Dust, fans, and climate change

A Christian Science perspective: Why hope can replace discouragement in the effort to find solutions to climate change.

While people may still debate the contributing causes of climate change, the effects – melting icecaps, acidic seas, and changing water and air currents and weather patterns – are evidence of a problem in need of prayer. But where does one begin when facing such a worldwide challenge?

In struggling with this myself recently, I discovered that world prayer, like world peace (as a popular bumper sticker says), begins at home – in our own thinking. And a very helpful tool for this is a fan.

In biblical accounts, fans are used to winnow grain, to separate the kernels from the chaff. Taking this winnowing to a deeper level, Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, offered a definition of “fan” as “Separator of fable from fact; that which gives action to thought” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 586). In the case of climate change, I’ve found such a fan useful for blowing away the mental dust dimming my view of spiritual reality and preventing me from praying about the issue.

For me, the biggest dusty notion has been hopelessness. Is a global environmental problem simply too big to solve? Turning the fan on my thought, I’ve begun to see more clearly that no material condition is too big for God, infinite Spirit and Love. From personal spiritual healings I’ve glimpsed that matter may be the way things appear but it isn’t really substantial, so this must be true on a global scale, too. The fan has helped separate the fable of a doomed material planet from the fact of earth as a spiritual idea. And for me, that’s cleared away discouragement and allowed me to start fanning away some of the other mental dust hampering my prayers.

For example, what about the thought that it’s not my problem anyway? Some other region is suffering severe drought or storms, or someone else is exacerbating the problem with a gas-guzzling vehicle or a coal-burning plant. If you’re like me, you may already be trying to reduce your “carbon footprint” by minimizing wood burning and fossil fuel consumption (carbon emissions being a contributor to atmospheric warming). Yet here I’ve found the fan helping me break free of the “blame game” and separating the fable that matter has any power (for good or ill) from the fact of omnipotent Love’s harmonious governance of all creation.

But what about the thought that climate change isn’t a problem anyway? To me, that’s hard to fathom when the polar icecaps are thinning and coastal cities (and whole island nations) are beginning to plan for rising sea levels. Here, the second half of Mrs. Eddy’s definition has proved helpful as it’s reminded me that a spiritual fan, like prayer, brings action to thought. It helps clear the dust and reveals exactly what else needs fanning away via conscientious prayer and action. Or, to paraphrase one of Jesus’ parables, it helps us pluck the beam out of our own eye in order to see clearly to remove the mote from our neighbor’s.

So, what is the proper balance of prayer and action? Pondering the definition of fan has helped me see that action is simply thought expressed, and that to act effectively I need clear thinking. So it is important to clear out the dust, beams, and motes, for it’s when our thought more closely aligns with God that our actions align with God, too, and the light and power of His spiritual reality shine through.

Now, as I’ve turned the “fan” of prayer on climate change, I’ve begun to see that we can expect healing. The only place climate change is happening is in the material scene, not in Spirit. Spirit and its creation can never be overheated, acidified, or washed away. The task of anyone who wants to help through prayer is to keep the fan blowing and the lens of thought dust-free. Then we can pray more effectively and see healing solutions for ourselves and our planet.

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