The Morality of Affirmation

We are two weeks into an “Inconvenient Lent” exploring our moral and faithful response to the climate crisis. I’ve done my best to communicate that in the midst of the climate crisis we are called to resilience, engagement and faithfulness. The deeper I have delved into this subject, the more excited I become about the opportunities and possibilities for finding new ways to live on the planet together. In addition to Jim Antal’s book on Climate Church, Climate World (which I hope you will read), I’ve been rereading Kathleen Moore’s book Great Tide Rising. She distinguishes between the morality of prohibition and the morality of affirmation. “There’s something repellent about an ethic based on prohibitions—thou shalt not, and if you do, and of course you will, you are bad, which of course you are.”

That’s certainly the morality drilled into my mind as a child raised in a conservative Christian environment. But Moore offers a different morality – the morality of affirmation. “The morality of affirmation is a soaring invitation to affirm what you believe is good and just and beautiful and right, and to align your life to those values.” When she teaches about the climate ethics she asks people, What do you care about most? What would you be willing to spend your whole life taking care of? What follows from the fact that you hold these values? If you value this more than anything else, what will you do, or never do? How might you make that value evident and real and powerful in your life?

I am captivated by this idea of the morality of affirmation. I often end my prayers with “in the name of all that is good and right and just…” because I want my prayers, and my life, to be in alignment with those things. And I am finding myself, each day now, examining my choices by asking (and hopefully affirming) is this right and good and just for the earth, for our planet?

This Lent I pray that we die to some of the ways that the morality of prohibition has kept us from living our values and that we rise in morality of affirmation and embrace life-giving changes that help turn the tide back to sustainable life together.