Portrait of a Preacher
Interfaith Power & Light founder Reverend Sally Bingham is sometimes referred to as “the godmother of the environmental movement in the religious community.” Bingham’s story is fascinating; she was a stay-at-home mother of three children in San Francisco when she felt a call to the Priesthood; at the age of 45, she enrolled in college, having completed only a high school education before marrying, and then went on to seminary.
She found her calling when she realized she never heard sermons about the importance of being stewards of God’s creation, a central mandate of any religion. On the weekend of February 13 and 14, members of her group Interfaith Power & Light will conduct a national preach-in on global warming and host discussions about putting faith into action.
Following are some excerpts of an email correspondence:
On Interfaith Power & Light: “We are growing so fast we cannot keep up. Every year new states come on—some red states, too, where faith is leading the effort.”
On Copenhagen: “Disappointment will be the flavor of the coming weeks, but at the same time we are energized to work even harder. Copenhagen established a short-term goal of persuading the U.S. Senate that it has a moral responsibility to limit greenhouse gases in this country. Faith leaders all over America know that we have a responsibility to protect the poor among us and that they are hurt the most and contribute the least to the problem. This is a justice issue, and for precisely that reason it is a religious one.
The religious community at large will be mostly pleased over Secretary Clinton’s pledge of $100 billion of aid to the developing nations. That is something we were working for.
On politics and religion: “Jesus said, ‘what you do to the least of us you do to me.’ Climate change is a moral issue first. It is a justice issue. We are supposed to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. You are breaking that commandment when you pour engine oil in the storm drain behind your house; it goes to your neighbor’s water. You pollute your neighbor’s air when you use electricity that is created by burning coal. Furthermore, it is insulting to God to blow the tops off the beautiful mountains that God called ‘good’. They are sacred.
On occasion a person will say ‘keep politics out of the church,’ but that usually doesn’t come from clergy. They know that we are the stewards of the earth and most religious leaders understand that upsetting the climate is more, much more, than a political issue.”
On the clerical role in social change: “When a society has to make a cultural change (like switching to clean energy and a green economy) it will not happen without the moral authority that comes from preaching by religious leaders. There are millions of people who don’t listen to politicians and who are skeptical of science, but who WILL listen to their clergy.”