Thursday, October 31, 2019

Why Christians Should Take a Stand on Climate Change

By Christine Sheller

Christians should take a stand on climate change.  Jesus said the second greatest commandment after loving God was loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:39-40).
The Genesis account of creation also proclaims the beauty and handiwork of God, and that humans are only a part of it and charged with responsible stewardship of it.

Love of neighbor and its relation to global warming can be seen through various situations in the world today.  Rapid climate change, such as warming temperatures in areas where of life depends on cooler climate, adversely affects real people in real time such as our neighbors in Alaska (1), and it becomes clear the Christian responsibility to love neighbor includes work to prevent these types of things from happening.

The question of whether (climate change) is happening or whether there are or will be adverse effects from this can be demonstrated by the story of water levels rising in Alaska now, resulting in destruction of homes of native people (2).  This has a clear, direct correlation with “climate change.”  Even in 2007 scientific records said that twenty of twenty of twenty-one of the hottest years ever measured occurred in the previous twenty-five years. (3)  In addition numerous cities around the world broke record-highs each year of 2007, 2008, and 2009. (4)  The impact on the health of our ecological environment merits our attention because humans are dependent on it. (5)

In addition to Jesus command for love of neighbor, Christians should also look to the narrative of creation for instruction on a perspective of climate change.  Genesis accounts give humans dominion over creation (Genesis 1:28-29).  Augustine’s theology for dominion over creation is convincing for Christians’ responsibility of earth care.  Augustine understood human “dominion” given to humanity on the basis of being in the image of God.  According to Augustine, “human dominion” is one of the human works that leads to rest in God- which means that human beings fulfill the good ends for which God has created for them according to God’s goodness and love, when they dutifully exercise “dominion.” (6)  This is a type of dominion theology in accord with the love Jesus brought to the world, and it lends support to a Christian ethic of care for the earth.  Christians must take care, however,as Ruether pointed out, that a “dominion” theology of creation not translate into a domination justification for men over women. (7)  Women are not “creation” if “creation” is non-human nature.  Women are human beings, like men.

Both Jesus’ teaching of love of God and of neighbor, including future neighbor as yet unborn, and the account of Genesis account of creation, bear witness that Christians should take a proactive stand on climate change.

( 1)   Sheller, Christine, “Peace Resource Center at IPN Office” (citing PBS documentary “God and Global Warming,” 2007, The Dovetail.  Des Moines, IA: Iowa Peace Network (Fall 2009), 2.
( 2)   Ibid.
( 3)   Gore, Al, An Inconvenient Truth- the crisis of global warming (adapted for a new generation), NY, NY: Viking and Penguin Group, (2007) 48-49.
( 4)   Guggenheim, Davis, An Inconvenient Truth, directed by davis Guggenheim, 96 min., Paramount Classics and Participant Productions, 2006, videodisc.
( 5)   Cobb, John B., “Protestant Theology and Deep Ecology,”  Deep Ecology and world Religions:  New Essays on Sacred Ground.  (David Landis Barnhill and Roger S. Gottlieb, eds.) Albany, NY: State University of New York Press (2001), 220.
( 6)   Dunham, Scott A.  The Trinity and Creation in Augustine- An Ecological Analysis, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press (2008), 105
( 7)   Radford Ruether, Rosemary, “Deep Ecology, Ecofeminism and the Bible,” Deep Ecology, 230

Christine Sheller is coordinator and editor with Iowa Peace Network.  This slightly revised  paper was written by Sheller in 2009 for a class in seminary at that time.  Although some of the resources cited are dated, the content of the paper is still pertinent.

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