By Lynne Nittler
Member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, CA
“Would you host Tim DeChristopher for the May California Student Sustainability Coalition?” asked UCD Student Lauren.
I gasped. The Tim DeChristopher who stopped the illegal auction of public lands in Utah, Bush’s parting gift to the oil companies just before he left office? The young man who drove up the bids with no money, and when he was caught, simply confessed? His action stopped the auction and before it could resume, President Obama declared the auction illegal. For his civil disobedience, Tim was found guilty on felony charges and awaited sentencing.
Tim walked in my house, glanced around, and said, “So you’re a Unitarian?” noting the hymnal on the piano.
“I need the moral foundation. The principles ground me, keep me on course,” I said.
He nodded agreement. He is a member of the Salt Lake City UU Church with its huge and active congregation.
Tim has an agreeable, gentle manner. He taught kids outdoor adventure and loved being in the wilderness. He appreciated the peacefulness of my home, biking to campus, the enthusiasm of the students.
He’d been “in training” for awhile, studying Martin Luther King and Gandhi and soaking in coaching by writer Terry Tempest Williams. He realized that it took only a few brave souls willing to take risks to ignite the civil rights movement, and soon the whole country took up the challenge. He believed the same could be true for our present climate crisis. It might only take a few people to stand up against the fossil fuel industry to tip the scales.
Here’s the thing, though. I thanked Tim for his action for all of us, hoped he would receive the mildest sentence, and admitted I lacked his courage. Tim looked right at me.
“I thought it would be a sacrifice, risking going to prison. But the minute I took action, I was free. I could never go back to being a victim now, having tasted freedom.”
Tim told the judge at his recent sentencing. “You have control over my life, but not over my principles.” I’m not worried about Tim in prison; he knows exactly what he’s doing and now he’s writing and thinking.
Already Tim’s activism is inspiring others to take action. More than 2,000 committed individuals are arriving in Washington DC in waves for two weeks of peaceful sit-ins August 20 – September 3. He’s also inspired the interfaith community to take action nda plan a specific Tar Sands Action Interfaith Day.