Faith Leaders Call for MORALtorium on Shale Gas Drilling
The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade
On Monday, March 21, 2016, over fifty faith leaders representing seventeen organizations, religions and traditions gathered in Harrisburg from across PA to say that our state’s energy policy is a moral issue. The day included lobby training, an interfaith worship service, and a rally and press conference in the Capitol Rotunda. We also visited with legislators urging them to: (1) enact a MORALtorium on new hydraulic fracturing wells and development of related infrastructure; (2) provide full funding for examination of existing wells and cleanup of contaminated wells; (3) support renewable energy and the jobs that come with it; and (4) support transition and retraining of workers for the renewable energy sector.
As people of faith, we believe it is important that the voices of “the least of these” – those most vulnerable who are impacted by the devastation of shale gas drilling and its related processes – be heard. Nearly every faith tradition would look at what is being done to the people of this state and to God’s Creation and clearly recognize that it is immoral, unjust, unethical, and intolerable. Just because it’s legal does not mean that it’s right.
We see this as a ‘green’ civil rights issue. Not only are the human rights of families being violated for the sake of corporate greed, the waters, air, land, plants and animals are being violated as well. We are standing in solidarity with the long list of the harmed in PA who have endured the ravages of this industry. We will continue to demand justice for them and for Creation. Like the persistent widow in Jesus’ parable, like David fighting Goliath, like Moses and Aaron confronting Pharaoh, like Gandhi confronting colonial imperialism, like Buddhists monks wrapping trees in saffron robes, we know that justice and righteousness shall prevail.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once shared his dream for this nation about the end of racial inequality and injustice. As people of faith today, we also have a dream. We dream of this beautiful and noble state, this nation, and the world promoting and investing in clean, renewable energy that will create jobs and avoid the destruction that comes with dirty fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal. We dream of families and communities able to live peacefully without fear that corporate and governmental forces will take away their homes, or poison their waters, or murder their trees, or foul their air. I dream of my own children being able to play in the waters of the Susquehanna River, no longer afraid of poisons flowing through the waters and causing diseases in the fish, plants and wildlife, and eventually in their own small bodies.
The Messenger of Allah said, “Help thy brother whether he is the doer of wrong or wrong is done to him.” His companions said, “O Messenger! We can help a man to whom wrong is done, but how could we help him when he is the doer of wrong?” He said: “Take hold of his hand from doing wrong” (Manual of Hadith). This means we are charged with taking hold of the hands that are doing wrong. This includes the elected officials we visited, asking for them to sign a letter to Governor Wolf asking for a MORALtorium on any future shale gas drilling.
Of course, many will say people of faith should stay out of politics and be relegated to the task of cleaning up and comforting after the perpetrators environmental disasters have long gone. But we are no longer satisfied with that role. Our task is not only to care for the afflicted, but to stay the hand of the one causing the affliction in the first place.
We are answering the call to justice, and are standing in a long line of faithful people who take their religions and traditions outside their houses of worship and out into the world, helping to create on the outside what we preach on the inside. This is the Great Work of our time.
Schade is the pastor of United in Christ Lutheran Church, Lewisburg, PA; author of Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015); and Adjunct Professor in Religion and Philosophy for Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA, and Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA