Easter is a Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion. Symbolically, it is a celebration of the promise that good will triumph over evil in the end. Reflecting on the evil being inflicted on Ukraine, the state of humanity, and our planet in general, I believe all decent people want good to triumph. I also believe that, regardless of different faith traditions, God hears every sincere prayer. And so I will add mine to the mix in the hope that he hears mine.
I’m warning you. This won’t be the most elegant of prayers. But God doesn’t care. He knows that I was not schooled in a seminary and that I rarely attend church. And while I was both christened and baptized as a child, he understands that as an adult, I prefer to keep nature as my sanctuary and contemplation as my form of worship. That said, at times like this, I envy my friends who don’t have my hang-ups.
One thing that regular churchgoers do well is praying in groups. There is comfort in communion with others. So, on this Easter Sunday, I choose to join them in sending up a prayer on behalf of a dying world. I will admit I feel inadequate for the task, but I’m going to try anyway. Here goes:
To watch Russia’s brutal attacks against a sovereign nation juxtaposed with portraits of brave civilians struggling to defend their country — and strangers taking in families forced to flee their homes— is to see the best and worst of human nature at the same time.
To the Western eye, this story has a clear villain in Putin, and a clear hero in Ukraine. And in supporting this fledgling democracy through economic sanctions and humanitarian aid, we Americans are protagonists in this story, too.
But I confess that I sometimes wonder where we fit in Ukraine’s hero’s journey. On the surface, it looks black and white: We Westerners are the good guys, and Russia, or at least Putin, is the ultimate bad guy. But in my heart, I believe the truth lies somewhere in the grey area. Certain events in our history, such as slavery and seizing lands from the native Americans, remind me that we have not been paragons of virtue, either.
Without question, what you say in the Bible is true: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Economic cooperation and humanitarian support from governments, businesses, churches, and individuals around the world give cause for hope, but one could argue that banning together to protect Western civilization against an existential threat is as much a pragmatic response as a moral one. At least that’s what I learned in studying international relations in college. America has a tradition of supporting authoritarian regimes when we deem it to be in our national interest. Regardless of our rhetoric, when we act, we do so according to what we believe is best for us.
As the mother of teenage children, and a son who might one day be drafted, I understand that the consequences of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia could be too dire to risk. But there’s little peace in sitting on the sidelines. It only gives me more time to reflect on another existential threat — one that will affect us all, Western and Eastern, and rich and poor (although the poor will fare much worse, even as they bear the least blame).
As apocalyptic as some stories in the Bible sound to our ears today, the consequences of climate change are equally terrifying — so much so that the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report this month prompted more than 1,000 scientists from 25 different countries to stage protests. Regardless of how many of us are paying attention, the report shows that our window is rapidly closing to prevent catastrophic and irreversible consequences, including more intense heat waves, droughts, floods, and other disasters. From food insecurity to our physical and mental health, the impact of climate change poses a grave humanitarian threat to much of the world that you created for us.
As we watch in horror as people just like us transform in a matter of weeks from comfortable professionals to soldiers facing mortal combat, I can’t help but think that one day this could be the new normal for an estimated 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people inhabiting regions that are considered “highly vulnerable to climate change,” according to the report. The tragic reality is that the impacts of global warming are unequally distributed, and those who are most vulnerable to climate change are often cut off from resources that could help them adapt.
God, if we hope to honor the earthly home you have granted us and protect your beautiful creatures, we are going to have to learn to cooperate. We need international cooperation at an unprecedented scale, and we aren’t even close to where we need to be to battle this threat. To make matters more difficult, this threat does not have a common enemy. It is human-induced and woven into the fabric of our lives.
In short, I can’t blame Putin for this one. I have seen the enemy and she is me.
In my better moments, I try to do my part to give back to others and take care of the planet. I drive an electric vehicle, live in a green home, and write about sustainability. But oftentimes I get busy and I forget — or try to when I lose faith that I have any power to make a difference. But still, I keep up small acts of faith, like recycling (whether it all ends up in the right place or not), turning out the lights when I don’t need them, purchasing green power, and taking dozens of other steps to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I also try to keep learning and teaching others, and wherever possible, to vote for policies that will help us cut planet-heating emissions.
Watching the citizens of Ukraine endure unimaginable hardships to come together to protect the land they love, I believe it’s time to deepen my efforts to collaborate with others to create more substantive change. At the same time, I still believe in the power of individual action, especially when I see regular people engage in daily acts of charity, such as extending kindness toward refugees and “the least of these.” And in those moments I see a glimmer of Jesus.
The Golden Rule is a common thread across the world’s great faith traditions, and when I see it in action, I believe all over again that good can triumph over evil — and that a better world begins with us.
If somehow you made it to the end of this prayer, you are truly a friend of the earth. Happy Easter and Happy Earth Day, today and every day. God bless you!
Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash