A day of epiphany: like most other Sundays, I moseyed to my parents’ house after church to have lunch. I exclaimed my frustration that the sermon on Constantine was simplistic, unsubstantiated by history, and overtly conservative. In response, my mother half-joked that I should go to Luther Seminary because it was “cranking out liberal pastors.” At the time, I didn’t think about it further. It wasn’t compatible with my other interests: engineering, climate change, and sustainability—or so I thought.
Maybe it was the experience of serving in New York City with Muslims and engaging in interfaith dialogue. Or maybe it was the realization that I could help people on a personal, meaningful level by engineering climate adaptations and infrastructure improvements. But whatever the reason, the Spirit moved that night as I walked along the Mississippi. I understood that I could be a pastor, an engineer, and an activist simultaneously. I realized that I could merge my servant heart with my intellectual capabilities and interdisciplinary experience. I discerned a missing link, a link that could motivate religious forces in America to demand environmental sustainability and stewardship: ethics.
Ethics is seldom mentioned in climate change circles, but it should be. It is wrong for senators to bicker about short term economic losses resulting from climate policy without pausing to thinking of the burden imposed on undeveloped nations from the status quo. It is wrong to leave future generations with a bankrupt planet because of our delusional concept of perpetual economic growth on limited resources. So why is the religious zeal of this great nation focused on abortion, marriage, taxes, and deregulation when the world is broken and crying out for help? What happened to the servant leader inspired by Christ? I am called. This is my story.
Growing up in with a prominent Lutheran tradition, I have always had a servant heart. I counseled junior high and high school students for nearly seven years. I participated in several mission trips to Mexico to build houses, traveled to New Orleans to help with the Katrina cleanup, and volunteered extensively in the local community throughout high school and college. But these themes took a back seat to my academic ambitions as I became passionate about climate change and environmental sustainability.
Curious by nature, I have always striven to understand the intricate order of natural and socioeconomic systems. I became particularly interested in environmental issues when I read Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman. A rational thinker, I was incensed when I realized that society was ignoring the warning signs. I was frustrated because the powerful elite were spreading a massive misinformation campaign to disguise the truth, and the media was complicit in the fraud. How could I bring this complex, convoluted injustice to the foreground of public discourse? How could I make a difference in my religious community? My mission trip to New York helped illuminate the answer: the power of interfaith unity in confronting a challenge.
In New York, I was particularly moved by the interfaith dialogue. The discipline and awareness of my Muslim friends were inspiring. I saw Ground Zero. I saw Park 51, the proposed Muslim community center in lower Manhattan. Consequently, I realized how unfounded the pervasive negativity and fear toward Islam truly were and how damaging strident evangelical proselytizing could be. Doug Hostetter, an interfaith Mennonite minister, put it best when he said, "It is an amazing sight to behold when people stop talking about their God and start acting the way their God would act." I am ready to act. This is my song.
I will be a proponent for peace and justice, especially in the realm of environmental sustainability and stewardship. I desire to attend Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit this summer at Stony Point Center with other Christian, Muslim, and Jewish young adults. I will attend Power Shift, an activist rally in Washington DC empowering youth to rise up and take power back from elite corporate interests. After graduation, I hope to intern in Latin America to refine my Spanish skills and nurture my servant heart. I will now consider attending seminary to prepare my soul to work in cooperation with other faiths; I love helping others. The road ahead is long and arduous, but fulfilling and exciting. My plans could change, but where the Spirit leads, I will follow.
I am reminded of the seed planted by Paul Schultz, my youth director growing up, when he said, "Andrew, one day you could be a pastor." I now realize the truth in those words. I can be a pastor. I can be an engineer. I can be an activist. I can be a servant, a father, and a friend. And I can do all these things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. In the words of the popular Christian hymn, “Blessed Assurance”:
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior, all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior, all the day long.