Church: a call to wake up angry

Credit: Jmcdaid. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

The one about overseas mission and the one about the environment. Those were the two annual church services that I hated most, and would avoid if I possibly could.

Boring as I found it though, I sort of got why we gave time to overseas mission: Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations, and even if I wanted no part in it myself, I appreciated that other people were busy devoting their lives to making international disciples and the rest of us could give them a nod for it.

But the environment? All that slightly wishy-washy, liberal, loving-the-planet crap? Surely a waste of preaching time in any truly evangelical church. Here’s a few reasons why I couldn’t care less:

1) Human beings are special. 

Only we had the breath of God breathed into us at creation. Sure, we were given the earth to look after, but if we’d kept it running for what, 6,000 years or so by now we must be doing an alright job. What more was there to say? To give plants, land or animals any more significance than that was verging on paganism in my book.

2) We won’t be on this earth long anyway.

We’ve each got 75 to 100 years at most. To clear up this place would be like decorating the run-down hostel you were staying in the night before you caught a plane to paradise. If you set your mind on eternal things, there’s no need to worry about earth.

3) Jesus gave us good news to proclaim, we’ve got to get on with it. 

It’s saving souls, not landscapes, that matters to God. We need to get our priorities right – we’ll have all of forever to enjoy the new heaven and the new earth. What mattered for now was getting people their tickets there.  If I was really to love my neighbour, I’d be preaching to them to repent and be saved, not picking up litter from their front garden.

It all felt a bit pointless, sitting through the creation story from Genesis yet again, hearing how we’d been given dominion over the earth, and that we should be good stewards. Each time I concluded that if I wasn’t torturing hamsters in the microwave or pouring oil into the sea, I was probably okay and we could get back to the proper Bible-preaching for another year.

And yet. I woke up this morning angry about climate change. In fact, I wake up a lot of mornings angry about climate change. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the last year with some passionate and humble people who lovingly teach people like me why our caring for the planet matters to God more than I ever imagined.

I wrote an article last year called ‘Can you be a Christian and not be a feminist?’ (My answer was no.) I’d go as far as to argue the same here: it’s impossible to take seriously the teachings of Christ and to follow him, while not caring about climate change. Here’s why:

1) Human beings are special. 

We believe that every human being on this planet is made in the image of God, loved by God, and has a right to life and dignity. Millions of people across the globe are already having their lives and livelihoods destroyed by the effects of climate change – weather patterns are changing so crops can’t grow and people can’t eat, let alone make an income; extreme weather events like hurricanes and typhoons are becoming more intense and causing unprecedented damage to homes, villages, towns; new water shortages are pitting neighbour against neighbour, battling for their share of the scarce resource because their lives depend on it.

2) We won’t be on this earth long anyway. 

We’ve been doing damage to the earth with terrifying efficiency since the industrial revolution, but now we’re at a crucial tipping point. If global temperatures rise by 2 degrees celsius, scientists say we’ll hit runaway climate change: self-accelerating damage to the planet that future generations will be powerless to prevent; whole communities destroyed because of our actions. 

Surely we can’t be so shortsighted as to think we can love our neighbour while hating our children’s neighbours? Love is patient, love is kind, and love does everything in its power to avoid destroying the lives of the other’s communities for generations to come. 

3) Jesus gave us good news to proclaim, we’ve got to get on with it. 

It’s the poorest people in the world who suffer the effects of climate change most. Those who depend most directly on access to the earth’s resources to eat, drink, sell and build. Those who don’t have a safety net when their fishing boat is destroyed by a storm. Those who can’t afford to flee when the floods are coming. Those for whom life is already a struggle for survival, who are doing everything in their power to lift themselves out of poverty, are having their problems compounded by the effects of climate changed caused primarily by more developed countries. It seems a hopelessly unjust situation.

But throughout the Bible, God is firmly on the side of the poor. In his mission statement, Jesus says he comes with good news for the poor. News of justice. News of hope. News of a kingdom where the rich and powerful are humbled and the poor are raised up, and no-one is oppressed by the other. 

______________________________________________________________

The Church is called to live out the love of God for every human being. That doesn’t just mean being a bit extra-friendly to a non-Christian in the hope that they might come to our church. It means being willing to make sacrifices in our lifestyles for the sake of people we’ll never know or meet, because they are loved by God as much as we are. 

The Church is called to use our short time, our talents, our money and our energy to make a difference in the world while we can. We’re called to spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry, not least those who are hungry because of climate change. We’re called to think beyond our own lives, to leave a legacy of good, to teach the next generation how to love their neighbour by our example. 

The Church is called to be good news to the poor, to speak out on behalf of the voiceless, to shout out for hope and justice. We do so much shouting about the wrong things, against people not for people – we at least know how to make a noise. We know how to be brave and bold and take a stand; let’s come together to shout about how important this is. 

The Church is called, I’d argue, to join the People’s Climate March on September 21, just a couple of days before the UN climate summit in New York. Marches around the world will bring together people of all faiths and none to say to our leaders that we give a damn about the people around the world suffering the effects of climate change, and we want to see action. 

In London, it’s happening on September 21, 12.30pm, Temple Place (Embankment). See you then.

In the meantime, there are a million ways we can tackle climate change – for the love of God and our neighbour, let’s start acting justly. 

 

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About Claire

@claireylegs Keen on Jesus. Keen on justice. Ministry assistant in the Great North East. Blogger. Find me in: coffee shop / church / pub / bed.
This entry was posted in Social justice and politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Church: a call to wake up angry

  1. Carwyn Graves says:

    It gets me when churches base ‘environmental stuff’ on Genesis 2 or 3. What about Job? (wild animals are what God uses to teach us about suffering and himself) or Romans 8 (majestic – and who is groaning? Creation!) or Psalms (who is praising God right now way better than us? Yup, Creation!) or Leviticus, or Jeremiah or many others…the Gospel is BIG and it puts us in a redeemed creation praising God…!

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