So I meant to do a blog post on the topic of how the global warming narrative stacks up against the gospel narrative. I originally timed it for publication between Easter and Earth Day. Well, it turned into five blog posts and now it is so like not even Easter on the liturgical calendar. Suppose I got excited. Anyhow, I’ll be posting this series throughout the week. And yes, it does reflect a bit on my experience as being part of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, but nothing here necessarily reflects any official position of Y.E.C.A. whatsoever. Just my own thoughts that I want to contribute to public discussion.
- Part 1: Climate Science 101
- Part 2: The Gospel
- Part 3: Gospel > Global Warming
- Part 4: Good News: Reasons #1 and #2
- Part 5: Good News: Reason #3
Gospel > Global Warming
As a society, we have confused redemption with progress. We have succumbed to the cult of more, more, more — no matter what the cost. While the cult of more, more, more is idolatry in-and-of-itself, a number of us have realized that with the cult comes a cost in the form of the climate crisis. The consequences of global warming are not only a big, big deal, but on the personal level the fight against global warming is proving to be a big, big deal to a lot of people.
I know a number of people who proclaim loudly, whether with their words or their fashion or their Facebook profiles, that they are “an environmentalist above all else.” For whatever noble reason, the battle to save the planet and the countless living creatures — including human generations present and future — is not just a life-or-death struggle. It is an overarching narrative, a deep well of personal meaning. It has its own alpha — a world before humans, or at least before the Industrial Revolution — and one of two possible omegas, either success or failure, either an ecotopian world where sustainability and ecological consciousness thrive as supreme values, or a dystopian planet torn apart by climate change and no longer inhabitable by humans.
Bill McKibben is perhaps the nation’s leading environmentalist. Bill also is a Sunday School teacher for his United Methodist congregation up in Vermont, and yes I would probably pay good money to sit in his Sunday School class. Yet, I was disappointed when I saw video of him speaking to a summit of climate activism leaders from across the world. Bill told the audience that:
“Very, very few people can ever say that they are in the single most important place they can possibly be doing the most single most important thing they could possibly be doing. That’s you, here, now.”
As Christians, we know, as Bill should have known before he made this poor statement that oozed of self-righteousness, the most important place was Calvary, the most important thing was the Crucifixion. It wasn’t very, very few people who can say they did this, it was one person, our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is crucial that we make this distinction, lest the cult of more, more, more is merely replaced by an idolatry of climate change. The global warming narrative is severely limited in its ability to meet the human being in a holistic manner. The alarms of global warming may wake us up in the morning, but the solutions — sustainable policies, green technologies, etc. — will not give us peace when we go to bed at night, pondering the mysteries of the universe. The quest to combat the climate crisis is not enough to give our lives meaning.
Although, as Christians, we know global warming is a not a sufficient narrative to give our lives meaning, nevertheless the reality of global warming has major implications for those of us who claim to follow Christ. The climate crisis is not a mere issue out there in the world for the world to deal with, but it is for us Christians a two-in-one crisis which we must address.
First off, we know that as human beings created to be stewards of God’s creation, the climate crisis is an identity crisis. “To have dominion” is one of few commands in the Bible to be addressed not to Israel, nor the disciples, nor the church, but to the entire human race. Yes, this relationship broke apart with the fall of man. Yes, global warming is only one of many human ecological footprints damaging natural habitats worldwide, but in many cases it is proving to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. As God’s redemption people, we must be at the forefront of leading humanity into this restored relationship with the creation entrusted to us. Otherwise, we are failing to live into our God given-identity.
Second, the climate crisis is also a humanitarian crisis. We know that the poor are inherently less capable of adapting to climate change, that the poor tend to be most vulnerable to the brunt of the impacts and the least equipped to make good on the occasional benefit climate change provides. As Christians, especially as Christians in America, we have neglected and occasionally even run away from our prophetic role in society when it comes to speaking up about the climate crisis. For Christians, a people shaped to be for the poor, among many values, the humanitarian crisis of global warming is a second identity crisis, on top of the failure to be a steward of creation.
The crazy thing is that we believe, in Christ, there is no identity crisis. We know that, in Christ, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. If we really believe and live into the redemption story, then we believe also that there are also no sinners nor saints, just sojourners. In Christ, we have been redeemed to participate in God’s world-saving mission, regardless of our baggage.
If we really believe the redemption story, then we have faith in this little arithmetic: that the Gospel > Global Warming.
But why does that matter, and why is it good news?
Tomorrow: Good News, Reasons #1 and #2