When you read articles like this it can leave you scratching your head. I can understand some people not believing that the climate is changing for the worse. I can accept that some people might think it is changing but that we are a bit hasty to assume it is mainly a human created problem. But what I’ve never understood in some evangelical circles is the adherence to this denial as if it were handed down on Sinai.
Maybe there is a mistrust of anything that sounds “green” because it must be driven by a liberal agenda. Maybe it is that mistaken infusion of the gospel with productivity, prosperity and the idea that God gave us dominion over the Earth rather than stewardship of it. Maybe it comes from the idea that God is going to trash it all in the end.
I’m going to take a punt here and say that climate change is denied not so much for being untrue but rather because the truth we don’t want to accept is that we messed up and we really can’t fix it. Like children we look at the mess and when asked how it happened, we say “I don’t know”.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve get full run of the garden and cavort and eat and play and tend to nature and name animals. It is implied that at the end of the day they hang out with God. It’s an attractive scene. And then they eat the fruit; they do the one thing they were asked not to do and suddenly there is shame and hiding and fig leaves. No one told them that being naked was shameful. But now, after eating the fruit, suddenly they see things in a different way and they generate their own shame at being naked. They hide from God but when found, they don’t say, “hey we messed up”. They get stressed and try to explain the fig leaves and then point fingers at each other and in the process break God’s heart into a million pieces.
When we ponder how weird our climate is and when scientists in the most non newsworthy sector of science get all newsworthy and we start counting the tonnes of carbon we’ve pumped into the air since we discovered burning stuff was a prosperous way to drive an economy we run and hide too. We don’t come out and say, “boy, we’ve made a real mess of this gift we live in”. We hide. We deflect. Adam blames the woman. The woman blames the snake and God just stands in their midst wanting them to shut up while he thinks of how this can be put right again. We do the same.
My guess is that Christians who deny that the climate is changing and that it is hard to exempt ourselves as one of the causes are enslaved to the lie that we can do whatever we want to the earth and God really doesn’t care. He is more concerned with who you are sleeping with, whether you take drugs or think women can be church leaders. I think, like Adam and Eve, they come to believe that the Garden is there for their own enjoyment and purposes. The fruit tastes good so they eat it. Nothing bad will come of it.
There is an easy way to override this fantasy that somehow we can do what we want to the planet and believe that we’re honouring God. The example I use in school assemblies is this:
This painting was designed and painted by my wife and my middle son after a really good holiday in Cornwall. We are proud of the painting because of the personal investment. You can see us in the lower right hand corner. I am the pasty, tending to flab guy in the orange trunks. My wife is the svelte beach babe in the hat.
Now, imagine that we loan this picture to our neighbours to care for it on our behalf and they do the following: they hang it on an outside wall, they don’t bring it in when it rains. They let the dog sleep on it. They use it as a litter box for the cat. When we go and visit our picture we are aghast: “What happened?!”. Clearly they have misunderstood what we meant by “take care of it” but as long as they stay true to their own style of stewardship, there is no problem.
When I ask the simple question in assembly whether I should use this painting to shelter under when I run to my car in the rain, they all shout “NO!” One child warned me that my wife would kill me if I did. I ask them why? They tell me that it is such a personal creation and I should respect it and care for it like it is something special.
Any person who uses the label “bible believing” need to take that on board when they read the very personal process of creation in the first chapters of Genesis. This special creation we live in is not ours to do with what we please. It is held in trust for God. It is held in trust for each other. It is held in trust for all the other members of creation be they plants or animals. What God gives, he gives in Trust rather than as freehold and no amount of denying will change that.