The extraordinary and history-making cold spell we experienced several weeks ago reminded me of a time that one of my good friends posted on Facebook that, with all this cold weather, human-induced climate change is certain to be a hoax.
Although I’m sure that my friend confused weather with climate, it made me think of the importance of caring for God’s creation. Aside from the science, we are called to be stewards over the earth, for “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).
Most people now realize that climate change is a very real challenge, that studies show a dramatic shift in the earth’s climate following the industrial age in the last century or so. In fact, just recently, a group of 200 evangelicals petitioned Congress to take climate change seriously, echoing President George W. Bush’s worldview that “an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem [of climate change].”
I have a feeling that my friend’s personal opinion is a result not of his biblical worldview but his place in our great society. Ours is a nation of plenty and abundance. We can eat meat, vegetables, fruit, and other foods whenever we want, wherever we want. Most of us don’t have to farm the land, rely on seasonal changes for produce, and slaughter our own beef in order to provide for our families. We can drink more water in one movie sitting than most impoverished villages get over a period of several days.
Frankly, this abundance keeps us from experiencing what other nations experience when it comes to farming and food sustenance (or lack thereof). Currently, because of climate change, people around the world face severe droughts, flooding, deforestation, and famine. Economic, political, and social conflicts also ensue wherever climate change is most devastating.
Scientist and director of Global Environmental Relief (and, admittedly, one of the co-chairs of our church’s Faith in Action Committee), Darrell Smith, has experienced these issues first hand in his own travels around the world: “In Sub-Saharan Africa,” he explains, “most climate change effects are expected to have their greatest impact on food security. Droughts and floods are already increasing due to shifts in rainfall, as I saw in South Sudan last year.”
The U.S. Department of Defense now perceives climate change as a threat to our national security. The department funded the University of Texas to the tune of $7.6 billion for a study called “Climate Change and African Political Stability.”
What does all of this mean to us Christians? For one, it means we have to take a closer look at how God ordained our partnership with all creation. God did not give us “dominion” over the earth to destroy it, but to care for it. We have a God-given responsibility to take any and all threats to our environment seriously.
For Princeton professor, George Philander, this biblical worldview should shape a positive approach to creation care. He encourages scientists and Christians to focus less on “stories of gloom and doom” and “tell people what an amazing planet we live on” (http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2013-08/temperature-rising).
Second, we need to raise awareness about how other people in our globe live. Then we need to take responsibility for our relationship to them and our interdependence with the wider human community. We are not an island unto ourselves, and our actions, spending habits, and way of life make an impact, either positively or negatively, on entire people groups.
Since we are not likely to have personal, intimate relationships with many of these people groups, common-sense legislation related to environmental concerns can help us balance our ignorance with a healthy sense of corporate stewardship.
Last, we need to de-politicize creation care. It does not help to side with partisan issues on this subject when this subject is (1) so close to God’s heart and (2) larger than our political debates make it out to be. Creation care should be one of those things we find common ground on. After all, why wouldn’t we all help nurture and restore a world that “God so loved”? If God didn’t condemn the world than neither should we.