Climate change and religious objection to climate activism.

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…And a little child shall lead them.  (Isaiah 11:6)

Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg is a hero and an inspiration for the whole world.  That became obvious yesterday as hundreds of cities all over the world gathered in huge numbers for the worldwide Climate Strike that Thunberg started a couple of years ago, when she decided to skip classes to stand by herself on a street corner with a homemade protest sign.

The sign did not go unnoticed.  Who would have thought that a painfully shy, introverted, autistic sixteen year old with few friends could be the catalyst for a worldwide movement to fight the Climate Crisis caused by our continued use of fossil fuels and unsustainable, wasteful, earth destroying practices that the likes of Trump and Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro have further encouraged, almost as if to mock the scientific data that shows we are in grave peril unless we reverse these practices.

Greta Thunberg now travels all over the world (she chooses ships when crossing the ocean, so she leaves less of a carbon “footprint”) to give speeches to leaders of countries and the heads of ethical corporations who believe in sustainable technology and know it’s the wave of the future.   Powerful but ethical adults are listening, and she has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Thunberg also has many critics, who smear her by saying she is a mentally ill (because of her autism), spoiled, Godless, fame hungry child who knows nothing about the planet and uses fearmongering to get famous.   Blaming a vulnerable child who has the courage to speak the truth is one thing you can always count on the regressive fascists of the world to do.

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Thousands of Dutch students skipped classes to march for action on climate change.  Photo credit: Remko de Waal, AFP

The pigtailed Swedish teen’s peers are our planet’s future.  It has been said by some that her generation (Generation Z) will be the last one on earth (that may be a bit dramatic, unless Trump starts World War III, which is certainly possible).

More realistically, any offspring Thunberg’s generation has will likely have the misfortune of living in a dystopian world without breathable free air and drinkable free water, massive flooding changing the contours of the continents themselves, devastating droughts, terrible storms, and food shortages everywhere, even in places that never experienced food shortages before.   These children will grow up on a blighted planet choked with pollution, eye burning and organ destroying soot and toxic fumes, trying to farm infertile, blackened soil that yields few or no crops, a planet with its natural beauty destroyed by powerful men consumed with never having enough and always wanting more, even when that means stealing from the rest of us and taking away our national parks and public lands so they can drill for more oil and garner more riches for themselves and their cronies.   Greed does kill.

And their terrible sociopathic God tells them this is all okay.   That these conscienceless individuals who have twisted God into a being so much like themselves, after all, have dominion over the rest of us, and we, as their hapless subjects who are not “chosen” by God or “anointed,” have no rights at all and will burn in hell for even objecting to our rights being taken away.   Their terrible fake God feeds their narcissism by giving them permission to do whatever they want, rewarding them with ever more power and riches, no matter how wrong or immoral the things they do, or how much it hurts life on this planet.

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Greta Thunberg leads climate change march in New York City yesterday. Photo credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, AP

They excuse their destructiveness by insisting they are the “chosen ones,” and patting themselves on the back for pretending to be “pro-life.”  But these are people without a conscience or empathy, so it makes no sense that they would have selective empathy for a tiny embryo who isn’t a sentient being yet, but never for the woman who carries it, for her other children who may be orphaned if the pregnancy will kill her, and never for children once they are born (especially if they are not white).   The explanation for their hypocrisy is simple.  Their real motive isn’t about saving unborn babies; it’s about having complete control over women.  That’s why they are fine with rape culture and are passing legislation that removes or diminishes laws that protect women from violence.  All fascist governments attempt to control and demean women in the same manner.   They do the same thing in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia under the Taliban and ISIS.  But I digress.  This is a post about climate change and environmental activism.

I had a few random thoughts about the hypocrisy of right wing fundamentalists and evangelicals’ objections to climate change activism, and I’d like to share them with you.

