Shilpita Mathews, a Research Assistant at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, believes that the climate crisis requires faith communities to be catalysts for change, as she writes in this guest blog for Operation Noah.
As UK faith leaders call for an environment
focused economic recovery post Covid-19, there have been great strides in
faith-based climate activism. Yet Christians are often perceived as an obstacle
to climate action with climate
denial or apathy frequently attributed to religious communities. Within the
Church, questions persist. By reflecting on my personal journey and addressing common
scepticisms I argue that Christians play a key role in leading climate action.
The journey thus far
Having witnessed the Asian Tsunami in 2004 and the Bangkok
floods in 2011, I have seen first-hand the devastating impacts natural disasters
have on the poorest communities, especially in the global South. The strong
relationship between environmental and social justice is evident, as climate
change continues to impact the most vulnerable in our society.
Shouldn’t poverty alleviation be the biggest global
Western-centric humanitarianism: Ironically, this thinking has been most prominent in post-industrial countries. Conversely, Christians in developing countries, often comprising of agrarian communities, are most attune to the dependence on nature for human flourishing. To ensure a sustainable future for subsequent generations, climate action and poverty alleviation must go hand-in-hand.
Delinking of creation from salvation: God’s redemptive work has been the motivator behind Christian humanitarianism. But one of the biggest danger in churches today is overlooking His creation. It is important to remember that the ultimate act of redemption was motivated by God’s love for the world, or the entirecosmos, as argued by Peter Harris, cofounder of ARocha.
Creation care and eschatology: There are numerous theological arguments presenting a comprehensive case for creation care and its alignment with eschatology, or the end of times. This presents not only an intergenerational vision, but an eternal vision for the world. A compelling argument for climate action, regardless of the outcome, comes from God’s ongoing work in reconciling all things on earth and heaven (Colossians 1:15-20).
An eternal home: The promise that one day the earth will be renewed, reinvigorates the call to not only love our neighbours but love the eternal home in which we will dwell. If anything, the promise of ultimate restoration should make Christians the strongest proponents of climate action!
Are climate activists trying to play God?
Stewardship v Sovereignty: Climate solutions are often deemed to usurp God’s power, particularly ideas like geo-engineering. Whilst criticism is healthy, and more rigorous research is required, this must be separated from overarching dismissals. Human environmental stewardship is different from divine sovereignty. Fighting for climate justice is out of reverence for the Creator and His world as opposed to insolence against His will.
Climate change as a consequence of sin: A relationship with God helps unearth the root cause of the climate crisis – a crisis of greed and overconsumption within our hearts. From this perspective, our current lifestyles, sustained by lordship over natural resources, may themselves be regarded as an attempt at playing God.
Beyond climate activism: Climate action as embraced by today’s youth, calls for an attempt to live in harmony with our Creator and His world. This change in mindset means everyone has a role to play. The neighbourly love that is the foundation of faith needs to be at the centre of climate solutions.