Sunday, at the Anglican church I’m going to in Lyon, we sang a strange song about telephoning God. The song directs us to use prayer as a telephone to God, and admonishes us for not doing this more often. I think we’re meant to feel affirmed in having a direct link with God, but the song left me cold.
Personally, I don’t see God as a solution to my problems. At the same time, I go to church, and I have beliefs about “good” and “evil,” though I’m of the (admittedly kind of wishy-washy) sense that morality is really more of a spectrum disorder.
Before I was a Catholic schoolgirl for a year, I prepared pretty thoroughly with my formerly-Catholic dad. As a result, I came to school better informed about Catholicism than many of my peers, and in one incident I even managed to (politely) set a nun straight about a verse she was missing when she tried to teach us the Prayer of St. Francis.
St. Francis of Assisi has always been my favorite saint because of the whole animal-whisperer vibe. He just seems rather nice (unlike some of the saints, who, frankly, seem like they were a bit touched in the head). And his prayer kicks ass:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
This is the first stanza. From the very beginning, humans have a beautiful role: instruments; peace, love, forgiveness, faith, hope, light, and joy are our music. It’s a lovely, yet serious, thought, one that gives us responsibility while acknowledging our ultimate dependency on larger powers.
Throughout the prayer, we are asking for agency, not problem-solving. It’s an empowering prayer. “Make” is a strong command (consider how different would be, “Lord, I hope I can be an instrument of your peace”).
O Divine Master, the prayer continues
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
By placing the responsibility to support others in our hands, we’re also reassured. It is difficult if not impossible to support others from a position of hopelessness or despair, but by focusing on empathy rather than our personal woes, we can gain inner strength. Finally,
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. (Amen.)
While I normally stay away from religion on this blog, it is a part of my life. It is also a significant element of the conversation about climate change in America. Climate change is not seen as a secular issue; believing climate change doesn’t exist is somehow part of the religious right’s fundamental belief system.
Although a large part of me would like to keep religion out of the conversation entirely—make climate change a purely secular issue, just the facts, ma’am and all that—inevitably climate change is something that even religious climate change deniers are going to have to grapple with. Further, having religious or spiritual beliefs should not exclude you from the conversation on climate change.
Finally, my own beliefs about spirituality have always been a significant factor in feeling compelled to address climate change. It is a global phenomenon by nature, and its effects are really bigger than our comprehension. This has a similar taste as my sense of spirituality.
More importantly, climate change is something that will, in all likelihood, pose a significant problem to the least culpable members of the human population first. Is this just? Is this good? If I am to believe in those concepts, I must believe that no, this is not just or good.
And as someone whose belief system dictates that we are all created equal, we are all one under some unifying theory (call it God if you will, call it gravity), I feel impelled to make myself an instrument—of peace, love, forgiveness, faith, hope, light, joy. Right now, the biggest threat faced by the world is climate change. To avoid facing that is, I believe, not only a pragmatic failing, but a spiritual failing as well.