Merlene Davis: Preaching about sustainability can help end us-against-them mentality

The face of environmentalism and climate change tends to be either that of scientists or of tree-hugging hippies.

But that lingering image doesn't reflect the growing number of Christians, Jews, Muslims and members of other faiths who say saving the Earth is a requirement of their religious beliefs.

That means more and more climate activists are joining religious conservatives and progressives in their support of sustainability and environmental concerns.

And that's a pretty formidable coalition.

Until recent years, "those two worlds did not mix," said Tresine Logsdon, who is a member of Crossroads Christian Church, as well as the Energy & Sustainability Curriculum Coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools. "But I am passionate about sustainability and I'm passionate about my Christian faith. That is what is so exciting for me. The two are no longer mutually exclusive."

Several years ago, environmental activists were concerned mostly with saving the planet for the environment's sake. Now, she said, that concern has transitioned into doing what is good for humans as well and recognizing the threat to our air, food, health and economy. Sustainability embraces the entire global picture, and so has the faith community.

Tim Darst, executive director of Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light in Louisville, said the changing climate is affecting millions of people around the world.

"The poor and most vulnerable are hurt first and hardest," he said.

That demographic is the group all religions are called to care for.

"People of faith are called to love our neighbors," Darst said. "We can't continue what we are doing because that exacerbates the problems."

To help bring home the point, communities throughout the nation are asked to participate in the National Preach-in on Global Warming the weekend of February 8-10. During the event, clergy are urged to talk about protecting God's creation and tout climate change as a moral issue.

The weekend is sponsored nationally by Interfaith Power & Light, an effort that began in 1998 as a coalition of Episcopal churches united to purchase renewable energy in California; it has grown to host affiliates in 38 states working to protect and preserve the Earth.

Activities during that weekend "can take many forms," Darst said, including the showing of a film, discussions, a sermon or homily.

"This is a movement that is led by faith leaders," he said. "Ministers and rabbis are saying we are doing this. Our goal is to have more and more congregations talking about this issue year to year."

He said 36 faith communities in Kentucky celebrated the preach-in last year, and he's not sure what the final number will be in 2013, the fourth year for the event in the state.

Logsdon said Crossroads doesn't have anything planned, but the church is heavily involved in sustainability. Crossroads' involvement, as well as her own, Logsdon said, was spurred in 2009 by a talk given by Matthew Sleeth, an author and co-o-founder with his wife, Nancy, of Blessed Earth, a Lexington-based nonprofit that promotes spiritual stewardship of the Earth.

A Creation Care group was started soon after that visit, and the group increased recycling efforts and monitored energy conservation at the church and in their homes. In 2011, the members built 10 raised garden beds, which they called Blessed Earth Community Garden. Members adopted the beds, and a free farmer's market was set up to benefit residents in the Woodhill community.

Churches throughout Fayette and other counties are doing similar things.

Unfortunately, protecting our environment and promoting good health with our neighbors has become mired in politics, blocking efforts that could alleviate some of the problems. Some politicians have called climate change an unproven theory, despite all the recent evidence to the contrary.

Talk of wind power and a reduction in carbon emissions and a decrease in the use of coal can get a politician sent home. But that doesn't change the fact that America, with about five percent of the world's population, is the largest consumer of fossil fuels, which pollute our environment; that must change if we are to be God's stewards of this land.

"There is a ton of scripture supporting that," Logsdon said. "I often reference that when I give talks."

With the environmentalists and faith community on the same page, there will be no more us against them. It will be all of us taking care of this Earth and the people on it.

"I am extremely optimistic," she said. If nothing else, "we are having a conversation."

That's how unity begins.


For more information about the National Preach-in on Global Warming, visit, or call (502) 210-8920.