Evangelical Christians and climate change (#GreenSunday)
The most important question confronting humanity at this moment is climate change. Greenland is on fire. Daytime temperatures in some states are so hot that construction workers cannot work safely outdoors. Cities and counties are suing over rising sea levels that threaten their residents. Climate scientists say 2017 will be one of the hottest years on record, exceeding records set just last year.
By Steve Hanley
A small but influential segment of American society could care less, however. It would prefer to focus on homosexuality, family planning, abortion, and the Global Gag Rule. This group, known collectively as evangelical Christians, is down in the trenches opposing climate science at every turn, applauding when #FakePresident Trump tramples on America’s commitment to the Paris climate accords, and cheering when the government seeks to destroy the EPA, NASA, NOAA, BLM, and any other agency trying to protect Americans from the ravages of a warmer world.
Kevin McGrane is a deacon of the Episcopal Church who serves in the Diocese of Missouri. He lives on a 10 acre homestead in the Ozarks with his wife. Prior to becoming a clergyman, he was a business executive who worked for GE and IBM. Kevin is a staunch supporter of a movement known as Christians Tired Of Being Misrepresented, which styles itself as a “ministry of the Christian Left.”
Deacon McGrane refutes much of the scriptural basis that evangelicals rely on to justify their attacks on climate science and governmental policies designed to limit climate change. He feels it is essential to challenge those beliefs for the good of humanity, despite their basis in religious belief.
Climate Change & Christianity
Despising people who belong to other religions, dress differently, or speak other languages; hatred of non-whites; homophobia — all of these are as far from the teachings of Jesus as one can possibly imagine. Yet those hate-filled messages are uttered constantly by such self-important leaders as Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson and are taken to heart by many evangelicals.
Such misguided men are entitled to their opinions, of course, no matter how corrosive and mean spirited they may be. But when such beliefs seek to block essential action on the most pressing problem facing humanity — the destruction of the environment — it is essential to oppose their toxic words. Deacon McGrane offers this alternative narrative.
The Other Genesis Narrative
“Some people may be surprised to discover that there are two versions of the creation myth in the Old Testament, not one. And they don’t exactly match. In chapter 1 of The Book of Genesis, God places humanity in the Garden of Eden and commands us to ‘subdue’ the earth and become the ‘masters’ of the planet (verse 28). But in the very next chapter of Genesis, we get another version of the creation myth, in which God places humanity in the garden and commands us ‘to tend and care’ for it (verse 15). Version #1 is about dominance; Version #2 is about stewardship. Increasingly, many Christians are abandoning the spirituality of Version #1 and embracing the spirituality of Version #2.”
“This emerging spirituality is called ‘creation spirituality’ or “creation care spirituality” (not to be confused with ‘creationism’), and centers upon the command of God to be caretakers of our planet. It appears in the very beginning of the creation myth of our sacred scriptures, so it must have been extremely important to the original scribes of the Hebrew scriptures. The writers of Genesis would not have placed it in their scriptures if it was not important to the community.
“These same ‘creation Christians’ look about and see the poor job we have done taking care of this Garden of ours, and they are reforming their lives to better reflect the care they must render the environment. One of the issues they are addressing is climate change and the rise of carbon emissions.”
Christians & Sustainability
“Christians have been involved in food and hunger ministries for generations, but have only recently become a rising presence in the sustainable farming movement to combat rural food deserts. Food deserts are places in larger communities where there simply are no readily available grocery stores. It was a very short leap from learning permaculture methods of farming to understanding how oil-intensive regular commercial farming is.
“From oil-based herbicides to pesticides to fertilizers, to 7 passes over a field with a combine to farm the land, as well as all the oil used in processing and in transportation of food, a loaf of bread is dripping with crude oil and filling the room with the aroma of carbon emissions. The use of fossil fuels in regular farming is staggering.”
Asking Hard Questions
“Those same awakened Christians are turning to their co-religionists and asking them hard questions like: How are you living as a steward of the Garden? Who are you voting for and what do they support? Do they support alternative energy resources? Do they oppose fossil fuel use? If not, why not? How do you embrace your mandate to be a steward of the earth with real actions?
“One organization that is taking a leadership role in this debate is Interfaith Power and Light, whose mission is ‘to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Of the number of issues their national organization addresses, they are actively supporting and promoting the Paris Accord.
“On their website page entitled Paris: We’re Still In, they say: ‘Our faith compels us to protect Creation, love our neighbor, and create a better world for our children. We will do all we can in our homes, our houses of worship, and our communities to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. And then we’ll help our neighbors do the same.’”
Conservative Versus Reactionary
“Unfortunately, the embrace of creation spirituality has not been universal in the world of faith. Rather, many Christians have embraced such a conservative view of life that they deny there is any such thing as climate change, or that there might be an environmental problem with carbon emissions.
“They are living their lives like there is no problem, voting for people who wish to burn coal in energy production and drill for oil in our national parks, if allowed. It’s very much in keeping with the traditional dominance attitude of Version #1, not the stewardship of Version #2.”
Explaining Version #2
“How do we speak to the folks who consciously or unconsciously embrace Version #1, the spirit of dominance? We creation Christians start with explaining to the unconvinced how Version #2 is not only biblical, but sensible. Version #2 is in agreement with our need to nurture the planet, not pillage it, and is in accordance with God’s directive to be good stewards of the earth.
“If we want to be understood in a foreign country, we must first speak the language. It is the same with people not of our circles of influence: learn their language first. As many of my co-religionists see the world through the lens of our sacred scriptures and speak that language, it is a good idea to approach these issues from scripture, the path is being established by creation Christians.”
The Great Conversation
“Creation Christians believe we can influence the Great Conversation that is culture by taking our place in the public square and speaking up, not sitting on the sidelines and wringing our hands. Not only do we need to speak Truth to Power, but also speak Truth to brothers and sisters of Jesus who are ignoring their responsibility as stewards of the planet. It is not an easy discussion to have, but it is one that must be had, and it is bearing fruit already.”
No doubt, Deacon McGrane’s words will move some of our readers to post comments. We look forward to the debate. Climate change is too important a subject to let outdated shibboleths constrain what may be the most important discussion humanity has ever had.