Douglas A.


PO Box 6603 Lincoln, NE 68506 August 11, 2013

Mr. Rex W. Tillerson ExxonMobil Corporation 5959 Las Colinas Blvd. Irving, TX 75039 Re: A Place Called Hope Dear Mr. Tillerson, Today in Lincoln, Nebraska, First-Plymouth Church’s minister of sustainability, Rev. Kim Morrow, gave a compelling, pragmatic and heart-felt sermon. To me, it addressed the highs and lows I experience frequently during my efforts to address the urgency of climate change and ocean acidification and attempt to avert the impending global disaster. Pastor Kim’s message of hope was clear and understandable and I would like to share it with you -- I believe you will hear it, that your heart and mind are open to try innovative paradigms.

The text of Kim’s sermon is attached. Listen to her here: At one point, Kim touched my heart . . . and my mind, and my strength, and my resolve: To tell you the truth, I’m finding myself moved to tears more frequently these days. I’ll be reading some dry report, and all of a sudden some detail will jump out at me, and I will be so touched by both the beauty of our human striving, and the utter vulnerability of human civilization in the face of climate change, that I weep. I hope you will listen and enjoy Kim’s sermon, and that soon you and I will meet to discuss how to Reinvent -- Replace Refineries with Renewables.

Matthew!24:3-8;!13-14! August!10-11,!2013! Rev.!Kim!Morrow! First-Plymouth!Church!

! A Los Angeles street artist named Shepard Fairey made history in 2008. It was shortly before Super Tuesday in a historic presidential election primary, and Fairey wanted to make a poster of his favorite candidate, Barack Obama. He made a simple red, blue and beige screen print of Obama’s upturned face with the simple word “HOPE” printed at the bottom. He made an initial print run of 300 posters and sold them for $45 each. Almost immediately, the image went wildly viral, appearing all over the internet, on people’s Facebook pages, on t-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, knock-off posters and more. Within no time, his posters were being sold on EBay for up to $5,000 a piece, and the image fueled a remarkable social movement in the media culture of America. No matter how you felt about Obama as a candidate, you have to acknowledge that something unprecedented swept up the nation’s zeitgeist that year. It was hope. Somehow that iconic image and the Obama campaign succeeded in tapping into a giant well of desire that the American people had for a better world. The sentiment for hope went so stratospherically high that Obama’s opponents started calling it a false Messiah complex, and I think even Obama himself was rightfully quivering in his boots at ever being able to live up to such expectations. But Shepard Fairey had unwittingly tuned into the transformative power of hope. Hope is ingrained in us. The other morning I was trying to get out the door with my daughters, and I noticed that my 13-year-old, was doing everything with her fingers crossed. She was tying her shoes, handling keys, gathering up her belongings and everything with her first two fingers crossed on each hand. I asked her why she was doing it. That night she would find out her new school schedule for 8th grade. And she was crossing her fingers all day long in hopes that she would get Mr. Lefler for Social Studies again. We talk a lot about hope in our daily lives, but what does hope mean in a theological sense? Theological hope is really about believing that God is in charge of the world. That love rules. That life tends toward health, harmony and wholeness. That we are held in the hands of divine providence, and that everything is ultimately going to be okay. But to hope, of course, is not always such an easy thing to do. There are plenty of things in our world today that suck hope out of our lives. When personal tragedies occur, we don’t want to hear about any kind of sunny, sentimental hope. Try saying “everything is going to be fine” to someone whose son has just been arrested. Try telling someone who’s just received a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer that there’s always something to hope for. Try telling someone who’s just lost a job that they’ve just gotta hope for the best. Try saying everything is going to be just fine when you read the latest State of the Climate Report from the American Metereological Society. Try



