Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan during the ’90s, I was something of a weirdo for believing in God. The majority of my peers rejected religion as a stubborn strain of insanity, but I — the product of an evangelically raised father and a long line of Christianish mystics on my mother’s side — never wavered in my faith. I didn’t accept the typical Sunday school conception of God as a humanlike, vaguely male, invisible conferrer of love or judgment.
But I knew God existed, because when I went to bed anxious or upset, I asked for peace and received it. I knew God existed because I had heard the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and there felt divine compassion for all human pain. Perhaps more powerful than anything, I had seen God in nature.
Even though I lived in a city of concrete and steel, an intense love for nature permeated my heart and my imagination. I wrote poem after poem on the beauty of the stars and the snow; I can remember sitting in my school courtyard as a light, gray drizzle fell around me, finding a way to describe it in sublime terms.
I was in love with the seasons: those first crisp September days, a clear, satisfying cold at Thanksgiving, snowy winters. The way spring would burst open from the earth around Easter, unfolding with increasing brightness into May and June, and then the hot, lush summer months. These seasonal rhythms were reliable even when other things were not. They were an assurance that God — full of beauty, peace and catharsis — was here with us.
But I also had a nagging feeling that everything was not all right. There were disturbing reports: The rain forest was burning, the rivers were polluted, the planet was warming. Then, my freshman year of college I saw the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and my tenuous sense of security was devastated — humans were actually changing the climate, and the Earth as I knew and loved it was already slipping away.
The facts were in the science, and the signs were in the world around me. I started to notice that my cherished seasons were unraveling. That crisp fall air was mostly muggy and warm. Winter was becoming warmer and foggier. The summers were hotter. Yet no one seemed to care. It seemed like large segments of the population were more than happy to believe the lies that it wasn’t happening. Worst of all, my assurance that God was with me — with us — had been shattered. How could God allow this to happen?
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