A Christian Response to Climate Change

Guest Blogger - Carol Phelps - Middleton, Wisconsin

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Many people have spoken of the injustice of climate change.  Those who are least responsible for environmental harm will be hurt the most.  The young did not cause the problem, but they will be harmed.  The destitute and struggling also did very little to cause climate change, but they will be badly harmed.  People who are impoverished or marginalized across the world are likely to be harmed more than the rich and powerful.  

There is a great emphasis in the Christian tradition on valuing human life, and defending the widows, the orphans, the poor, the powerless... so churches should be the first to leap to the defense of those who are in harm's way.  This is true even if they seem as different from us as the Good Samaritan was from the person he rescued. 

Unfortunately, while the Christian faith is a wonderful source of hope, strength, courage, love, purpose, etc., the very messages of our faith can keep evangelical churches from taking action.  Believing that "God is in charge", particularly of big things like creation, nature, the planet, and weather, can make Christians assume we can't do anything about those things, it would be pointless to try, and they are none of our business.  It's easy to fall back on "fear not, God is in charge" if someone is trying to get you worked up about fearing the destruction of our planet, rather than accepting any personal or social responsibility for that destruction.  Especially if one is steeped in "End Times" teaching, and is expecting the destruction of the Earth by fire and flood, war and famine, the results of our changing climate seem to be coming right on schedule - if it fulfills prophecy, it must be good and right, right?  

Taking to heart "fear not" and "don't worry about tomorrow" and "God knows you need food and clothing" are great expressions of trust and faith in God - yet we still get insurance policies, go to doctors, and set up savings accounts and retirement plans.  God gave us brains to plan ahead, and see disaster coming (that was the role of Old Testament prophets - to speak truth to power when society was going the wrong direction).   God gave us the capacity to modify our behavior when sinfulness is pulling us the wrong direction (environmental destruction is nearly all caused by human greed and self-centeredness).  God also gives us the wisdom to not throw ourselves down to our own destruction, thinking that God will save us from our own folly (recall the temptations of Christ).

Right now we are all distracted dealing with a pandemic, but this is just our "wake up call" and "fire drill" for what climate change will be like, if we allow things to continue with "business as usual".  Climate change comes with floods, droughts, famines, wars, crop-failures, refugees, killing temperatures, natural disasters, species extinctions, economic collapse, societal collapse... and pandemics.  

Believing the scientists and the doctors and the research matters.  We can't just make up whatever numbers or scenarios we want.  We can't keep the current leadership steering erratically at the helm, disastrously clinging to denial and pointing blame in all the wrong directions.  We can't avoid talk about this important moral issue in houses of faith.  We must face it, and take the necessary action, even if the scope of that action would have seemed unthinkable just months ago.  Lives are at stake.  Many lives.

Climate change remains the greatest threat to the future of mankind and God's creation; it is the greatest moral challenge of our time.  


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