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Climate Change is Real. Here Is How Christian Should Respond.

Climate Change is Real. Here Is How Christian Should Respond.

(This article is inspired by Brian McLaren’s new book, Life After Doom: Wisdom and Courage for a World Falling Apart. I interviewed Brian on my Podcast One Question with Pastor Adam. Listen to our conversation here.)

The prophet Isaiah says that, ”all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

Isaiah’s message goes against much of religion, including much of American Christianity. Much of religion divides people up into who is saved and who is damned. Who is holy and who is unholy. Who is worthy of love and who isn’t.

Isaiah doesn’t play that game. He moves us beyond this selfish and narcissistic form of religion that claims we are the special or chosen people and he moves us into a religion that claims all people are special and chosen and that “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.”

But what might Isaiah say if he were alive today? He might not talk about salvation. He might have ended the passage with, “All the ends of the earth are experiencing the hell of our own making.”

Take climate change, for example. Humans continue to put massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing the climate to change faster in the last 200 years than at any other time in recorded history. Climate change is a major threat to life on this planet. It threatens plants, animals, and people. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is composed of the world’s leading climate scientists. Last year they delivered what they said was the final warning on the dangers of climate change, which is already putting 3 billion throughout the world in peril. Half of the world population suffers through severe water scarcity during the year due to climate change. People on every continent are being displaced as they need to find safer areas that aren’t as affected by climate change. And as they immigrate to other lands, the people there often don’t want the refugees of climate change. These immigrants easily become scapegoats for the new country they emigrate to.

Who’s to  Blame?

But do you know who is to blame for climate change? If you listen to dominant voices in our culture, you are. And I am. And it’s not even the biggest voices telling us this. We can start blaming our neighbors if they don’t recycle, reuse, or reduce. We can start blaming them if we think they are driving too much or flying too much.

But we need to stop blaming our neighbors. I don’t want to blame anyone, but I would like the biggest poluters to take responsibility for helping to solve the problem.

The military-industrial complex and big business want us to blame ourselves and our neighbors for not recycling enough or for driving too much so that they don’t have to be responsible for being a massive part of the problem.

For example, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Dow Chemical, and oil companies started emphaisizing recycling campaigns decades ago. Those campaigns effectively put the blame for the environmental crisis and climate crisis on you and me. Big business convinced us that we are the problem because we don’t recycle enough when big business is the one that is responsible for generating the most toxic emissions and waste. 

And then there is the military-industrial complex. Alejandro de la Garza wrote in an article for Time Magazine that, the U.S. military uses “up more petroleum than any other institution on earth to fly jets, heat buildings, and ferry food and supplies to 750 bases spread across the world.”

Once again, we can easily blame our neighbors for flying too much. But military aircafts account for twice as much CO2 emissions than civil aircraft. Researchers at Lancaster University found, that “the US military is one of the largest climate polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more CO2e (carbon-dioxide equivalent) than most countries.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s good for us as consumers to take responsibility for helping to solve the climate crisis. But if we start blaming one another for not doing enough, do you know who benefits? Big business and the military industrial complex because then they don’t have to take responsibility.

Denial and Inaction

And tragically, the loudest Christians in the room are not helping. They primarily have two responses: to deny that climate change exists, or to admit that it exists, but it doesn’t matter. If anything, this group of Christians believes, we should do more to make climate change a problem because then Jesus will return and rapture them up into heaven while the rest of us suffer on earth.

Did you know that the rapture is not in the Bible? The rapture was made up in the 19th century. Christianity went over 1 thousand 800 years without a teaching called the rapture.

There’s a weird passage in the Bible that Paul wrote where Jesus comes back and stops in the sky for a moment and his people are lifted up to meet him in the sky. Do you know where that passage says Jesus takes them after they float up to him in the sky? 

That’s a trick question. It doesn’t say where Jesus takes them. You would assume that if it was the rapture it would say Jesus took them up into heaven to escape the earth. But it doesn’t say that.

Instead, the word that is used in that passage was a fairly common word that had this idea – an important dignitary from the Roman Empire would come to a city. When the people from that city saw the dignitary off in the distance, the leaders of that city would go out to meet the dignitary. And do you know where the dignitary and the leaders of the city would go after they met? They would all go back to the city.

Jesus isn’t going to rapture people away and save them from the dangers of the earth. If anything, Jesus is going to come back to earth to inspire us to heal and redeem the earth.

But Jesus isn’t coming back.

Because Jesus never left.

The rapture is a metaphor for what has always been true. Jesus has been raptured up into our hearts. He has always been present with us. Not leading us to escape the world, but like Isaiah and like the woman at the well, to do our part in helping to save the world. 

Good News

And there is good news. Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who deny global warming by a ratio of 6 to 1. And a majority of Americans think that humans have caused much of the climate crisis we face today.

And if we have caused the climate crisis, we can solve the climate crisis. According to the national resources defence council, “The single-most important thing that we can do to combat climate change is to drastically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. The burning of coal, oil, and natural gas in our buildings, industrial processes, and transportation is responsible for the vast majority of emissions that are warming the planet… We must replace coal, oil, and gas with renewable energy sources.” The good news is that the process of moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy is happening, but in order for God’s salvation to extend to all the ends of the earth, we need to continue to push the process along.

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Adam Ericksen

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