At the New York Public Library on Tuesday evening, Bill Moyers (promoting Welcome to Doomsday) and Bill McKibben (author of The End of Nature) spoke on the bizarre criss-cross between the need for immediate environmental action regarding climate change; and the centralization of apocalyptic Darbyists who believe that the Earth won't be around after the conflagration anyhow.
Obviously, it's a fringe religion, embraced by a fringe government, supported wholeheartedly, in its rejection of good science, by big business. On one had, you have those that believe that the Left Behind books are Harry Potter prophecy. On the other hand, people so greedy that they will deny the leading climatologists in the World in order to make more money before they die. Together, they are guiding the earth as quickly towards it's own early demise as they possibly can.
McKibbon noted that he felt that in order to enact the sort of gigantic change necessary to reverse climate change in time, one may need to appeal to the religious, as opposed to try to circumvent them. That, say what you will about evangelicals, once mobilized, they get things done.
Moyers noted that those who believe in the Rapture were too far gone to be spoken to, but that there were many perfectly sane religious people to whom one could appeal.
I agree, first and foremost, that it is a mistake to treat the religous fringe as the religious center. As I've said before, it's been a mistake of the progressive movement to cede all talk of religion to those who are unreasonable and hypocritical. Religion is a fundamental part of human nature, like it or not, and many powerful and good things have come from staunch religious faith. To engage with and respect the religious may well be the best hope of broad mobilization TOWARDS progressive behavior.
Beyond this, as well, is the value of art. One gentleman asked Moyers if the reason that Climate Change didn't seem to worry most people, or that most people seemed uninterested in real action, was that it failed to affect their day-to-day lives in a way that seemed immediate. By that logic, of course, by the time we notice the problems of rising carbon and warming, it will be too late to do anything about it.
Moyers response was that it was the value of journalists, writers, artists and storytellers to engage with the imaginations of those who could not see outside their own experience. To place those of us in a small context, shall we say, into a larger one.
I hadn't heard a better and more compelling example of the need for political and activist art and theatre in a very long time. Furthermore, art that embraces it's essential desire to see past didactic truths and simple political realities and into discourses that are more substantial. (i.e. Why should we protect the earth? Just because we're Democrats? Because of legislation? Or because of something sacred?)
It's noteworthy, to me, that both religion and art find themselves at cross-purposes here. Both of them are, essentially, an effort to reach beyond that which is within our experience, into something we see by way of feeling. The best of religion and of art strikes something in us that we can neither substantially explain nor disprove. We know that we have been struck by something truthful, and that experience is profound and of the spirit.
One might find great relationship between writings that are theatrically theoretical and theological study.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.