07 August 2016

Faith, Hope and ... Activism?

Out of the blue the other day, a friend told me he'd looked up the original Greek words for the three theological virtues of "faith, hope and charity" to see what they originally meant or referred to. 

Faith, yup, no surprises there, from what I recall of our conversation. Hope had more of a sense of promise, like when we reassure worried children that there are no monsters under the bed -- or that there are many adults in the world working to take care of Nature.

But charity, that one surprised me. As you know, "charity" and "love" are often used interchangeably in the Biblical expression, "... but the greatest of these is charity / love." So let's define it first.

In the original, the form of love referred to was agape (αγάπε) (in Latin caritas, which led to the English "charity"). Agape is a selfless, sacrificial love ("as distinct from erotic love or emotional affection," according to my dictionary), not easy to translate into English. Someone named Michael on a Catholic listserv explained it this way: 
"Picture someone we've treated shamefully, and have beaten to within an inch of his life, jumping on a mine one of us has triggered, while pushing us out of the way, in order to save our lives, and you should have the idea. This is a love we could never hope to produce on our own, and it was seeing this love in action that caused Roman pagans to leave their comfortable, and safe, seats in the Flavian Amphitheater to join the Christians on the floor below so that they could die with them."
Mother Teresa certainly understood agape. "Love has to be put into action," she was known to say. So charity is activism and to love and be charitable is to serve, to act on behalf of good causes. 

The next time a couple uses that passage from 1 Corinthians in their wedding ceremony, you might wonder what kind of activism they will be putting their agape love towards and sharing in together. Let's hope it's climate change activism, because we need as many souls as we can get to win this one for all the children.

Just want to share a bit of an epiphany I had this past week. Want to weigh in?

I've always thought that people didn't want to talk about climate change because it makes them feel bad. That's definitely part of it, but I think there's a middle step I've been missing. Because (some/many/most?) people (in North America) see climate change as negative, they deliberately push it out of their realities and make a choice not to read or watch videos about it. 

Then, because these people haven't spent the time and emotional energy to learn about it, they don't have anything to say about it. (Not that that ever stops the deniers / skeptics / ignorers / delayers!) These people are then uncomfortable participating in a discussion about it, and that discomfort tends to shut the conversation down.

Does this make sense?

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?