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by rev. abby mohaupt

February 24, 2021
A makeshift warming shelter at the Travis Park Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas, last Tuesday. (Eric Gay, Associated Press)
Texas blackouts hit minority communities especially hard. Historically marginalized communities were among the first to face power outages. - via The New York Times
"And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’" - Matthew 25:40
I’m a Texas transplant, arriving from Illinois by way of New Jersey and California. I grew up in frigid Midwest winters, assuming that at least one day a year would come with the warning that any exposed skin would get frostbite outside. It was cold those winters, and the people in my community had adapted to that weather. Maybe our pipes would freeze briefly, but mostly it was winter in a place that had almost always had winter like that.

In Texas, communities are not so culturally prepared for the weather. When it was zero degrees one day last week, my native-Texan friend told me she had never seen that temperature in her entire life. As it stayed cold, pipes burst, and blackouts rolled through our town, people did their best to stay warm. In my communities, people dragged mattresses into their living rooms to camp out and opened their homes to each other so that those without power and water could use the power and water that others had. I watched as our communities took care of each other.

But the mutual aid that emerged shouldn’t have had to happen. Two things were structurally at work in Texas during this winter storm. First, the infrastructure needed wasn’t in place, with the energy grid for Texas purposefully disconnected from the rest of the country so that there was no backup energy. (Texas leaders have preferred to be energy independent.) Second, decades of ignoring climate change have meant that climate chaos has not been stopped, leading to the consequences of ongoing carbon emissions - much of it caused by fossil fuel companies that have been historically and culturally based in Texas.

Texas politicians have doubled down on blaming the wrong people and making the wrong people suffer the consequences. While Texas Governor Abbott dishonestly blamed renewable energy for the Texas blackout, frontline communities (often people who are poor, people of color, and people in other marginalized communities) suffered. Fossil fuel companies and politicians have not doubled down on helping the people (see also Ted Cruz leaving for Cancun in the middle of the blackouts).

This is not the Kingdom that Jesus calls us to build. Jesus calls us to work for the health and safety of the least powerful members of communities, where we care for each other, in the hardest of moments, and we work for a better world.

As people of faith, we must work for that better world by demanding that effective climate policy be put in place - not least in order to slow down future climate chaos. By doing so, we live out a prayer for the people of Texas and for an end to climate and environmental injustices.
These Texas storms are one of the reasons why people of faith are gathering on March 11 for a Global Multifaith Day of Action. Learn more and organize your action at sacredpeoplesacredearth.org.
O God our help, we pray for people without heat, water, or electricity. We pray for people who have worked hard and long to get power back to people, and we pray for a world that takes climate justice seriously. May that work begin with us. Amen.
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