Sandy Sends Biblical Message About Climate

Monster Storm Telling Us To Change Earth-Destroying Ways

Wake-Up Call: The biblical destruction spawned by Sandy is sending all of us a clear message about climate change.
getty images
Wake-Up Call: The biblical destruction spawned by Sandy is sending all of us a clear message about climate change.

By Arthur Waskow

Published November 02, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Suppose we were applying biblical theology to the events of today:

We might say that God listened to the two major candidates for president of the most powerful nation in the world refusing to say the words “climate change” or “global warming” in a single one of their major speeches and debates.

And then God, His face flaring red in hot anger, acting as King and Judge and Lord to rebuke their sin, would send their country an overheated storm to punish and remind them what is the greatest problem they should have been addressing.

Suppose we were instead applying a theology that sees the Divine Presence more infused in the world. That understands “YHWH” as a Breath. (Try pronouncing it without any vowels.) Not just as a breath, but as the inter-breathing of all life. As a concise statement of the science that says: We breathe in what the trees breathe out, the trees breathe in what we breathe out.

This theology fuses religious wisdom with scientific knowledge. Through this lens we see the interplay of breath — this balanced interplay of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere — as the very breath of life throughout our planet, as God’s presence in our midst.

When human beings insist on overburning fossil fuels and thereby “breathing” far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the trees and grasses can breathe in, this imbalance overheats our planet. It threatens the balance that makes life possible. It burns holes into the “YHWH” that is the Divine life-giving breath of life.

What we call the climate crisis is a crisis in the very Name of God.

The breath God breathed into the nostrils of the human race in first birthing us from Mother Earth (Gen. 2: 7) becomes a hurricane of change — like the wind that blew apart the Red Sea to free a gaggle of runaways slaves and then blew back again to shatter Pharaoh’s army (Exod. 14).

<

pagebreak>

This theology should call out to all religious folk to lead the effort to calm our climate crisis. To insist that God’s Name be restored to health so that the Name can once more become a healing of compassion.

The last of the Hebrew Prophets, Malachi, warns that the Earth may become a furnace of destruction, and urges that we prevent this disaster by turning to the healing solar wings of a Sun of Justice. From that energy of the sun itself and of the winds its “wings” bestir, we can warm and light our lives without destroying the life we seek to benefit. And this is “religion” even more than it is “science.”

It is not surprising that our purely secular “environmental” movements have exhausted their ability to change society. For the changes we need to undertake are not only technological and political, but deeper and more difficult. They call on us to shape new institutions and new values.

When God’s wind shattered Pharaoh’s power at the Red Sea, it was only the beginning of the creation of a new society. It took forty years of struggle, of transformation and mistake, backsliding and grumbling, to ready a people that could live in a sacred relationship with each other, with the earth, and with the breath of life.

So even if we were to shatter the gross and domineering political and economic power of our modern pharaohs, the giant corporations of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Unnatural Gas that will not relent from overburning and overpowering us, we would still need to be growing what religions claim to offer: a new vision of our lives.

Some “religious leaders” have spoken out; but like all growing, this one needs to happen at the grass roots of our religious communities.

May the great storm that has blown apart the ocean waters teach us now to create a hurricane of social change.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow founded (1983) and directs The Shalom Center. His newest book, co-authored with Rabbi Phyllis Berman, is “Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus & Wilderness Across Millennia” (Jewish Lights, 2011).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.