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Pastor pledges to stop eating until Congress passes climate bill but hopes it won’t take long

Rev. Jonathan Barker
Rev. Jonathan Barker is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wis. |

As Democrats in Congress push to pass President Joe Biden's climate plan in a $3.5 trillion budget bill that would direct billions of dollars to incentivize coal and natural gas-burning utilities to switch over to renewable energy, a Wisconsin pastor pledged to stop eating on Saturday until the legislation is approved or he reaches 6% body fat.

The Rev. Jonathan Barker, a pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, revealed in a Facebook post that he had his last meal of "stir fry vegetables and rice" at 4:26 p.m. Saturday after he felt led by God to embark on a period of fasting and prayer for climate change.

"I have to confess that I have been avoiding this fast. God has been trying to get my attention, but I've kept making excuses," he wrote in the post along with a photo of himself eating in a "Green New Deal" hat.

"Like Jonah, I feel like I was running in the exact opposite way God wanted as I put off this fast. But this morning, like Jeremiah, when I woke up, God put a fire in my bones I could no longer ignore. So this afternoon as I made lunch, I told Rae what God was calling me to do, and she encouraged me to follow my heart."

Barker, whose church is affiliated with the liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, hoped his fast would end as early as Monday. But he will have to wait longer as a motion to move forward with the legislation failed in the U.S. Senate. Senate Democrats will try to pass a bill funding government operations past the yearend before the deadline on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

"The parameters of this fast are going to be a little different. I'm hoping the big climate bill will pass on Monday or early this week and then I'll be done. If that doesn't happen, I'm going to take this one week at a time and closely evaluate how I am feeling each week as I discern whether or not I can continue. Also, if I get to 6% body fat I will immediately stop fasting," Barker wrote. "I would appreciate your prayers for miraculous strength for this fast and quick action in passing this climate bill."

The Kenosha pastor said government action on climate change this week is a "once-in-a-species moment to avoid catastrophic warming."

"The path to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is to pass this big climate bill in the United States and then use that as leverage at COP 26 in Glasgow this fall to convince other countries to take strong climate action as well--they have been waiting for us to act," he wrote.

"What happens this week, and the weeks to come, will be remembered in 500 years as either the moment humanity turned the corner on catastrophic climate change or the moment we missed our last opportunity to act, dooming future generations to intensified wildfires, heat waves, floods, hurricanes, and hundreds of millions of climate refugees," he argued.

"I am praying and fasting that this love-your-neighbor-as-yourself bill passes. And, I call each Christian and person of good will to join me in prayer and fasting that this once-in-a-species bill passes. And as we pray and fast, we need to let our Members of Congress know we are praying and fasting for them to pass this bill."

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