Al Gore knows that actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to an issue which evokes reptilian opposition in some quarters of corporate America and skepticism within certain church circles: global warming.
Having spoken about climate change as a moral issue, he moved beyond talk to training last week, holding his first-ever faith-based education program.
He invited some 135 people of faith to be his guests at a three-day training session in Nashville, Tenn. Trainees included Baptist clergy from Australia and Japan, as well as a number of Texas Baptists.
Gore invested an entire day and portions of two other days briefing and dialoguing with a diverse, albeit selected, group of clergy and laity. At times, he disclosed the methodical patience of a scientist. At times, he showed the passion of a biblical prophet.
When Gore wasn’t training participants, his staff and previous trainees equipped and coached attendees, all of whom had pledged in advance of the meeting to conduct future presentations based on slides from “An Inconvenient Truth” and other resources.
The faith-community trainees now become part of a corps of 2,500 worldwide volunteers certified by The Climate Project.
“I have high hopes that they will have a tremendous impact in their congregations and communities when they return home,” said Gore in a prepared statement.
In an interview with a small group of writers, Gore told EthicsDaily.com that the “voice of the faith community will be decisive in bringing about change in our country.”
His historical reference point was the civil rights movement. He noted that the tipping point for success came when Martin Luther King shifted the movement from a political struggle to a moral one.
Activating the moral community is vital to pressuring politicians to combat the climate crisis, said Gore, although political action was an almost inaudible note during the nonpartisan meeting compared to the volume of educational material related to the causes of global warming and practical solutions.
Noting the importance of congressional debates on global warming, he told several writers that climate change was “ultimately a moral and spiritual issue.”
The human suffering from rising sea levels, which create millions of climate refugees, and spreading deadly tropical diseases makes climate change a moral issue, said the 2007 Nobel Peace Laureate.
He called the climate change issue “a choice between right and wrong.”
Responding to one interviewer’s question about Gore’s own personal energy consumption ”a frequent point of misleading attacks by Gore-bashers ”Gore said he walked his talk.
“I have made great progress in implementing changes that I recommend to others,” he said.
He pointed to changing windows and light bulbs for energy conservation, driving Hybrid cars, placing solar panels on his home and becoming carbon neutral in his business ventures.
After three days of listening to Gore, one can conclude that he is continuing to shed his role as a political leader; he is becoming a moral leader who reaches out by training people of faith.
He spoke with clarity and conviction about climate change as a moral issue in a June 2006 interview with EthicsDaily.com. He placed moral authority at the tip of the needed plan for climate change in his Nobel lecture. He quoted the Bible and called Baptists to action in his luncheon presentation at the New Baptist Covenant. Gore has now hosted at significant expense a meeting which trained and equipped faith members to evangelize their own communities.
Although his involvement with these faith-community trainees will continue, the responsibility for change does shift to the freshly minted faith presenters.
What makes these trainees so decisive in the effort to tip the needed public opinion in favor of constructive change is that they know that faith without action is dead and action without faith is lifeless. They know that when faith and action travel together, then a spiritually deep and socially powerful synergy is created, one that can change the system.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.
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