By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
Pope Francis has popularized the phrase “culture of encounter” in his many writings and actions. He writes in The Joy of the Gospel (#220):
“Yet becoming a people demands something more. It is an ongoing process in which every new generation must take part: a slow and arduous effort calling for a desire for integration and a willingness to achieve this through the growth of a peaceful and multifaceted culture of encounter.”
And he writes in On Care for Our Common Home (#47):
“True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution.”
So when Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith, asked if I—as the volunteer webmaster and a member of the development committee—could upload his essay entitled, “How Do You Speak to a Climate Denier?” to the Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment website, I hesitated. Our organization is not the Sierra Club or Union of Concerned Scientists … what is a commentary on communicating to climate-deniers doing on the website of 25 socially-responsible corporate investors?
After reading Sherman’s essay, I reflected further and recalled my own discussions with other leaders from Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light about how climate change has been a source of division and tension within many of our families. My curiosity was naturally piqued when I read “A Catholic Response to Climate Skeptics: Create a Culture of Encounter” by Charles Camosy in Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse on June 5, 2017. Camosy writes:
“Pope Francis’s call for a ‘culture of encounter’ looms large here. Those of us who are worried about climate change should do a better job of genuinely encountering those who think differently. In engaging them we should listen first and answer their arguments seriously. Name-calling and label-slapping is not only antithetical to genuine encounter, it undermines our ability to be heard.”
And on a practical level, Camosy encourages climate change activists to practice what they preach by demonstrating a lifestyle that truly demonstrates a “care for our common home,” including:
- consuming less meat
- living in the climate (that is, limiting air conditioning and toasty warm indoor heating)
- buying local whenever possible