A Christian, theological reflection by Jessica, for ARRCC's 2012 Youth Embassy
Jessica is 22, a Christian and lives in the electorate of Grayndler in NSW.
As a Christian I am extremely concerned with the apathy many people - particularly Christians - employ when thinking of climate change. As such, I write chiefly to my Christian brothers and sisters who do not consider climate change a matter of worship.
What, I hear you say, worship? Climate change is a matter of worship? But it is my firm belief that it is, for two reasons. Firstly, the way we treat the earth reflects our respect (or lack thereof) for the Almighty Creator God who made this world. Secondly, and more significantly, climate change is an issue impacting people, and God asks us to show our love for Him by loving other people. Thus, to not consider climate change an issue worth addressing is to pass by fellow brothers and sisters and fellow neighbours and to fail to treat Christ himself with love and respect.
On the one hand, climate change exists as an environmental issue and carries with it the challenge of creating sustainable energy practices. I am perfectly aware that climate change itself is a natural phenomenon; the world has gone through ice ages and the seas have risen and fallen without human intervention. El Niño and La Niña are natural processes regulating weather patterns around the earth, and they impact weather, rainfall and ocean levels.
Yet at the same time, to deny that human greed and arrogance has not had an impact upon natural processes is incredible. The Bible shows that mankind has a responsibility for, and a level of power and agency over nature. In the oft-quoted passage, Genesis 1:26, God makes humans in His image to rule over the world. There are a number of significant things within that verse: we are made in God’s image- and whatever that means, it surely means that humans have a special awareness and responsibility. Secondly, mankind is powerful to “rule” over the world- we have dominion, and may either exercise it for the good of the universe - which is God’s universe and not our own- or we may act to destroy it and abuse the resources God has freely given us.
There are a number of practices that Australia (along with other nations) participates in that are harmful to the environment and are fundamentally unsustainable. Our reliance upon greenhouse gases to produce electricity, our over-farming of cows and other animals for excessive mass consumption of meat; human corporations and human greed drive these practices as the money market rules human actions and values. Romans 8:22 tells us that the whole world has been groaning as if in childbirth and is awaiting redemption in Christ. But as Christians, we should be living by the values of the Kingdom of God in this day, and that means that we should be living our lives with God at the centre, and with a desire to see His name praised, to see His glory reflected perfectly in all things. How can we stand by and let human greed spoil His earth, preventing His glory from being reflected in His own creation?
Perhaps even more significant is the fact that climate change is also a human issue. Although scientists may still be debating the extent to which human action has hastened and exacerbated climate change, it cannot be denied that the citizens of the poorer nations are suffering, and will suffer, the most because of it. The people of Bangladesh will suffer from the rising sea levels; the people in the Andes will lose their water reservoirs as the glaciers melt, changing weather patterns mean that the agricultural workers from multiple nations will be impacted by changed rainfall patterns. To address climate change in its entirety is to address the impacts it has upon people, not only environmental practice; it is to attempt to re-enfranchise those who will be disenfranchised. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus reveals in his parable of the sheep and the goats that the way we show our love for God is by showing love to one another: “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Again in the gospel of John, Jesus commands us to love one another (John 15:12). Therefore, love should be our motivating factor in addressing climate change, for climate change impacts not only the environment but our fellow human beings.
If we do not consider climate change as a serious issue, accelerated and emphasised by human activity, then we make it too easy to excuse our irresponsible and unsustainable environmental practices, and we make it too easy to ignore the plight of those suffering from our changing climate. Yet as Christians we know that God has given us a unique responsibility to care for the earth, and that Christ has charged us with the command to love one another. If we fail to respond to climate change and react to it as a significant issue, then we, as Christians, have failed not only to respect God’s creation and to love His people; we have failed to give due glory to the loving creator.
May this be a time when Christians take the lead in addressing climate change so that we may act in love and grace for the glory of God.