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What is Real Faith? Actually Doing What You Believe

I believe that climate change is real, and that it’s caused by humans burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. I believe, not because I am personally competent to prove it, but because I rely on the analysis of climate scientists who, by a 97% margin, agree that this is the case. I have faith in the judgment of the scientific community.

I believe that climate change is probably the most significant threat to humanity’s future that we are aware of today. If we do not alter our course immediately, I believe we are in great danger of rendering the earth less habitable, or possibly even uninhabitable by humans. There are few measures that I would not consider reasonable to address this great challenge.

I’m also flying out to Kansas this Christmas to be with my extended family. Our son will be eight months old then, and this will be the first opportunity for his great-grandma and great-aunt to see him face-to-face. I have prioritized making this trip, even though I know that it will result in even more carbon emissions that our planet cannot afford.

I believe in climate change on an intellectual level, but my lifestyle is out of sync. How can I justify the carbon output of this trip, which will only perpetuate a process that threatens the lives of billions – including my son’s? If I’m honest with myself, I can’t.

It gets worse. I also own a car. My family consumes goods that are shipped from all over the world. 95% of the electricity that I’m using to write this blog post comes from non-renewable sources, including 40% from coal. Almost every activity in my life is deeply complicit with the process of anthropogenic climate disruption.

I say I believe in climate change, but what’s that worth? My actions don’t reflect my faith. Maybe I don’t really believe, after all.

But what if I did? How would my life need to change to truly embrace my convictions? What kinds of disruptions and adventures would I experience if I were true to my faith?

Quite honestly, it would probably be a mess. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to follow my heart on the issue of climate change, much less on the many other areas of my life where my actions fall short of my beliefs. My life is a tangled web of inconsistencies. It’s easy to feel ashamed of myself.

But shame is not a good jumping off point for radical transformation. Shame is responsible for the fact that most of us live timid, uninspired lives. In spite of the dazzling light of our heartfelt convictions, we’ve convinced ourselves that darkness is more realistic.

Maybe there’s another way to think about it. If it’s too overwhelming to put your faith into action all at once, is there somewhere small you can start? What changes can you make to your lifestyle – not because it will save the world, but so that your faith is expressed in concrete action? Is there one small step you can take right now to begin a habit of faithfulness?

Great power is unleashed when we choose to let outside and inside match. When faith seems impossible, we can explore ways of thinking and doing that no one ever imagined before. We can give birth to genius.

Real faith is about living with that kind of courage. It’s when we refuse to let our failures and inconsistencies prevent us from moving forward in confidence. Faith is trusting that we’ll see the next step when we’re ready.

What is your next step? When will you start living out the faith of your heart?

Related Posts:

Fifty Years Ago, a Quaker Lit Himself on Fire to Protest War. How Can I Understand It?

Be the Light

  • Diane Benton

    If one lives and moves and has one’s being in Christ and isn’t moved to take a particular action, that action must not be of Christ. Why would one put one’s faith in science when God is available? What if 97% of scientist agree because it’s the politically correct thing to do?

  • broschultz

    I think you are talking about have the convictions of one’s beliefs. That conviction is normally the result of faith. It’s like a recipe. One teaspoon of belief plus one mustard seed of faith, let it simmer and presto: CONVICTION. Than like a modern day John Woolman you, Faith and George would be hitchhiking to see your family (or maybe car pooling).:)

  • Jay O’Hara

    Micah, totally agree with the general sentiment here. I’d just add, which surely you know, that personal piety around climate can get in the way of the deeper transformations that challenge the status-quo. Fortunately Jesus preached forgiveness for our sins! I’m debating whether to fly to the west coast for a climate process or take the train. It’s a tough call.

    • I absolutely agree, and I know that tension so well. I actually took the train out to the West Coast back in 2010 when I was a leader for the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage. It was a beautiful trip, but by day three I was very ready to get off that train and get a shower!!