Justice is what love looks like in public, says Dr. Cornel West. And we of EcoFaith started organizing a year ago around the Portland Clean Energy Initiative (PCEI), knowing if the coalition we were joining could pass it, it would be an expression of God’s love. PCEI could stem the rising tide of oppression in our culture and move us toward justice – racial, economic and environmental justice.
So, love came to town like a prodigal son on Election Night, November 6th, when our coalition learned PCEI had passed. The beaming faces, the bear hugs, the dancing! One person sobbed with joy for a full minute on the chest of another. The firm defeat of anti-immigrant Measure 105 triggered more jubilation.
Faces of all colors and ages were lit up that night with the arrival of love, the promise of a degree of justice. The PCEI coalition has been called the green-black-brown coalition; it’s the first of its kind in Oregon, and rarely found at all in the U.S. We’ve glimpsed the beloved community, and we regathered that community together November 13th when EcoFaith hosted a celebration at Augustana Lutheran. Our fellow activists were Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Asian, African-American, white, brown. My heart sang with joy, and so did my mouth, in harmony with my folk band, Porch Revival.
This post brings closure to my and Scott Shurtleff’s role as Co-Chairs of EcoFaith’s involvement with PCEI, and to our blog of 7 ½ months on this topic. There’s no closure, though, on our relationships or our greater mission (keep reading).
Scott and I — maybe all of us — pushed beyond our comfort zones for PCEI. The seven practices served us well in navigating on through. I cried broken-heartedly after my first dismal attempts at signature-gathering, to later rally and do it with confidence. Scott overcame his aversion to canvassing by using Christ’s teaching in Matthew to then embrace canvassing. Solveig stepped out bravely with two other pastors to publicly challenge the Portland Business Alliance to stop opposing the PCEI (see attached letter they presented, signed by many faith leaders). In that spirit of nonviolent action, I wrote about the call to not just worship but follow Christ, as in working for change, and how movements like PCEI can bend the arc of the moral universe, as Dr. King and the civil rights movement did.
Prior to PCEI, very few people knew who EcoFaith was, or what we stood for. In the unchurched Pacific Northwest, it can be tough for religious people to gain the trust of progressive secular people. Organized religion does have much to atone for. Years ago, a Portland climate group even seriously questioned whether they’d let a faith leader speak at a climate event.
In the past year, we’ve transformed that dynamic, working side by side with 350PDX, NAACP, Sierra Club, Verde, Democratic Socialists of America, Audubon, OPAL Environmental Justice, APANO, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Coalition for Communities of Color, Climate Jobs and more. By rolling up our sleeves, we’ve shown that we of EcoFaith want what our brothers and sisters want: a just, verdant world that’s free of oppression.
We’ve got closure on the PCEI campaign, and closure is lovely. But as noted at our November 13th celebration, there’s work ahead of us. Effectively using the $30 million annually that PCEI will generate means building relationships (Practice 2) and projects (home weatherization, for one example) with low-income communities. This last thought is not related to PCEI, but to activism in general: I personally feel called toward direct actions with committed others, including civil disobedience, in the face of a federal government hell-bent on oppressing the vulnerable and destroying our shared climate. I would love to find other people feeling such a call.
Justice is the public face of love. And with the passage of PCEI, love has come to town, like the prodigal son. EcoFaith can help keep love in town, and foster justice, by continuing to work with our fellows to bring in the reign of God and the beloved community.
warmth, faith, thanks,