Climate change, the church and created co-creators

NASA heat map combining historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature and precipitation might change up to 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. (Credit: NASA/public domain)

Climate change denial has never had a higher profile supporter than today’s White House.  Weighing the economic costs against the benefits of the Paris accord, the U.S. government has decided to pull out of the accord citing unfairness with the deal, specifically with other countries who stand to benefit from Americans losing jobs.

According to President Donald Trump’s announcement of his decision, it is less about the climate than other countries getting an economic advantage over the United States. Quoting the Wall Street Journal, rather than scientists, he described the Paris Agreement as a “self-inflicted major economic wound.”

For many Americans, the logic seems sound, as jobs are always in demand and seemingly fleeting in many places across the country today. Despite that reality, we need to re-think eco-justice initiatives to offer our scientists in the pews a leading role because of what they know in thoughtful reflection of where we are headed.

Leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, the Vatican made headlines with Pope Francis’ Encyclical letter on “Care for Our Common Home.” There were a number of events at Catholic universities where students, professors and theologians gathered to discuss the contents of the letter fully. The Pope’s letter’s title, “Laudato si,” is taken from a canticle from Saint Francis that is translated as “Praise be to you, my Lord.” The letter is clear on humanity’s role in climate change.

Pope Francis writes: “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

But how do Christians respond fully to the White House’s notion that pocket books come before the planet? Let’s begin by speaking out. Did you know that within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America there are a treasure trove of theologians and scientists who are already speaking out about climate change and its harmful effects on humanity and the planet?

Also there is an ELCA social statement, “Caring for Creation,” that was adopted in 1993. It clearly states the church’s role in speaking out on ecological concerns.

It reads: “We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are deeply concerned about the environment, locally and globally, as members of this church and as members of society. Even as we join the political, economic, and scientific discussion, we know care for the earth to be a profoundly spiritual matter.”

Lutherans Restoring Creation is an effort to encourage the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to incorporate care for creation into its full life and mission at all levels. The group is celebrating eco-Reformation, as we previously wrote about, and is also inviting ELCA members to become partners in these efforts at the congregational, synodical, and national church levels.

Perhaps more importantly, this group has organized a Speakers’ Bureau. These speakers have been gathered to represent a number of informed leaders in the ELCA capable of serving as conference speakers, panel participants, and workshop leaders for events sponsored by congregations, synods, seminaries, ministeriums, colleges, and other agencies of the church. A total of 19 speakers are available across the US to speak about the planetary degradation that is threatening all life on Earth and causing extensive disruption and dislocation in human communities, according to the group’s website.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has spoken out, too. Prior to this latest setback with the pulling out of the Paris Accord, she said: “The present moment is a critical one, filled with both challenge and opportunity to act as faithful individuals and churches in solidarity with God’s good creation.”

She has since Tweeted, “Creation is God’s gift. We hold it in trust. Climate change is hardest on the most vulnerable. God stands with them. So do we.”

What can you do to help make the church’s views on climate change heard? How will we respond when our children ask us what we did when we learned of climate change and its effects on the planet? I hope we will be able to say that we all played a part as created co-creators in solving the problem rather than contributing to it.

As created co-creators all people have a call from God to do the right thing, even if that means a few missteps along the way. In taking action it is possible to yield new eco-friendly jobs and useful community efforts and there is help for all to thrive and live abundantly on this planet that we share. As Christians who are “prisoners of hope” we are enabled to move forward with a goal of healing the planet for the sake of future generations.

It may not come with a price tag, but in response to God’s call our actions are priceless, as they say.

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