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Monday, September 29, 2014

Christians Against Climate Change

Mick Pope is marching about climate change, not in spite of his faith, he says, but because of it. He insists that:
“… a solid theology of creation and of the resurrection means that Christians should be concerned about climate change.”
Huh. Remember the whole “What Would Jesus Do?” fad from a few years back? It became a trendy thing to have on a bumper sticker or t-shirt, sold its share of merch in Christian bookstores and has largely disappeared, I think.

So what would Jesus have said about climate change, I wonder?

Jesus as Social Justice Warrior

Of course it’s idle speculation. But as much as people have tried desperately to co-opt the Lord and use him as a spokesperson for social justice, a reason for accepting higher taxes and a source of moral authority for everything from Affirmative Action to women’s rights and abortion, I just can’t picture the Lord carrying a placard in the People’s Climate March.

To use his name in support our favourite political and social causes is wildly presumptuous at best, but that’s never stopped people before, and it doesn’t even slow Mick down:
“Like Paul before us, we follow the Jesus Way when we pray for our leaders to act, for our scientists to produce solid research, for our engineers to come up with good solutions, and for our corporations to develop ethical practices.”
“The Jesus Way”, is it? Really?

“Pray For Our Leaders to Act”

Like Mick, I think scientists producing solid research, engineers coming up with good solutions and corporations developing ethical practices are all wonderful things.

I’m a little less enthusiastic about pushing our leaders to act, though. It seems to me that politicians do far too much “acting”, flailing around in search of public support for their next reelection campaigns and in the process making one mess after another.

It might be a whole lot smarter to delay some of that acting until the “solid research” and “good solutions” we’re praying for actually show up, instead of increasing starvation in the third world with another ethanol boondoggle, or some similar well-intentioned but ill-conceived scam brimming with side effects and unintended consequences that impacts the entire globe. We now know that ethanol consumes far more energy than it produces. Even the political left is pointing out that as a direct result of policies they advocated, “a global food crisis is not that far off”.

So I’ll go with “pray”, Mick, but let’s hold off on the action until we have a few more solid facts to work with. So far all our solutions have created more problems than they purported to solve.

The Real “Jesus Way”

But let’s get back to the “Jesus Way” our Red Letter Christian friends talk about. I still can’t see the Lord in a climate change protest march, no matter how hard I squint at the white spaces between the lines of text in the gospels.

Why? Well, for one, I remember reading where someone in the crowd says to the Lord, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me”. That seems a perfectly reasonable request, doesn’t it? To all appearances, this poor guy is being cheated out of what should reasonably and fairly be his. It seems like a logical time for the soon-to-be-judge of all the earth to do a little “right”, to dispense some justice, even if it just means that he offers an opinion on the situation.

But … nothing. Crickets. The Lord said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

Crickets

I have a feeling that if the Lord had been asked, “Teacher, tell my government to behave more righteously”, he would have said much the same thing. In fact, I’m sure of it. When faced with the prospect of suffering and death, he looked for no justice from the rulers of the world. Instead, he told them:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
(John 18:36)
The Lord’s position with respect to the actions of individuals was always to encourage his followers to be generous, loving and sacrificial, to care for the poor and to fulfil the law of love.

But about what sorts of actions governments ought to take, he said nothing at all.

Hoping for a little bit of phonied-up insurrection or a verbal potshot at the ruling Romans that they could use against him, the Jews asked the Lord, “Should we pay [taxes], or should we not?” And of course we know his answer: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”.

The Lord consistently — and insistently — declined to take any position on such issues. Other than to teach that the authorities get their power from God and will give an account to him, he had no advice for governments at all. None.

Our Citizenship

Why would we imagine that he expects anything different from his followers? In fact, the apostle Paul makes that clear:
“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(Philippians 3:20)
Given their rather shaky track record on, well, just about everything, I am not about to put my hope for this world in the ability of human government to respond well to the Scare of the Week, let alone am I inclined to pressure them to act precipitously with respect to an issue that it’s very clear neither we nor they yet fully understand.

Meanwhile, if you want something good to do with your righteous indignation, I seem to recall James saying something about orphans and widows

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