Right wing Trump supporting evangelicals think it’s okay for big oil companies and other powerful corporations to exploit and pollute the earth, and they also think it’s wrong for the people affected by these destructive practices to demand accountability and laws that regulate what these companies can do to the environment, because they believe it shows a lack of faith that God can replenish the earth.   How is that view any different from kids trashing the house and then saying they don’t have to clean their mess because it shows a lack of faith that their parents can do it?

Even if God is perfectly capable of restoring the earth to its pristine natural state without our help, isn’t the way we’re treating it pretty disrespectful of his property?   Frankly, we don’t even deserve to have a liveable earth should we destroy this one.    We seem so unappreciative of the one we already have.

As for the ridiculous claim by some evangelicals that environmental activism is “earth worship”:  Here’s a news flash.  Maintaining your house isn’t “worshipping” it. Expecting others not to trash your brick and mortar house and punch holes in its walls isn’t ungodly. Making necessary repairs to your house doesn’t offend God. So why do evangelicals think caring for our earthly home is offensive to God?

God never said it’s okay to exploit the planet for personal gain and riches.  That’s part of dominion theology, which is heresy.   The Bible is clear about how God feels about humanity trashing the Earth.    You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that true morality means caring for our earthly home and not exploiting it for wealth and power.  Greta Thunberg knows this.    I hope God blesses her richly.

The Top 7 Bible Verses About Taking Care of the Earth

 

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If you’re suffering in these dark times.

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“Ever since he was elected, I can’t sleep, I can’t function, I cry all the time.  I can barely work. I want to ignore the news, but it’s always there, HE’s always there, always sucking me in like a black hole, and it’s destroying me.”

“Trump is destroying and dismantling everything near and dear to me.  I don’t know how much longer I can go on.  I’m back to smoking and drinking heavily because I don’t know what else I can do.  It just seems hopeless.  He has destroyed the future.” 

“Whenever I hear the stories and see the pictures of those poor migrant kids and their heartbroken families, I just want to scream.  What kind of society separates families?  What kind of society imprisons children who have done nothing wrong?   What kind of society makes it a FELONY to leave food and water for hungry, exhausted, and thirsty women and children who have walked thousands of miles to escape from certain death in their home countries?  A cruel, heartless, psychopathic society, that’s what.  I wish I could leave.” 

“I feel like I’m living in a nightmare that I can’t wake up from.”

“This isn’t my country anymore.  Women are being treated as second class citizens, or chattel.  I feel like my daughters have no future here.  We are seriously considering leaving for a country that respects women and girls instead of treating them like the Taliban treats their women.”

“I’m scared every day.  The anxiety and grief is relentless.” 

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m ashamed to be an American. 

*****

These are actual quotes from people reacting to what’s happening in America under Dictator Trump.   What struck me about these comments is how eerily reminiscent they are of the sort of comments people who grew up with narcissistic parents or are in abusive relationships make.  The dynamics are identical;  what America is experiencing is simply narcissistic abuse on a very large scale.  The main difference is, it’s a lot easier to go “No Contact” with an abusive family.  Unless we are pretty well off financially or have family or close friends in other countries to help us get resettled, most of us can’t just up and leave.

In normal, civilized, democratic societies, politics doesn’t dominate people’s everyday lives.  Before Trump, I could ignore the news.  It usually bored me.  I had other, happier, interests.  People in functioning democracies have that luxury, and can focus on their families, friends, jobs, hobbies, educations, and other interests.

In failing states, and in dictatorships, politics dominates peoples’ lives because their very survival hangs on the day to day whims of their often cruel rulers, rulers who rarely make policies that benefit them and are very likely to make policies that outright hurt them.

There are four main ways people normally react to a formerly benign government being taken over by cruel dictatorship or other malevolent regime.  I have taken the liberty of borrowing Pete Walker’s “Four F’s” of C-PTSD, because what is happening to Americans is very much akin to C-PTSD and PTSD.   Even people who support Trump and his inhumane policies are analogous to the flying monkeys in a narcissistic family.  They cope by identifying with the abuser.  Some may be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  Trump’s confidantes and high level enablers, of course, are also flying monkeys (and Trump’s “golden children”) and are probably on the narcissistic or psychopathic spectrum themselves.   The rest of us are the scapegoats or “forgotten children.”

