Why Christians make good climate actors
I talk about climate change a lot. With my friends, family, and classmates, as well as with strangers at bus stops and in grocery lines. Recently, a few people have asked me variations of the same question: Are you hopeful that we can address the climate crisis in time?” They want to know if there’s more hope or more despair in the climate conversations that I am part of.
It makes sense that people are asking this question. It’s easy to feel despair. We can see the devastating effects of climate change all around us: wildfires, floods and storms ravaging the coasts and farther away, the devastating impacts of droughts in East Africa and deadly heatwaves across Europe. And all while governments argue back and forth and oil companies continue raking in massive profits and expanding their operations. Fear and dread are a natural response.
For decades, climate activism carried a message of doom and fear, fire and extinction. This strategy was employed by desperate scientists and activists in their fight against well-funded oil companies’ disinformation campaigns. It was necessary to get the message across. The science was clear: climate change was happening, humans were causing it, and it would have devastating effects if left unchecked. The news needed to be shouted loud enough to be heard.
Now, most people in Canada and the U.S. know that climate change is a real and dangerous phenomenon. But for many of us, especially among my generation, Gen-Z, the years of climate doom messaging coupled with government complacency have left us feeling not urgent but rather crippled by anxiety and despair. Feelings of fear, sorrow, powerlessness and anxiety surrounding climate change are increasingly reported, especially among younger generations.
Despair is not helpful in an emergency
I learned this very clearly last year when my house flooded. Climate change was a contributing factor to this flood, after yet another summer of drought was followed by another atmospheric river that brought more rain than the land could absorb. Many people lost a lot to that storm. However, in my case, the immediate cause of this flood was a broken pump, leading my basement apartment to slowly fill up with water while the rest of my neighborhood weathered the deluge just fine.
Returning home, alone, to be faced with three inches of water (and rising) inside my apartment was certainly cause for despair. But despair wouldn’t have saved my bed from getting drenched. Mourning the disintegration of my Birkenstocks wouldn’t have salvaged my wood floors from a similar fate. So instead, I found a bucket and got to work.
Sometimes, taking action on climate change can feel a little like I did that day, bailing my house out while the rain continued to pour. Is this having any impact? Am I the only one who cares that this is happening? This should be a problem for someone more important. Why isn’t anyone helping me? I’m tired.
Those concerned about the climate emergency hunger for hope—which is why I believe that Christians have an important role in the climate movement. As followers of Jesus, we have a story for seemingly hopeless situations. A story of good news, rescue, and reconciliation for a broken world. We live with the simultaneous and contradictory belief that God has already, and yet still is, reconciling all things to himself (Hebrews 2:8-9, Colossians 1:20). We hold a hope that God will make all things new, that he is powerful, and most importantly, that he is good.
Rooted in faith that 'God so loved the world'
This hope is not meant to be passively enjoyed. Jesus extended an invitation to us to join with him in the work of reconciliation. Corinthians 5:18-19 (NLT) says, “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”
But just as the Church often takes this message in one hand and food in the other, today’s reality is that churches now need to take the good news of Jesus in one hand, and meaningful climate action in the other.
Jesus asks us to go into all the world and share this good news. But just as the Church often takes this message in one hand and food in the other, today’s reality is that churches now need to take the good news of Jesus in one hand, and meaningful climate action in the other. Without acting on climate change, we contribute to the practices that instead make access to food and water more difficult, weakening our message of hope.
Working for reconciliation in the context of climate change is no different than it is in other situations to which we apply our faith: we are called to seek justice and love mercy, care for the poor and oppressed, love our neighbours, and care for God’s creation.
This combination – the relentless hope in a good God who reconciled all creation to himself, and the desire to pursue reconciliation and offer care and love – is why I believe that Christians make such compelling actors for climate.
Hope freely given; hope freely shared
The early climate movement needed alarm bells and evidence. Now, it needs action and solutions from innovators, engineers, politicians, and scientists. But it also needs hope from people of faith.
And that’s what I tell people when they ask if I’m hopeful about the future of our planet. My response is “Yes!” I tell them that even when climate action feels like fighting back an endless flood, I have hope in something far bigger than the strength of our arms or the size of our buckets.
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