You wake up in the night. You wonder what’s gone wrong.
Did I really drive my car using up more fossil fuel yesterday? Will I drive it again tomorrow? Will my driving today destroy the world for my children tomorrow? What is wrong with me -- us --anyway?
Maybe we are all Noahs. Or at least our nightmares are his. Like Noah, we have become aware of God’s disappointment and wrath. Like Noah, we have heard the instruction to do something. We have wondered what took God so long to get mad. We have left a lot behind. We have followed divine orders.
We are on the ark, wondering what will happen next. The rain comes down. It lasts more days than we can count. Then the world is drenched, or at least our spiritual imagination is. We long for a bow in the sky, a dove on the tree.
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Part of us goes back to work. We sign petitions, march in the streets, write articles and become more serious activists and more serious clacktivists. We click and clack on one “like” after another. We attend workshops, we pray, we pray some more.
Yet there is no bow in the sky and the dove has not deigned to land anywhere near for a while.
November nights can be long -- long enough to think about Noah. Was it a miracle or was it a miracle plus? In other words, did God restore the earth or did we? Or was it a partnership: God leading and we following?
I think it’s the latter; if I didn’t, I’d never get any sleep.
I have come to believe that until there is reconciliation between God and human, all our efforts will be for naught. The Jewish faith sometimes calls it right relationship. I call it harmony, more fundamental than even that of peace and justice.
Before fracking can end, right relationship between God and self, God and human, God and the human, and God and humanity must be restored. I think that is why Noah saw the bow in the sky: he became almost absurdly obedient.
Nobody wants to worship an angry God, one that punishes only to punish some more. One that chooses one man and his family and not another’s, and “saves” them while letting the rest drown. Nor does anybody want to worship a putzy God, one who lets humanity scorch the earth and doesn’t care enough to act.
Instead, we want a God who loves us without setting conditions. We want a God who cares enough to stop us from hurting each other -- while simultaneously not giving up on our power to change our ways.
Repentance can be cheap. “So sorry,” we say to Mother Earth or her children who live in low lands. Then we get back in our car. Repentance can also be expensive, the kind we buy with night thoughts; it can require something of us. That kind of metanoia, life-changing participation is important. It is what Noah did, without fully knowing what he was doing. How could he know what he was doing?
There is nothing easy about following in Noah’s footsteps. First, theologically, there is a terrible hill to climb. Why Noah, and why not somebody else? Plus, do we really imagine that if we are better activists that then we will get to be saved while the people of the Philippines drip into the sea? There is such a slippery slope here theologically.
Many activists align themselves with Noah thinking that they are Noah, only to find out that God has chosen another Noah. What if we aren’t Noah? We have to be so careful here, not to earn our own sleep or our own salvation or our own peace of planet or peace of mind. God acts. We follow. We don’t know if we are among the drowning or the floating. We can’t purchase our safety in the great sea of life.
The Noah story may help us with climate change as long as we don’t turn the story into our story and ours alone. We don’t earn God’s favor by being better activists -- we earn it by doing what God tells us to do, even if divine instructions are more than a little micromanaging.
When you wake in the November night, consider these questions: Is climate damage a divine punishment for evil and violence -- “corruption” -- or is it our agency? In other words, did we do this to ourselves?
God seems to think yes and still sets a bow in the sky. Is that bow a “miracle” or something like a miracle plus?
I think the latter and am building an ark. No guarantees there that I will be saved or that you will be saved. But when I go to my final sleep, I’d like to think I was on the side God intended from the beginning, that place where day and night never cease. I like to think that God and I parted friends, even though God never goes away.
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” That verse comes near the end of the story of Noah and the ark. And maybe that promise is the beginning.