When I was in my teens, I was introduced to the ideas of Evangelical Christianity and for a few years, this was a big influence in my life and a lot of ideas were absorbed. I gradually lost interest as I reflected on the church’s role in society. The idea that the Church of England was the Conservative Party at prayer became impossible to shake off. And during the days of the worst excesses of the Thatcher government, politics took over as the way that I saw the world.
Leap forward 35 years and my concerns about the world started to express themselves through involvement with Extinction Rebellion. I was immediately struck by the presence of people of faith within the movement. But this wasn’t the old partisan religion of my evangelical days. This was people of different traditions united by love for a world that they all believed God had offered to us and which we had terribly abused. This made so much more sense; people of faith, people who believe in a higher order, engaging with the hard problems of the contemporary world.
Time To Act is a collection of essays by people associated with Christian Climate Action, a group that is always at the heart of XR actions. This book draws strongly on the principles of loving activism that were so important to figures like Dr Martin Luther King and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The causes of civil rights and apartheid are clearly about injustice, and injustice can easily express itself through anger. But King and Tutu were always clear about adhering to the principles of non-violence and acting out of love. The climate crisis is a massive injustice, perhaps the greatest of all, but this book gently reminds us that anger and violence are the tools of the existing world order which activists reject. The tradition of Christianity tells us that love will prevail (as do the other great traditions) and that must be the basis of our activism.
This book reminded me that there are forces in the world other than power, violence and money. The humble person, motivated by love for their fellow human beings and guided by centuries-old wisdom, can bring about change. Humility, love, sacrifice and service are not submission and weakness, they are places of spiritual strength and possibility. Shortly after I had bought and started reading this book, I saw this principle at work with my own eyes.
By the second week of the Impossible Rebellion in August 2021, many rebels had already been arrested and bailed with the condition that they did not enter the City of London, the target of many of the actions. People on bail were called together by XR on the South Bank, dressed as if going to court, to re-enter the City and demonstrate that their love for the planet and their mourning for its desecration was more important than their freedom and the content of bail conditions.
After speeches declaring this and the reading of the Solemn Intention, the bail breakers led a procession across the Millennium Bridge into the City under a heavy police escort. None were arrested.
Culture and law only have power when people respect them. Love, sacrifice and centuries-old spiritual wisdom can overcome these powers. Time To Act reminds us what is possible through the application of loving non-violence and what has already been achieved.