thinking hopeful thoughts when you read in a recent edition of Rolling Stone Magazine how the city of Miami is going to be inundated with water from all sides in the coming decades. There doesn’t seem to be much to hope for when we look at a recent study that shows that climate change could increase armed conflict by 50% worldwide. I’m going to spare you statistics and data about the current state of global climate change. I think you all know that as the song goes, “we’ve got trouble in River City.” You’ve experienced the unsettlingly unusual weather patterns. You know how the Pine Bark beetle has killed millions of acres of trees in Colorado, because it hasn’t been getting cold enough in the winter anymore to kill them off. You know how we’ve had record wildfires in the West that are hotter and bigger and more lethal than the ones we used to have. Perhaps you heard that last year’s summer drought put an unprecedented load on our electrical system here in Nebraska as farmers were forced to increase their irrigation to keep their crops alive. Perhaps you heard how this summer, for the first time, the Arctic North pole marker was surrounded by water instead of ice. Three years ago I decided to focus my ministry on environmental sustainability because I was so galvanized by what the threat of climate change means for human community. As a minister, I’m in the business of helping people understand who they are and how we can build a better world. And it seemed to me that climate change threatened to scramble some of the very foundations on which our human community is built. I had a sense that the religious community was uniquely situated to not only provide the moral leadership to the world through such a crisis, but that it had the community-based resources to embrace and invent inspired adaptation strategies. So for three years I have studied climate change. I have pored through reports, attended conferences, joined training programs, taken part in community efforts and read most everything I can find. Often people ask me how I can bear to do this work. They explain that it’s too depressing and overwhelming for them. That they couldn’t function if they really spent more time thinking about it. Even other environmentalists have told me that they can’t bear to work on climate change! It’s too hard. And you know what? I totally understand that. Mary Pipher is a New York Times-bestselling author, Lincoln resident and therapist whose newest book, The Green Boat, looks at how we can hold onto hope in the face of the environmental crisis. Mary has noticed also how few people want to talk about climate change. They can’t bear to go there in their minds. But as a psychologist, she sees reasons for it: our brains are not designed to process information of that magnitude. Our brains are designed to seek food and shelter; to reproduce; spot nearby dangers, and enjoy being with others. “It’s almost impossible to grasp problems on a global scale with our Neolithic brains,” she writes. So it’s not that people are necessarily in denial; it’s just that we can’t mentally deal with climate change. Sometimes I have my own moments of despair. After a recent conference in which I listened to discussions about the future viability of the biosphere itself, I went back to my room, put my hands over my face and with tears in my eyes



asked myself why in the heck had I chosen to take on such difficult work. To tell you the truth, I’m finding myself moved to tears more frequently these days. I’ll be reading some dry report, and all of a sudden some detail will jump out at me, and I will be so touched by both the beauty of our human striving, and the utter vulnerability of human civilization in the face of climate change, that I weep. Years ago I used to work in downtown San Francisco across the street from the Nordstrom department store. When things got difficult in the office, I would go across the street and look at beautiful shoes to clear my mind. Nowadays sometimes, when the pain of the world dwells too deeply in my heart, and this work feels too difficult to do, I just want to be a shoe salesperson. But as Christians, we are called to hope. Our faith compels us to it. So we must dig deeper to find the theological foundations for hope in the context of the climate crisis. As Christians, we believe that God speaks to us in the union of spirit and matter. This was the world-changing nature of Jesus Christ: he was both fully divine and fully human, demonstrating to us for all time that the two natures should never be separate. This incarnational theology shows us that creation is infused with the divine. Matter is sacred. The earth is the body of God. We feel the presence of God in creation. When we are out walking or sitting on the earth in all its splendor, we can feel a transcendent connection. We can feel the whisper of something far more vast and wise than any of us in our smallness can possibly grasp. We can feel a connection to eternity. In those moments we are given to know that there is beauty and goodness at the heart of the universe. Our creation is a sacred gift from God’s own brilliant hand. It is sacred by its very nature. When we tread upon it too harshly, polluting it with waste from our own short-sighted needs, we scar the elegance by which we were created. Our scripture for today is an apocalyptic text. It’s talking about signs of the end of the world. We don’t like to talk much about apocalyptic thinking in mainline Protestantism. It’s almost considered bad taste. It’s ridiculous to consider the end of the world arriving on our doorstep, because it is so unlikely to happen.... I mean, right? But some of the signs we are seeing from climate change are sure beginning to look like the end of things as it we have known them for the last 150 years at least. I have begun to wonder if the environmental crisis actually provides us with a renewed affinity with the first-century Christians that just might provide the insight we need to get us through this crisis. The early Christians believed that the end of the world was at hand. It was a common worldview at the time that was blended into the early understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection. When the first people began to follow Jesus, they believed that he was the fulfillment of the Jewish scriptures; that he was the promised Messiah who at last had come. But then this very confusing thing happened: he was crucified. The stories of his resurrection assured them all that had, in fact, been the Christ, but to truly fulfill the scriptures he would have to come again at the end of time. At first they thought the end of the world and the second coming was going to happen right away. That’s what we see in the



Gospel of Mark. But by the time the Gospel of Matthew is written, people are starting to figure out that this second coming of Christ might take a while. And it is into this context that our text for today falls. Jesus tells them, hold on: this is not the end. Even though you may see signs of humongous upheaval and natural calamities upon the earth, this is not the end. And then he says something truly outlandish: this is only the beginning! These are but the birth bangs to a better world. Jesus said, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” The scientists are no longer talking about reversing climate change. It’s too late. Instead they’re talking about adaptation and mitigation. In other words: enduring. The promise of hope in the theological sense is that God is leading us to a better future. In this passage, Jesus in effect says, “no matter how bad it gets, I am with you. It will get bad; really bad; it might even look like the literal end of the world is coming... but I’m not going to leave you with that. I am with you until we see this thing through to the kingdom. And you must not give up on me.“ If we give up on God in the face of the suffering and upheaval that is likely to come with climate change, we miss the point. The point is to strap on our seatbelts, put on our safety gear, invite our most creative and open-hearted selves to the table, and endure the arduous transformation to a better world. The point is to never lose hope that that is possible. Mary Pipher tells the story of how she ultimately overcame her own despair about climate change by getting involved in a local environmental coalition here in Lincoln over the last three years. What started over wine and snacks in a living room near Holmes Lake ended up affecting decisions in the Oval Office. It was successful beyond anyone’s wildest imagination at influencing policy. But the effort renewed her hope as well. Mary has recently started a new group called the Grandmother’s Apple Pie Brigade. It was inspired by her experience of gathering together a group of friends and grandmothers like herself to thank politicians in advance for their environmentally friendly policies. They would bring apple pies or homemade jam to their legislators, convinced that building relationships and sending positive messages were the necessary ingredients for change. They knew it was important that the politicians saw them as real people-- just regular, innocuous grandmothers alarmed about the environment. Their mission statement says they are “focused on positive actions as an antidote for despair.” They host rocking chair rallies. They invite everyone to “rock and roll” (out pies) for the benefit of the earth. They have a recipe for change posted on their web site. It calls for one human being, one rocking chair, and one plan. In parentheses it says that the recipe can be expanded to 7 billion people. Just the other day, they brought their rocking chairs to a climate change rally on the steps of the Capitol. They just sat and rocked, and invited any grandmother to join them. I ran into our own Pastor Barb there (the quintessential grandmother), and I introduced her to Mary who promptly invited her to sit down and rock, which she did gleefully. I think it’s quite fitting that Jesus used the female metaphor of birth pangs to describe the Great Turning to a new world,



and Mary Pipher is using the feminine power of grandmothers to affect social change. Hearing about the Grandmother’s Apple Pie Brigade makes you smile because it’s about regular people in Nebraska, and it’s about the earth, and it’s about making the most basic things right for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren. Psychologists have shown that people who are holding hands can tolerate more pain, both physical and emotional, than people who are not holding hands. Maybe this stuff isn’t so hard after all. Mary writes: “I have learned that reviving the planet and reviving ourselves are not opposed, but rather deeply congruent behaviors. Fixing inner and outer space are the same process. We can’t heal ourselves without healing our environments, and we can’t be mentally healthy when the green boat is sinking and we are pretending the trauma isn’t happening.” Our faith in God as the creator of a transcendent universe compels us to act. We can’t just cross our fingers and hope that climate change will go away on its own. Or what’s worse: we can’t just throw up our hands and give up, thinking that God will get us out of this mess. Just as Jesus exhorts us to serve the poor, clothe the naked and feed the hungry, we are being called now to heal the earth. A mature faith asks us not to engage in hope by keeping our fingers crossed, but on the contrary: to unfurl our hands and put them to work for the glory of God. I’ve now gotten involved with the same environmental coalition that Mary writes about in her book. My work with this group, and with our Sustainable Living Ministry here at First-Plymouth, gives me hope. We are all just real people, flawed and brilliant, inspired and discouraged, funny and awkward. Spirit and matter. Through our laughter, we hold each other up. We plan the next event. We speak up. We jump for joy when the email comes in that signifies success. I have been amazed, touched and humbled to see how much change has come about already. Last spring here at First-Plymouth our congregation participated in the Mission 4/1 Earth project, and together we generated 9,215 hours of engaged earth care, planted 593 trees, and gathered 1,057 signatures on letters advocating for clean energy. This was incredible. I have watched the faces of people light up when they realize they can get involved and have fun. I do believe that we can create a better, greener world, because I see it happening. We’re doing it here. As a therapist, Mary Pipher knows that people are capable of moving through despair and anger into something stronger and more beautiful. She writes, “Many humans know that when problems are too big to face, the best solution is to grow bigger.” We must believe that these are but the birth pangs of a better world, and we must let our trust in the future to which God is leading us give us hope. Amen. !



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