Guest columnist The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas: Fasting and climate change 

  • Margaret Bullitt-Jonas in her home office in Northampton. Gazette file photo

Published: 10/24/2021 9:46:10 AM

On Oct. 21, people concerned about the climate and social justice crisis rallied at Northampton City Hall to support five young activists in the Sunrise Movement who began a hunger strike that day in front of the White House. Sunrisers are pushing Democrats to pass legislation that matches the urgency and scale of the climate emergency. People supporting their demands for an ambitious climate agenda were invited to carry out a 24-hour fast.

Like several others, I fasted that day. Fasting is a spiritual practice in almost every religion. Moses fasted. Elijah fasted. Mohammed fasted. The Buddha fasted. Jesus fasted. The ancient practice of fasting has spiritual and moral power and has played a part in many nonviolent struggles for social change.

Why did we fast? To break through the habits and routines of daily life and to say that something matters more than business as usual. Business as usual must stop.

We fasted to break through the paralysis of disengagement and despair. We fasted to purify ourselves, to open our hearts and steady our minds so that we could ground ourselves in the love that wants to be the center of our lives. We fasted to express repentance and remorse for whatever ways we have colluded with and benefited from a system that is killing life. And we fasted to protest, to express through our bodies our grief and moral outrage that corporate and political powers are driving this country — and this planet — to the brink of climate catastrophe.

We fasted to proclaim that another world is possible. We can move beyond fossil fuels. We can create a society that lives more gently and more justly on God’s good Earth.

This is a crucial moment in the fight to include strong climate policy initiatives in the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act. Unless the U.S. passes meaningful climate legislation shortly, its leadership and credibility at the upcoming U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, COP26, will be substantially weakened. Please phone the White House (888-724-8946) to urge President Biden to stop fossil fuel projects, including Line 3.

Margaret is Missioner for Creation Care for Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and Southern Conference of New England, United Church of Christ. She lives with her husband in Northampton.
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