by Peter Blood

We are discerning what kinds of Spirit-led public action God is calling us to carry out in response to the destruction of our precious planet by climate change. This has led me to reflect on earlier examples where people of faith have been led to carry out similar actions.

It seems to me that these types of actions fall into several (only somewhat!) distinct categories. A faith community can be led to take part in any or all of these types of activities by God in response to the very un-holy world they/we find ourselves in. In some cases, obviously, actions may kind of fall under more than one category. Some examples of each are shown on the table on next page.

1. Acts of Integrity (“I can do not other”) and Truth

These are situations where people of faith feel they have no choice if they are to remain true to some of their basic tenets of faith but to act in a certain manner. Most of the actions taken by 17th century Friends that led to their being arrested and/or standing out as different from the surrounding culture fell under this category. For example they could not swear to resist the return of monarchy or support the monarchy after it was restored if they didn’t believe in taking oaths.

2. Prophetic “signs”

People of faith may be led to do things by God which are actions that are intended to communicate to a surrounding community that something fundamental needs to change to bring the society into closer harmony with God’s vision for how we should be living and treating each other. This is essentially the action equivalent to preaching or prophesying. (appreciation to Brian for pointing out this important category of prophetic activity).

3. Non-participation

These are actions where members of a faith community feel led to withhold participation in actions or institutions which they believe are contrary to their fundamental beliefs, sometimes leading to civil punishment if the action involved is required by law. Examples would include early Friends’ refusal to pay tithes, divestment from fossil fuels, and draft resistance during Vietnam War

4. Actions of interruption (nonviolent intervention)

In these examples people of faith went beyond non-participation to actively interrupt the carrying out of institutions or behaviors that they believed were wrong. Examples would include Jesus overturning the money-changers in the Temple courtyard, destruction of draft files by Berrigans and others during Vietnam War, and sit-ins blocking pipeline construction

5. Creating a new order

In this case a community is creating new institutions or ways of doing things that reflect more fully the Kingdom of God on earth (Jesus’ teaching) or a new way of treating the environment.

Interesting articles:

This handout was prepared for a Quaker gathering organized and led by the Prophetic Climate Action Working Group of New England YM, that was active between 2016 and 2018.