Me & Al Gore in the Convent


Saint Brendan was a navigator, so the church named for him in the Norwood section of the Bronx has the gently sloping lines of a sailing ship on its exterior and the feeling of a vessel’s hull inside. Next door on 207th Street, the parish school and convent are less interesting to the eye, inside or out. But in one of the convent’s rooms is a big-screen television, and that’s what twenty or so mostly gray haired parishioners schlepped in to see after mass yesterday: a big TV, a former vice president, and an argument for saving the planet from/for humankind.

To those of theater-going age and/or inclination, “An Inconvenient Truth” is old news, and not something that has much to do with the Good News. But the people at Interfaith Works think global warming’s potential to unalterably change Creation does have, hmmmm, religious implications. And they understand that a lot of people of faith haven’t been to a movie theater since The Duke died. So they arranged with Paramount Pictures to send screener copies out to houses of worship around the country, spreading the Gospel of Al, kind of like Paul was always dashing off notes to the Corinthians.

Interfaith Works, formerly called Interfaith and Power, is a nondenominational, nonpartisan religious group that’s trying to get people of faith galvanized about the environment. Besides showing Gore’s movie in church basements around the country, the organization conducts energy audits for houses of worship (it estimates that if every House of God in the country tightened up its energy use, it’d save as much carbon as taking 1 million cars off the road) and has a curriculum for teaching believers “the connection between faith, religious spaces and our environment.”

The nun running Sunday afternoon’s screening had seen Gore’s film in the theaters, with her cousin “who’s involved with all sorts of issues” and “Sister Ann.” But the rest of us, with our gray hair and canes (or, alternately, 2-year-old kids), hadn’t. So there were gasps when Gore showed pictures of the glaciers disappearing, or maps projecting how much of India would be underwater if Greenland disappeared. When the film was stopped for a discussion near the end, people in the room had clearly been moved. One asked what Cardinal Egan was going to do about it. Everyone nodded their heads when told to tell their friends about the flick. The gray heads even bounced to the Melissa Etheridge song at the end, as eyes squinted to read the tips on how each of us can help to cool things down.

The nun said they were going to show the film to the seventh and eight graders at the school this week. One wonders if the people from the Competitive Enterprise Institute—the folks that brought you those amazing ads this summer that proclaimed, “They call it pollution. We call it life.”—have a counter-promotion planned.