Belief Beat

In President Obama’s first speech from the Oval Office last night, which On Faith considers to be his most religious speech as president so far, he called on Americans to rally behind energy reform legislation in the wake of the continuing Gulf Coast devastation from the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.

From the faith-related coverage I’ve followed and my own Religion News Service reporting on the response to the oil spill, it seems unlikely that even a disaster of this magnitude will be enough to bring the polarized public together quickly behind the White House and an effective new law. (Something that tends to get overlooked in stories about conservative Christians rallying behind “liberal” causes like the environment and immigration reform is that their votes still come down to abortion and other “hot button” social issues, at the end of the day.)

In the meantime, at least various faith leaders agree that personal responsibility — using less energy — is a crucial part of moving forward from this disaster. This includes a Christian call for July 20, the two-month anniversary of the rig explosion, as a Sabbath “fast from oil.”

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Also, here are some quotes that didn’t make it into my story:

The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, Evangelical Environmental Network:

We hope and pray that BP is going to carry through with to meet the financial obligation that they’ve promised.

Is this greatest environmental disaster that our country has ever seen worth one hour of our gas use? I pray that this will help us come to realize our need to go towards clean energy and alternative fuels. We cannot let this happen again.

 Russell D. Moore, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

To see the impotence of both the corporation and the government regulators in the aftermath of this ought to give us great alarm and pause going forward.

This kind of devastation is destroying not only the natural environment, which God has declared to be good, but also human lives and human cultures and human families and ecosystems and wildlife. It’s almost incalculable. Christian and all people ought to recognize the goodness of creation and also the limits of human use of that creation.

Most of my family lost everything in Katrina. This is different, though, because there is no eye to this storm and there’s no end in sight. It’s a slow-motion Katrina, which in many ways is more anxiety-provoking and potentially deadly. I think it is going to be worldview-shifting.

I am encouraged by the way that evangelical Christians at the grassroots level are viewing this situation… I think younger evangelicals are already grappling with how to change their personal behavior when it comes to consumption.

Father Jacek Orzechowski, Franciscan Action Network (Catholic):

What happened in the Gulf of Mexico is a manifestation of a spiritual, moral crisis. It’s a failure of how we relate to God’s creation. We need to repent. At the root of the problem is our addiction to oil, this view that we have a right to unlimited progress, a right to consume disproportionate amount of fossil fuels.

We need to look at our personal lifestyle and try to live lives that are more sustainable, but also to be much more involved in the political process, to advocate for policies that would put an end to our addiction to oil, to help us transition to clean energy, clean oceans, clean air, clean hearts.

We are very pro-life but we uphold the consistent ethic of life. We are against abortion, we are very involved in helping women choose life and provide alternatives, but we are also adamantly opposed to war, opposed to death, opposed to injustice, the destruction of God’s creation.

Dr. Matthew Sleeth, Blessed Earth (Evangelical):

Whether we’re buying a plastic spoon and using it once and throwing it away or deciding which car to purchase, we’re part of a system that demands cheap gasoline. It comes with a really high price, environmentally speaking. We as individuals in the church are called to take care of the planet, and this is reminding us to be more conservative in the use of resources.

Most of us don’t have the option of not using oil at all, but we can all use less than we have been, and we can continue on that path. It is a reminder that we live with consequences for the way that we obtain energy. This also goes for nuclear facilities and genetic engineering and that sort of thing — there’s no perfect system.

I believe the church is a very powerful voice which has largely been silent on environmental issues… The church is waking up, but it could be a much more powerful force for protecting the planet.

Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary (Wiccan):

Those of us who have connecting with the divine in nature at the core of our spiritual traditions have been deeply concerned about the ramifications of this.

Prayers are very important, and I honor people of different traditions who are doing these prayers, but there’s also the matter of the follow-up action.

Joseph R. Stanley III, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light:

The devastation that we’re seeing to God’s creation is unacceptable, along with the human impact that goes with that. We have to move our energy structure to something that’s sustainable and just.

The faith community at large does charity very well. We can put together as soup kitchen, we can feed the hungry. But we need to address the root cause of problems, too, not just the symptoms.

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