In this eye-opening episode of our podcast, we bring you an enlightening conversation with Eileen Flanagan — a Quaker author, activist, and organizer who strives to make activism more effective. Co-hosts Dr. Keisha McKenzie and Nicole Diroff dive deep into topics that challenge us on how we approach climate change, social justice, and activism.
The episode kicks off with a grounding reflection by The BTS Center's Executive Director, Reverend Dr. Allen Ewing-Merrill, featuring an evocative poem by Lori Hetteen that urges us to embrace joy even when the world feels like it's burning.
Nicole's rich dialogue with Eileen traverses diverse themes, from the interconnectedness of all life to the role of spiritual leaders in times of climate crisis. Eileen's commitment to a spiritually grounded and effective climate justice movement is as educational as it is inspiring. They discuss how systemic divisions perpetuated by those in power harm not just humans but the entire planet.
Four Rules of Social Change:
Eileen shares invaluable advice on effective activism, breaking it down into four roles: the Helper, the Advocate, the Organizer, and the Rebel. Find out which role you naturally fit into and how stepping out of your comfort zone can yield transformative change.
Wisdom and Courage:
In a thought-provoking moment, Eileen shares her love for the Serenity Prayer and how its essence has guided her in choosing battles wisely and courageously. She sheds light on how the plural version of the prayer, initially penned by Reinhold Niebuhr during World War II, encourages collective action, changing the question from "What can I do?" to "What can we do?"
Whether you're an activist fighting fatigue or a concerned individual yearning to make a difference, this episode has something for everyone.
Next Steps for Engaged Hope
By combining personal reflection with actionable steps, both individuals and organizations can identify their roles and take meaningful steps toward combating climate change and promoting sustainability.
Divestment Strategies for Faith-Based Communities:
Research Divestment Campaigns in Your Denomination: If you belong to a religious denomination, investigate whether there are existing campaigns or strategies for divesting from fossil fuels and other unsustainable investments. Examples include the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and the Roman Catholic Church.
Join Local Church Efforts: Once you've identified an existing divestment program, find out how your local congregation can get involved.
Utilize Resources: Check the show notes for links to divestment guides and resources. For instance, a divestment guide for Presbyterians is mentioned, which has practical information applicable to many.
Explore Earth Quaker Action Team's Campaign: Earth Quaker Action Team (or EQAT) is running a campaign to persuade Vanguard to offer more ethical investment options. Learn more about how to get involved at their website (eqat.org).
Self and Organizational Reflection:
Identify Your Role as a Changemaker: Eileen suggests four roles you can assume — Rebel, Advocate, Helper, and Organizer. Consider journaling to explore which of these roles you've played in the past, especially concerning climate change and sustainability.
Evaluate Institutional Roles: If you are part of an organization (like a church, school, or community group), reflect on what role that institution plays in sustainability efforts. Is it a Rebel, an Advocate, a Helper, or an Organizer?
Contribute to the Mission: Decide how you can contribute to your organization's mission based on the role(s) that most appeal to you. For example, if your organization has a divestment program, consider how you can support or expand it.
Climate Changed is a podcast about pursuing faith, life, and love in a climate-changed world. Hosted by Nicole Diroff and Ben Yosua-Davis. Climate Changed features guests who deepen the conversation while also stirring the waters. The Climate Changed podcast is a project of The BTS Center. The show is produced by Peterson Toscano.
Meet Eileen Flanagan
Eileen Flanagan is known nationally for her work as a climate activist and nonviolence trainer. As board chair of Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), she helped to develop and execute the strategy that pressured a $4 billion-a-year bank to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining. Later, as co-director of EQAT, she helped to build the ongoing grassroots campaign against Vanguard, the world’s #1 investor in fossil fuels. The award-winning author of three books, she tells the story of why she started doing civil disobedience for climate justice in Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope. She is now working on a book about the intersection of race, climate, and spirituality. Join her newsletter or check out her online courses at eileenflanagan.com.
Keisha E. McKenzie, PhD, (she/they) is a strategist who interprets communication, religion, spirituality, and politics as social change technologies. She has worked in communication and development strategy, faith organizing, research, facilitation, and management with nonprofit and educational organizations across the US since 2004.
Keisha believes that all people have inherent worth and dignity, we deserve a world of connection and flourishing for all, and people of faith have a duty to help make that world real.
Keisha is a member of the Aspen Institute Religion and Society Program’s Powering Pluralism Network; a Rooted in Resilience Fellow at Faith Matters Network; and author at the newsletter On Tomorrow's Edge.
Fun Fact: Keisha's first climate action was the People's Climate March in New York in 2014 where she ended up between an Abraham Lincoln re-enactor and Canadians protesting tar sands.
Rev. Dr. Allen Ewing-Merrill serves as Executive Director of The BTS Center. Prior to this role, Allen taught high school English, pastored local churches, co-founded and led a small nonprofit, and organized faith leaders for advocacy and direct action around issues of justice and equity. A graduate of the University of Maine and of Boston University School of Theology, Allen recently earned a Doctor of Ministry program through Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC in partnership with Wesley House, Cambridge UK. Allen lives in Portland, Maine with his spouse, Rev. Sara Ewing-Merrill, and they are the parents of three daughters.
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