was that my faith in you was misplaced."
So what worries me, metaphorically speaking, is that one day we could all be saying to God that he promised us there would be no more floods and that the polar caps would not melt and asking if we had we misplaced our faith in Him.
And he'll say, "I sent more than three thousand scientists to warn you to do something to stop it. The problem is not that you misplaced your faith in me but that I misplaced my faith in you."
And so, when Katie implies that we should trust God, I have no argument with her. But what we've yet to determine, in my view, when it comes to melting the ice caps and another flood, is whether God should trust us.