Seeking a “Culture of Encounter” in a Country Divided by Climate Change

By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

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
DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro’s own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of St. Norbert Abbey or of any other Norbertine.

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