Faith-based protests of pipeline projects, global warming and other environmental causes won’t just be for the hard core anymore, thanks to Donald J. Trump.
Some leaders of creation-care causes say anticipated rollbacks in anti-global warming policies and treaties, boosts in pipeline construction and fossil fuels use will generate sharp reactions by dedicated activists and inspire others to join the movement.
They also predict a harder line from authorities and stiffer sentences for spiritually motivated protesters.
“I don’t think everyone is called to do non-violent civil disobedience — but I think more and more people will be,” said Tom Carr, co-coordinator of the steering committee for the American Baptist Churches Creation Justice Network.
Carr, who is also involved in interfaith environmental groups, said he predicts more Christians will become activists on some level.
A Trump administration will make it clear, he said, that “we can’t just sit by.”
Trump’s impact on the environment is about all the conservation movement is talking about these days. His choice of Myron Ebell, a well-known climate science denier, to lead his transition at the Environmental Protection Agency, ensured that, Carr said.
They fear Trump and his oil-industry allies will attempt to roll back years of progress on the environment under the Obama administration. And the door will be opened to exploit cheaper, dirtier forms of energy, restart the Keystone XL Pipeline, gut the EPA, push fracking and bail on the Paris climate accords.
The scenarios being kicked around by activists are practically endless.
‘Jesus got crucified for doing this stuff’
“There are a lot of these conversations happening,” said Betsy Sowers, the minister for Earth justice at Old Cambridge Baptist Church, an American Baptist congregation in Cambridge, Mass.
But it’s not a woe-is-me vibe guiding activists, Sowers said.
Instead, it’s inspired a lot of individual introspection among activists about their own callings, strategies and expectations about consequences.
“For those of us who have some white and economic privilege, this work has been easy and relatively safe,” Sowers said.
She noted that her own recent arrest at a pipeline protest resulted in few hours in jail and probation.
It’s likely to be much more drastic in Trump’s America.
“Now when we say we are going to stand with people on the margins, people of color and the poor, that’s going to be real,” she said. “There may be real danger to people of privilege — and that may be a good thing for us so we’re not just dabbling in this.”
Given that possibility, many in the movement are delving into the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for inspiration in speaking against authority, she said.
“Jesus got crucified for doing this stuff, for speaking against empire and establishment,” she said.
A Trump administration will require people of faith who care about creation and those on the fence to step up.
“The conversations I’ve been hearing this week are: ‘now we have to pass the test,’” Sowers said. “’Do I really believe what I have been preaching?’”
‘This is a Kairos movement’
Ian Mevorach predicts the creation care movement will rise to the occasion, motivated by the real dangers posed by Trump’s anti-environment posture.
Those threats also will inspire a greater collaboration between various justice movements in the U.S., said Mevorach, co-founder and spiritual leader of Common Street Spiritual Center, an emerging church community in Natick, Mass.
Leaders of climate, LGBTQ, women’s, racial, immigrant and other causes already see that Trump’s cavalier attitude about the impact of fossil fuels and his penchant for dividing Americans will require more than their individual efforts to oppose, Mevorach said.
“The different movements are saying ‘we need to work together for a broader vision of justice,’” he said. “I see these movements coming together even more in the next four to eight years to produce a resistance to a presidency that clashes with all of our values.”
Carr said similar actions are already beginning among climate activists from different faiths.
“Interfaith movements are becoming stronger and stronger and stronger because we are uniting behind the one planet that we share,” he said.
The rise of Donald Trump, in fact, is a powerful spiritual moment for all of those concerned about the planet, Carr said.
“This is a Kairos moment,” he said. “This is a moment that God is saying ‘it is time to step into it,’” he said. “And we can either step into it and do what is good and right for all, or we can step away and continue this old, worn-out path that is leading us who knows where.”