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NCC's Edgar praises, laments Supreme Court actions
New York City, April 10, 2007 – The general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) was very pleased with the recent Supreme Court decision on the environment.
The Rev. Bob Edgar welcomed the high court's ruling that the federal Environmental Protection Agency does have jurisdiction over regulating carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles. Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to greenhouse gases affecting climate change.
"Global warming is the most important moral challenge of our time," writes Edgar in this month's regular contribution to the Talking Justice blog site of the NPR program, 'Justice Talking.' "It literally threatens God's creation to exist on the planet of 'God's own making and redeeming.' We can do something about this threat. We can turn it around. But we don't have a lot of time to think about it. Action is needed and now."
But the nine justices refused to take up the case of the prisoners being held at the detention camp at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. Edgar, an ordained United Methodist pastor, called the detention facility a "concentration and torture camp." The NCC consistently has advocated for due process for those being held at the camp. An NCC delegation seeking to visit the prisoners was denied access. Last year the NCC called for the Guantanamo camp to be closed "without delay."
"This open-ended imprisonment of 'suspected' terrorists is one of the darkest periods in our country's history," wrote Edgar. "Recent confessions of prisoners there came at a time when some in our country needed headlines to remind the rest of us how justifiable the torture is."
NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org
Supreme Court walks the justice/injustice tightrope
By the Rev. Bob Edgar
"Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you."
Those words from the author of the book of Deuteronomy (16:20) in the Hebrew Bible rang true this week with the Supreme Court decision on the federal government's responsibility in the global warming battle.
One of the chief contributors to the warming of God's planet is carbon dioxide (CO2). The automobile tailpipe is one of the biggest sources of CO2 in the United States. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under this Bush Administration claimed to have no authority to regulate the output of those tailpipes. In a 5-4 decision today, the nation's highest court sided with those who urged strongly that the EPA should be regulating the amount of CO2 cars put into God's atmosphere.
I was proud that the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) joined with Church World Service and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference in filing a "Friend of the Court" brief last year before this case (Mass. vs. EPA) was argued before the court.
Global warming is the most important moral challenge of our time. It literally threatens God's creation to exist on the planet of "God's own making and redeeming." We can do something about this threat. We can turn it around. But we don't have a lot of time to think about it. Action is needed and now.
One cannot help but recall the words of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Procrastination is the thief of time."
Spin doctors from those who would rather not do anything about the problem have worked furiously to reframe the issue. They do not want to call it global warming. That's too alarming. They want to call it, "climate change."
I wish I could take all of those spin doctors and their bosses to Glacier National Park in Montana. In a very few years we may have to change that name to the "Former Glacier National Park." The melt off rate there has been increasing exponentially.
But for people of faith it's not just about the science of global warming. It is more about loving our neighbors as ourselves or doing to others as we would have them do to us.
Ironically, on the day the Supreme Court issued its ruling, several of our fellow human being living in the Solomon Islands were killed by huge waves of water crushing coastal villages. The waves were caused by tsunami action following an earthquake, not global warming, but the results could be the same.
Many people who live on the coastlines of island nations will be affected by rising seas. Melting ice at the poles is contributing to this and many believe it is due to warming air and water temperatures.
The reminder of the tsunami and the loss of life should give every one of us pause the next time we start our cars. We need to know the connection we have with those around the globe who may feel the effects of what gasses we are throwing up into the atmosphere.
The faith community is taking steps to reduce CO2 emissions. The NCC Eco-Justice Program's "Adamah Congregation" initiative is one way churches and houses of faith can help. It can be as easy as switching incandescent light bulbs to the new compact fluorescent one's that use a fraction of the power. Since most of our electricity in the nation come's from burning fossil fuels and adding more CO2 to the environment, that's a first step.
While we can make many changes in our personal lives and in our faith communities, we must continue to keep pressure on our government leaders to act with justice toward God's creation. All of us have been given this "fragile earth, our island home" by a God who wants us to take care of it. We owe that to generations yet to come, to neighbors around the world we may never meet, and to our brother and sister creatures inhabiting the seas and lands also made by our common creator.
The same day, it was very disturbing that the Supreme Court decided not to hear the pleas of the "detainees" at the Guantanamo Bay concentration and torture camp. This open-ended imprisonment of "suspected" terrorists is one of the darkest periods in our country's history. Recent confessions of prisoners there came at a time when some in our country needed headlines to remind the rest of us how justifiable the torture is.
In November 2005, the General Assembly of the NCC spoke out strongly: "Torture, regardless of circumstance, humiliates and debases torturer and tortured alike. Torture turns its face against the biblical truth that all humans are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, 27). It denies the preciousness of human life and the dignity of every human being by reducing its victims to the status of despised objects, no matter how noble the cause for which it is employed."
I'm glad that our Christian sisters and brothers in the National Association of Evangelicals have also spoken out against the use of torture. More and more people of faith or goodwill, or both, are joining the NCC in calling for the embarrassment of Guantanamo to be closed. The torture camp does not stand for the justice our nation has held up as a light to the nations in our short history on this Earth.
Our Creator's demand for justice has been a light to many throughout the centuries. We should be choosing that light to help show us the way to a just, more equitable and secure world that God wants for all of God's creatures.
The Rev. Bob Edgar is General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. He is an ordained United Methodist pastor and author of "Middle Church, Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right" published by Simon & Schuster (2006).
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