Ask any Blount Countian about the things they hold most dear, and here’s what you’re likely to hear: God, family, these mountains. And they mean it. We love these things ferociously. At least we believe that we do.
But like the alcoholic mother who refuses to get help for her drinking problem or the abusive husband who “loves” his wife so much he strangles her both figuratively and literally, close examination reveals that we are being less than honest about the depth of our love for our God, our children and our beloved mountains.
A child has called us out. Blonde, diminutive and Swedish, Greta Thunberg has exposed the shallowness of our love and challenged world leaders finally to do something about the destruction that is happening to our planetary home — our only physical sanctuary in the cold, dark, inhospitable vastness of space.
The science is in. Despite the naysayers who will write letters to the editor citing the bogus studies funded by the oil and gas industry, a broad consensus has been reached after nearly a half-century of painstaking research that (a) global warming is real, and (b) we are causing it through a variety of behaviors including deforestation and the widespread use of fuels and foods that produce heat-trapping gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but no one is entitled to his own facts. Not even our president. Here are the facts: The past two years have been the hottest on record. In case you’re thinking it could be an anomaly, the past five years also were the hottest on record. Yet, we’re still driving gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks, running our air conditioners full-tilt (remember that much of TVA’s electricity is produced by burning coal) and eating red meat like ravenous wolves (cows and pigs produce lots and lots of methane). So, let’s talk about that first priority, God. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” says the Bible. And that’s not all. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth …. And God saw all that he had created and saw that it was good.” Then, God proceeds to place man in charge of his planet — as “stewards” to use a good Biblical word. In short, we are responsible. And, if responsible … accountable.
Here’s the bottom line. It is impossible to love God and not love God’s world. I don’t know if young Greta is a person of faith or not, but here’s what I do know. She is outperforming those of us who dare to call ourselves “Christian.” Among other things, she has organized an international “strike day” for people to walk out of their schools, factories, offices, whatever and say to our elected officials, “ENOUGH!” We’re not going to continue with business as usual when the planet is literally burning up around us.
Here in Maryville, students are leading a march at 11:45 a.m. this Friday, Sept. 20, that will begin at Maryville College’s Clayton Center for the Arts and end at New Providence Presbyterian Church. If you care about your children — or like me, your grandchildren — use your lunch break this Friday to show up and support these kids. Pastors, priests, elders and deacons, please! Be the leaders God has called you to be. Stand with our children to demand that our political leaders cease their petty bickering and come together to save God’s beautiful world. Am I optimistic that we will do what is required? No. I was working on Capitol Hill in the 1990s when we missed passing by one vote what would have been the first-ever “carbon tax” on the use of fossil fuels. I knew the senator who killed the bill. He was a good man. But he was from Oklahoma — one of the leading oil and gas states. And he went the way of all flesh.
But someday his grandchildren will ask him. As they will ask you and me. “Why didn’t you do something when you had the chance?” And we will lie. “We didn’t know,” we will say. But we did. And we do. So, no. I am not optimistic. But I am hopeful. The seas are rising. But so are our children.