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Light in Darkness: Embracing the Opportunity of Climate Change1 by Edwin Firmage, Jr.

Light in Darkness: Embracing the Opportunity of Climate Change1 by Edwin Firmage, Jr.

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Published by Leena Rogers
Light in Darkness: Embracing the Opportunity of Climate Change1 by Edwin Firmage, Jr.

An environmentalist's point of view regarding responsible stewardship of the earth.
Light in Darkness: Embracing the Opportunity of Climate Change1 by Edwin Firmage, Jr.

An environmentalist's point of view regarding responsible stewardship of the earth.

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Leena Rogers on Nov 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/05/2011

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Light in Darkness: Embracing the Opportunity of Climate Change
1
by Edwin Firmage, Jr.
2
I
“I howl like a wolf and mourn like an owl.”Micah 1:8Most of you know me, if you know me at all, as an environmental activist. A few of you may know me as an outdoor photographer. But tonight, in view of the season, I’d like to put on another of my hats. Long before I took up cameras and activism, I was a student of the ancient Near East. My special focus was Israel and the Bible. And I’d like to start o
ff 
my presentation tonight by talking abit about the Bible. Ironically, academic study of the Bible was at least indirectly the beginning of theend of my active involvement in organized religion. So, I think it’s only fair to forewarn you that Istand before you tonight as that oddest of creatures, the agnostic preacher. But in part because of thecrumbling of belief, and also for other reasons, my Bible study was the start of everything good thathas followed, including the photography and the activism. What’s more, although I now approachthe Bible very di
ff 
erently than I did as a Mormon missionary thirty years ago, the Bible is if anythingmore significant to me now. For me, as I hope for you, the Bible remains a foundational cultural andspiritual document, and it can inspire us whether or not we are true believers.”
Firmage, Light in Darkness, 1 of 90
1
Section I is based on a presentation delivered at the Unitarian Church, Salt Lake City, UT, December 18, 2009. SectionII borrows heavily from a petition called “A Call for Leadership” that I drew up for the University of Utah in February 2009 but only circulated among a small group of friends at the U. due to the apparent unwillingness of faculty to speak out and draw down the ire of the Utah Legislature. A copy of the petition is available on my website: http://web.me.com/efirmage/Edwin_Firmage_Photography/Blog/Entries/2009/2/2_A_Declaration_of_Energy_Indepenence_files/A%20Call%20for%20Leadership.pdf. Sections III - VI are new to this essay.
2
EDWIN FIRMAGE, JR. makes his living, or tries to, as a fine art photographer in Salt Lake City, Utah (
res est sacramiser 
). He studied classics at Princeton and holds an M.A. in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology fromU.C. Berkeley, where he was a Mellon Fellow. From 1986–1989, he was a Rotary Foundation scholar atthe Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is the author and publisher of 
Red Rock Yellow Stone 
, an award-winning combination of photographs of the American West and haiku from Japan. For more about Mr. Firmage, visit his web site, www.edwinfirmage.com.
 
My message to you this evening is that climate change is
the 
problem:
the 
ecological problem,
the 
 social and economic problem,
the 
health problem, and
the 
moral problem not just of our time but of all time. For reasons that I’ll explain in Parts III through VI, I think that churches have a uniquely important role to play in addressing this problem of problems. But whether or not climate change is
the 
problem, it is certainly 
a
problem, and a
big 
problem for churches, as it is for other institutions. Ittherefore seems reasonable, if perhaps somewhat old-fashioned, to consider what light the Biblemight shed on this issue for religious institutions that in theory, if not always in deed, honor theBible as a foundational document. So, with that justification for my playing preacher, let me turn tothe Good Old Book, that book “so little read in so many places at so many times” (
omas Greene).
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I begin my remarks tonight with these beautiful and familiar words first spoken 2,500 years ago by aman living somewhere in the Near East, perhaps in what we now call Iraq, perhaps in what we now call Israel. He spoke a long time ago in a far away place and in a foreign tongue, and I recite his words in his tongue to remind us that these words do come from another world. Yet they still havemeaning for us today: Arise, shine, for thy light has come, and the glory of theLord is risen upon thee.For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and grossdarkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee,and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to thebrightness of thy rising (Isa. 60:1-3).
e speaker of these words called himself Yesha‘yahu. He was the second or third of Israel’s prophetsto call himself by that name. Yesha‘yahu, or Isaiah as we know him, wrote at the end of the biblical
Firmage, Light in Darkness, 2 of 90
 
period. As one of the last of the writers of the Bible, he could look back over hundreds of years of thought and action inspired by Israel’s unique faith. As one of the last of the
 prophets 
, he saw himself and his people at a turning point in time when at last the promise of God’s covenant with Israel would be fulfilled, mutually fulfilled.If the Bible has a red thread, an organizing principle, it is certainly the notion of the covenant. Whatdoes this covenant mean? To understand, we must go back to the beginning of Israel’s history, asIsrael’s priests did when they were putting the Torah in its present form. For them, the story begins with God’s creation of mankind in his image:
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Let us make mankind in our image, according to ourlikeness (Gen. 1:26).For Israel’s priests, the resemblance between God and man was both physical and spiritual. It wasthis resemblance that made it possible for God at a later date to tell Israel, “You must be holy,because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2). Without such a resemblance, such arequirement would be impossible. But even at the beginning of history, before ever speaking a wordto this e
ff 
ect, God expected mankind to model its behavior on his.It didn’t. God’s first attempt to create a holy following failed.
e generation of Adam and his family created a world full of violence. Clearly, if people were going to become holy, God would have to dosomething more than simply turning them loose on their own recognizance. And so, after wipingout all life on earth except the beings saved in the ark, God gave mankind its first instructions in how to behave. He told Noah that men may not kill each other, because they are the image of God. Andhe told Noah that while people would now be allowed to eat animals as opposed to just plants forfood, the life of these animals, as embodied in the blood, belonged to God and to God alone.
is was the first simple statement of ethics and the first dietary law of the Bible (Gen. 9:3-6). Oncemore, however, humanity failed to live up to its promise and its obligation. Humanity again filled
Firmage, Light in Darkness, 3 of 90

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