Congress, climate change & the sunday law

Congress, climate change & the sunday law

Four years ago, I wrote an editorial on the Pope’s Laudato Si’ encyclical. That encyclical, released on June 18, 2015, called for discussion and dialogue on climate change. Pope Francis stated,  

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” (Laudato Si’, Sec 13) 

According to Pope Francis, that development includes the restoration of spiritual life in all of humanity, with Christ, in the form of the Eucharist, at its centre, and Sunday, as a universal day to rest and experience that restoration.  

For Pope Francis, the hope of humanity rests in a return to Eucharistic worship and rest on Sunday. 

A few months later, in September 2015, Pope Francis delivered a speech to the White House where he explicitly supported Barack Obama’s plan to cut carbon emissions and chastised climate change deniers for failing in their duty to protect our “common home”. 

Just two weeks ago, as reported by “The Guardian”, June 15, 2019, Pope Francis took a harder line when addressing energy leaders at a meeting in the Vatican, declaring a “climate emergency” and urging action. A failure to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gases would be “a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations”.  He also endorsed the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit on temperature rises that some countries are now aiming for,  said a “radical energy transition” would be needed to stay within that limit, and urged young people and businesses to take a leading role. 

The 1.5 degrees Celsius limit is a figure found in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The 190 nations that signed up to it have agreed to tackle the threat of global warming by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  

So how can the Pope’s push for a universal day of rest for all humanity, as part of the global response to climate change, gain the backing of the nations of the world?   

A novel proposal put forward by Dr. Menahem David Smadja, a well-known author, economist and religious scholar, may hold the answer. For the past 35 years, Dr. Smadja has been studying economics and its impact and influence in the religious world — examining their spiritual and material response to the challenges of everyday life.  

His recent research focused on how to apply the concept of the Sabbath (day of rest) to address the climate change crisis. In brief, his proposal calls for an international day of rest, comprising approximately 53 days per year and an additional 15 days off where both individuals and industry would refrain from all creative, manufacturing and productive activity. 

“These 70 days, representing approximately 20% of the year, would help achieve the shared goal outlined in the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) of a 20% reduction of pollution globally by 2050.” According to Dr Smadja, “The impact of a day of rest not only would provide needed relief to our planet and ecosystem, it will also benefit people. If individuals adopt a day away from technology, work and other pursuits, we will also see improved quality family time.” 

It is not too far-fetched to tie Dr Smadja’s proposal together with the Pope’s call for urgent action on climate change. What better and more electorate-friendly proposal could be put forward than a universal day off for everyone. Time for the family, time for rejuvenation, and time away from industrial activities that contribute to carbon emissions. 

Noting the international political consensus for action on climate change, an article appearing in “CEO WORLD Magazine” observed,  

“the time may be right for Dr. Smadja’s proposal.  ‘This frantic race to go faster and faster makes us forget essential things, such as loving ourselves, others and also our earth,’ says Smadja, ‘the result is a global disaster, whose ecological impact is more and more obvious.  A Sabbath for ourselves, our industry and our environment is a corrective to these failures. It is a transcendence of spiritual over material, will lead to a better sharing of wealth and a measurable improvement to the climate crisis that can bring together populists, progressives and conservatives toward a common cause.’ ” (“A Modest Proposal for a Day of Rest”, CEO WORLD Magazine, Jan. 29, 2018) 

That cause was somewhat derailed in 2017 when President Trump, citing economic reasons, announced his intention to withdraw the USA from the Paris Agreement. That withdrawal will take place in November of 2020. However, in a backlash to that decision, the US Congress on the 7th of May this year, passed a Bill that requires the President to develop and update annually a plan for the United States to meet its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement on climate change. Specifically, the plan must describe steps to (1) cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and (2) confirm that other parties to the agreement with major economies are fulfilling their announced contributions. Further, no money is to be spent to hasten a withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. 

The Bill is yet to be passed by the US Senate and ratified by the President. But their intentions are clear. The US Congress, along with the vast majority of the world want to press forward with their plans–cut the global average temperature by reducing global air pollution. 

Twenty years ago, one person asked me, “How would Australia or the USA bring in a Sunday law, when society has become so secular and so accustomed to commercial activity on Sunday?” Admittedly, I was not sure of the answer myself. But the Bible is clear, a Sunday law will happen. (Revelation 13:11-18.)  

Today, however, it is easier to see how Dr Smadja’s proposal would be a welcome addition to the basket of strategies nations are adopting to achieve their plans. As natural disasters—storms, hurricanes, droughts, fires, floods—increase, the resolve for action on climate change will intensify. This should come as no surprise to students of Bible prophecy. The Great Controversy, pages 589-590, makes it plain that natural disasters will be one means the devil is going to use to bring about a global Sunday law. For the non-religious, a universal day of rest for the good of the environment will make common sense. For the religious, it will be an answer to the Pope’s call for action on climate change and a welcome return to the reverence of Sunday.  

This reverence for Sunday will transcend denominational barriers. In listing ways the church can take action for “climate justice”, The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission says, 

Keep the Sabbath: It could be the most radical thing a church can do for environmental stewardship—to commit to keeping the Sabbath. The scriptures make constant reference to rest and care for the land as well as for people on the Sabbath. Spending time with family and friends and enjoying the free outdoors is an act of resistance to the pressures of materialism and consumerism.” (“A Call for Climate Justice”, Release 7, The Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission)  

Of course, the Sabbath they are referring to is Sunday as a day of rest. However, as I wrote four years ago, while worshipping on Sunday has been a much-revered Christian tradition, we find no biblical support for it whatsoever in the Old or New Testament Scriptures. The only day we as Christians are called to set apart as a day of rest is the seventh day of the week; namely, Saturday. 

Unfortunately, Pope Francis’ efforts to “to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development” with Eucharistic worship on Sunday at its centre will not stop with mere appeals to the heart. Prophecy indicates that the whole of Christendom will be caught up in a political drive to enforce this “mark” of Roman Catholic authority. 

Sunday, as a day of rest, will be enforced upon the world.  

Beloved, we are nearer to these events than when we first believed. Probation is fast closing. Time is short. Jesus is coming. It is our prayer that we will be awake to these things today. Let us not put off the coming of the Lord. Let’s unite together in proclaiming this last message of mercy to a lost world while we have time. The night is coming when no man can work. Maranatha. 

-Paul Chapman