For those unfamiliar, she is a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist. Greta rose to prominence in August 2018, when she stood outside the Swedish parliament holding a sign saying, “School Strike for Climate.”
In December 2018, she gave a speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. She’s been trending ever since.
I find her intriguing. At an age when most kids are engrossed in social media, video games, and pop culture, Greta is influencing the entire world. What would happen if young followers of Jesus were as passionate about their cause as she is about hers?
But it wasn’t so much her actions that inspired me to write this blog - it was the reaction by Christians.
The price tag of fame in our culture is ruthless criticism. Mostly anonymous and online. I’m sure she expected this.
But shouldn’t Christians be different? Are we entitled to belittle people because of our political views? Many of the posts written by fellow believers were dismissive and unkind. Moreover, they lacked depth and nuance - coming across painfully biased and filled with straw-man arguments.
Can someone tell me who arranged this strange marriage between climate change skepticism and Christianity?
A 2017 Pew study revealed that:
White evangelical Christians, in particular, are, on average, more likely to question whether human activity contributed to the Earth’s warming, with research by Pew suggesting 28 percent as accepting of this view, compared with 64 percent of those without a religious affiliation…”1
I can’t speak for you, but this white male wants out.
So what is the proper response to the call for greater care for our environment by environmentalists like Greta Thunberg?
In this blog, I will attempt to answer these questions for myself, not as an expert, but as a sincere Christ-follower wanting all of his behavior to be pleasing to God.
When it comes to the environment, I think the first thing we need to do is detangle it from the political webbing it has been caught in. The environment has been politicized, but fundamentally it is NOT political.
The dictionary definition of “environmentalism” means “concern about and action aimed at protecting the environment.”
This definition should make it abundantly clear that this is a human issue. We all live here, after all. Does anyone disagree that we should protect the very environment that keeps us alive?
The solution to any problem is inescapably political, but it should be obvious that protecting the environment is essential. Moreover, human beings aren’t particularly good at looking after things - just google ‘ocean trash’.
It is important to understand that every good cause has been hijacked for political purposes. We need to be sophisticated enough to separate fact from fiction, and view issues with as much clarity as possible.
Tragically, partisan politics have fostered a Christian culture that is mostly indifferent to environmental issues.
The first step to issues of the environment, and every other issue, is to leave your personal opinion and politics at the door, and ask Jesus what He thinks.
Second, we need to acknowledge and reject some of the flawed thinking that has contributed to Christian indifference in climate issues. One thing you often hear is that we have nothing to worry about because human beings are resilient and will solve the environmental problems they create with technology.
Imagine you have a friend who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. You try to convince him that if he doesn’t quit, he could get lung cancer. He replies, “Oh, I’m not worried - they’ll have a cure before I get it.”
This is frightening logic.
Another common excuse is that since you are unable to make a difference, why bother. Tell that to Greta Thunberg. She persuaded millions of kids to march in order to raise awareness about global climate issues. Love her or hate her - she’s having an impact.
Then there’s the false dichotomy which pits caring for people against caring for the environment, somehow failing to see the symbiotic connection between the two.
We should want Jesus to inform and shape every area of our lives, including how we treat the environment. And what about the people involved? Environmentalists are often labeled “fools” or “hippies,” but these are people, and how we treat them matters to God. Moreover, showing genuine concern for the passions of non-believers is a powerful tool for the Gospel.
We should affirm the desire people have to care for God’s creation. Far from being antithetical to environmental concern, the Christian worldview grounds the dignity and value of all living things. Christians, more than anyone, should feel a great responsibility for how we steward God’s handiwork. What if instead of ignoring or mocking those who are concerned about climate issues, we show compassion and point them to the God that cares for everything He made.
Any part Christians play in furthering the tribalism is tragic and hurts our witness.
Next time issues of the environment gain your attention, take a deep breath, place your politics aside, and ask the question what would Jesus do? How would He treat the issue, and the people involved?
Knowing that could change everything.