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Shared values unite Americans from both sides of the aisle

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Rev. Susan Hendershot Guy, center, president of Interfaith Power and Light, reads to a prayer circle last week at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco. (Robyn Purchia/Special to S.F. Examiner)

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San Francisco is united in its resistance to President Donald Trump. Last Wednesday, demonstrators formed a human chain at the intersection of Sansome and Washington streets to protest mass immigration raids in Northern California. At the same time, hundreds rallied on the steps of City Hall, vowing to fight Trump’s fossil fuel-friendly policies.

It’s confounding that so many evangelicals voted for a president with so little regard for fellow humans and the earth. Trump’s policies are ripping families apart, hurting children, making it harder for many people to work and eroding our sense of safety. His administration routinely twists Christian theology. Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, recently said the Bible gives us the “responsibility” to “harvest” coal and oil.

But religious groups in San Francisco and around the country are resisting Trump, too.

After the climate change rally last week, faith leaders gathered beneath a flag in Civic Center Plaza, which read, “An appeal to heaven.” There, they bowed their heads and prayed.

“Lord, help us to understand our connectedness to the planet, and, therefore, our connectedness to everything and everyone else,” said Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll of Green the Church. “Bring us together. Aid our language.”

Faith leaders are standing beside liberal San Franciscans at rallies and marching in the streets. But they are also connecting with conservative Americans in churches and chapels. If Trump won by dividing the country and stoking fear, faith leaders are resisting by fostering unity and promoting hope.

“There’s a huge opportunity to bridge the urban-rural divide with the faith voice,” Rev. Susan Hendershot Guy, the new president of Interfaith Power and Light, told me.

Guy recently moved to the Bay Area from Iowa to head the San Francisco-based environmental nonprofit. Although she now mobilizes a religious response to climate change, she told me the environment wasn’t always her main concern; her primary focus was ending hunger. But when she saw the connection between hunger and climate change — how droughts, floods and fire affect food supplies — she broadened her focus.

Now, she works to help other people make connections. As we talked, she linked the changing climate with immigration and racial injustice. She described how a polluted environment hurts children, families and farms. Her approach is nonpartisan and warm. Fostering shared values has allowed Guy to make inroads with people on both sides of the political divide.

She told me incorporating faith into the conversation has inspired smaller, conservative congregations to defend the climate. Numerous Christian leaders, from Pope Francis to the late Rev. Billy Graham, have found support for environmental protection in the Bible.

“Of all people, Christians should be the most concerned for the environment,” Graham wrote to one of his followers in 2006. “When we see the world as a gift from God, we will do our best to take care of it and use it wisely, instead of poisoning or destroying it.”

Many Christians agree with Graham. Hundreds of faith organizations across the country have signed the “We Are Still In Declaration” to help the U.S. achieve its promised emission reductions under the global Paris Agreement. They are installing solar panels, planting community gardens and housing people who have been displaced by floods and fires.

People of faith may or may not hold liberal political views, but they share basic values with San Franciscans. Recognizing our commonalities is crucial.

Trump won by dividing our country into tribes. While he never expected San Franciscans’ support, he does need the white evangelicals of his base. If religious leaders can unite liberals and conservatives, they can combat Trump’s divisiveness. A recent Pew survey found that Trump’s approval among evangelicals has already dropped 17 points since February 2017.

It was appropriate and necessary for San Franciscans to protest immigration raids and fossil fuel pollution last Wednesday. But connecting with conservative congregations, and all Americans, is an equally important act of resistance.

GREEN SPACE Q&A

“Can butcher wrap be recycled or composted? I’m talking about the stuff butchers use, which is shiny on one side.”

— Daniel Klingebiel

While having a butcher wrap your meat in paper is a great way to avoid plastic-wrapped trays, figuring out where to toss it can be confusing. According to Recology, San Franciscans put too much paper in the black bin. This is wrong. But it’s not always right to put it in the green or blue bins, either.

The short answer to your question is butcher paper goes in the green bin. Paper that’s touched food is considered “food-soiled” and should be composted.

But used paper coffee cups, paper soup containers and paper ice cream containers should be emptied and put in the blue bin. The City considers recycling the best use for those items.

It’s complicated, so I’m glad you asked the question. I err on the side of the green bin with paper products. It’s the best way to ensure the trees I love don’t end up in the trash.

Please send more sorting questions to bluegreenorblack@gmail.com.

Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. Check her out at robynpurchia.com.

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