To Whom Much Is Given, Much Will Be Required: On Christians and Climate Change
The data in the new Pew Research Center study on Christians and the environment is conflicting. How can we best respond?
Christi Huizenga Renaud
By nature, Christians have two superpowers. The first is the ability to walk into the unknown without fear. Abraham did this; David did this. It’s what Jesus called all of his disciples to do. It’s what Paul and the early Christians did. As Paul described in 2 Timothy: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Christians have a long tradition of facing uncertainty without fear, because we know we don’t go alone. God is with us.
The second superpower is facing our flaws and limitations without despair. Christianity rests on a long tradition of recognizing and remembering our faults. One thing that makes the Bible unique from other ancient texts is that it carefully records the shortcomings, not just the strengths, of its heroes. Christians are not afraid to face the dark side of our choices.
The root of our faith is found in the recognition that when we choose to follow our own wisdom instead of God’s wisdom, we mess things up. However, God does not give up on us. This is the reason for Jesus and the hope offered through Jesus’ resurrection. When we follow Jesus and seek out the wisdom that comes from God, we become people who carry love, joy, and peace. It’s a beautiful life that’s not contingent on circumstance; He shepherds us through whatever may come.
In theory, Christians should be excellent at hearing information that shows we might have made mistakes that need correcting. We should be the first to step into the unknown and build a new and hopeful future.
Yet today, we need a reminder to exercise our superpowers. We should be a little more Superman and a little less Clark Kent.
The Pew Research Center released a new study over Thanksgiving, which focused on where religion in America meets climate change. The study found that the most religious Christians are also the least likely to take climate change seriously.
Interestingly, these same Christians also were very likely to agree that God gave people a duty to protect and care for the Earth. I imagine these same Christians would also agree that we are called to care for our neighbors, particularly the world’s most vulnerable.
Weather is becoming more extreme everywhere. I have friends who had to flee rapidly-moving wildfires in California. My father-in-law in Arizona is experiencing more extreme heat days as he grows older. Growing up in Florida, I remember a few hurricane scares, but nothing like what kids are experiencing today. Some of these hurricanes will be big, like the one we saw earlier this year.
Even if we lack fear about the impact that climate change will bring to our own lives, as Christians, we can’t overlook the vulnerable neighbors we are called to love.
My job has led me to spend time in rural communities across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These places have high poverty rates, and many people depend on the land for a living. The families who live there often have little margin, and a bad year will have significant consequences.
Climate change is rapidly and significantly elevating their risk.
We have a critical window of opportunity in the next few years. If we act now, we can limit the impact climate change will have on all our global neighbors and future generations. If we don’t, it’s almost certain that life on Earth will change irrevocably.
What Christians Can Do
As Christians, we should be on the frontlines: the first to step up and face the realization that the world we’ve developed has had some unintended side effects. We should face the uncertainty of what change will bring, while also knowing that God will be with us. We need to lean on God’s wisdom, which has always been better than our own.
There is still room for creativity and human ingenuity. We know that we need to slow or stop emitting carbon. We know that we need to remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. There are many natural and technological ways that we can do this. We need creative thinking and collaboration that draws in many perspectives. And I hope to see Christians taking the lead. The environment is not a partisan issue. It is also not a threat we can continue to ignore.
Let’s unleash our superpowers and step into the future with hope and wisdom. As stewards of creation, let’s reimagine a healthy world as God intended, full of abundance and joy.
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Christi Huizenga Renaud is vice president of marketing & development for Plant With Purpose, a Christian organization that works at the nexus of environmental damage and global poverty in nine countries around the world. She is grateful for the opportunity to use her skills to help heal the planet by giving farming families the tools needed to grow beyond poverty.