So, without further ado, here are the four primary ways people in failing states and impending dictatorships (and abusive families) react to the trauma (and make no mistake, it is trauma):

1.  Sell out to the political system (abusive family) and meekly succumb to whatever new laws and restrictions, no matter how draconian and cruel, are forced on them (the Fawn or Fear reaction);  

2.  Flee to another country (No Contact) if they are able (the Flight reaction);

3.  Numb the soul and mind through alcohol or drugs (there’s a reason, besides their highly addictive properties, why the opiates are a huge crisis right now: people are trying to numb their psychic pain).  It’s also why alcoholism is so high in certain failed states and dictatorships, such as Russia, Belarus, and Hungary.   Some people don’t turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, but are able to just turn off their emotions and feel nothing anymore (Freeze/dissociative reaction)

4.  Refuse to normalize what is happening, even though not doing so makes one extremely vulnerable to great suffering, and an overwhelming sense of sadness, existential grief, stark terror, and other unpleasant emotions that are part and parcel of a serious existential threat.  However, this painful awareness also leaves one open to righteous anger, a galvanizing force which can be the catalyst to changing a dangerous and toxic political system.  (the Fight reaction).

This last group are the survivors.   They are the ones who, by facing the reality of the trauma inflicted on them by their government, are most likely to create positive change starting in their communities, and finally in their state, and even on the national or world scale.   They tend to be the young, the people whose future matters the most, and whose leaders have so callously failed them in favor of their own self interest.

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Emma Rodriguez, a victim of the Parkland school shooting, stands in silence for six and a half minutes, with tears rolling down her face, to protest gun violence at last year’s March for Our Lives event.  It was an extremely powerful few moments for everyone who watched.

One only need to look at the Parkland school shooting survivors (especially Emma Rodriguez) to see how great suffering can lead to great courage and eventually to change.   The same can be said about 16 year old Swedish climate change activist, Greta Thunberg  (please watch this video), who has parlayed her terror about her own and her peers’ future into worldwide activism that has galvanized young people all over Europe to demand an end to the use of fossil fuels.  Not only that, the adult lawmakers are actually listening.

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So, if you are feeling a lot of emotional or mental pain right now, if you are grieving the America you knew when you were young, if you find yourself feeling terrified or close to tears, or angry much of the time, please know that these reactions don’t mean there’s something wrong with you.  On the contrary, they mean something’s very right with you, and you actually have an intact soul that is uncompromised by evil.    Once you begin to normalize the “new normal,” and accept it, that’s when your soul has begun to die.

Use mindfulness techniques, visualization, prayer, or seek counseling to deal with the unpleasant and painful emotions.  Mental health professionals say their caseload is WAY up since Trump became president.  Many of them, who tend to be politically liberal, are as upset and alarmed by this regime as their clients are, so they will be able to empathize and assure you that you are not the one with the problem, but reacting in a normal way to something that is abnormal.

Every time you feel the depression, fear, or rage crop up, remind yourself this isn’t bad: it just means you have an intact soul.  You just need to know what to do with those feelings.

Write about your feelings, like I do.  Write a protest song.  Sing!  Scream!  If you’re good at organizing and are fairly social, use your rage to plan a demonstration or a march in your community.   Write letters to your representatives.  Register people to vote, or volunteer to work on the campaign of a political candidate you admire.

Don’t forget you will need to replenish every so often and do unrelated things to take your mind off the political situation.  Balance is important.   If you need a day to rest, or go to a movie, or the beach, or just sleep in, don’t feel guilty.  Your body and mind needs these breaks to replenish so you can be more effective as someone who helps bring about change.

I also recommend reading Pete Walker’s helpful and easy to read book about C-PTSD, Complex C-PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.   Because that’s what we’re dealing with under Trump and the sycophantic GOP.

*****

Further reading:

The Four F’s of C-PTSD

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving (book review)

12 Ways to Resist Without Losing Your Mind