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Extinction Rebellion: Should I go or should I stay?

I put on Facebook that I was going to Extinction Rebellion and it got a real “Marmite” response, some saying “fantastic, well done” and others advising to steer well away.

For me, I have been profoundly challenged at how we pollute our planet.

With our seas and oceans -just walk along a beautiful beach and we are it awash with plastic bottles and cans -and knowing that this is distributing the food chain.

As we do our beach cleans, I still have a fear the rubbish could still end in landfill -with the other tons and tons of rubbish- much hundreds of years to biodegradable.

Even going to major city we notice the difference in air quality (turns your boogies black!) -we as the human race have not been good stewards of the world God has entrusted to us.

I remember reading a quote from the Native Americans reminding us that “we do not inherit the world but borrow it from our children”, as a dad and as a Christian I want my daughter (and one day hopefully grand-children) to enjoy the wonder and beauty of this amazing world that God has gifted us with.

St. Francis talks of creation as being his “brother” and his “sister” -as one ahead of his time he began to see our oneness with creation and that God can be glimsped through all of his creation. As I thought about this I would not stand by see someone (a brother or a sister) be poisoned, why should I be passive about poisoning the air, land or sea?

To me the question with the climate emergency is why has it taken me so long to speak out? I have known of the green cause since my teens and yet rarely in past years did more than the odd token gesture.

I do wonder if I have a right to speak on this as I do a bit of travelling with my dreams around the school of mission, I give out bottles of water galore with street pastors and I sometimes choose convenience over recycling; am I too much of a hypocrite to talk about this?

The fear of being a hypocrite has at times silenced me too often, but I have come to accept that I am what Henri Nowen calls “a wounded healer” -not sorted and wanting to bless even though I am broken- and “not being sorted” does not invalidate my opinion.

Despite being “late to the party” I have really tried to be better at recycling and consuming ethically and locally, and Ekklesia (the emerging new monastic group I co-lead with my friend Mark) are trying to live differently in a greener and more sustainable, we are also trying to speak up and speak out about what matters. I find it so sad the Church is so often behind everyone else with matters of conscience when we should be leading the way, we as Christians have an obligation to speak, and when our planet is being exploited and the cost of this is being born by the poorest and most vulnerable in the world, the better question is: “how can I remain silent?”

This makes me ask two questions: “How can I engage in this issue in a way that is actually heard by those who need to listen? And how do I get involved, engage, protest and resist in an effective but Christ like manner?

Worth remembering that Christ over turned the tables in the temple and stands at the head of a long line of civil disobedient followers of God (starting with the Egyptian midwives refusing to partake in the genocide of Israelite baby boys right up to today where Christians are defying the law by meeting up together and practising their faith). As the early disciples said “ask whether we should obey you or God?”

But protesting well is a challenge, the Extinction Rebellion has non violent ethic, urging people to treat each other and the police and those who disagree with us with respect.

Instead they have used art, poems and placards to capture the imagination of those who read them, forming encampments and staging sit-in’s, giving clear demands and articulately explaining their position by appearing on news shows such a politics live or Question Time.

The point of contention is whether the sit ins and encampments have stopped people getting to and from work etc, which is alleged and many of us worry that often protests hit the ‘just about managing’, people struggling to keep it all together, whilst those who need to listen are insulated from the effects of their actions, how do we get them to hear and listen? It is a refusal to “just shut up and go away”, sometime the power of persistence committed to a lifestyle of being active for change for as long as it takes, come what may, and going on despite the discouragements until the day when history is made and things change.

The more extreme protests have created some controversy, an interesting question of where the moral line is drawn.

A year or so ago, there were some Christians who broke into an airbase and rendered a plane that was going to be involved in the bombing of Yemen incapable of flying was an incident that divided opinion, were they holy rebels or criminal vandals? An issue that made many of us think deeply about the area of protest and its fruit.

Yet these courageous acts feel far removed from my daily existence where I occasionally write a tweet or a Facebook message but I’m largely far too apathetic and complacent.

As I decided to go on this protest I was reminded of the words of Edmund Burke “evil prospers when good people do nothing”.

Instead, I feel this is a call for me to “step up to the plate and say what I believe God has put on my heart”, remembering the words of President John F. Kennedy that “history is made by those who show up!”

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