Following the recent iDoubt talk on "Is your God my God?" I think you can replace climate change in the following with many other issues, and the questions and comments I raise could still apply.
Try substituting same-sex relationships, dagga, Calvinism, hell, euthanasia, ... [insert favorite controversy here]
Just remember Matt 10: 16-22
I posted in a Christian on-line forum the question: “Why is there so little Christian voice on this”, referring to Climate change.
While I expected there would be a range of opinions I was not expecting the hard line nature of opposing views. Perhaps that was naive of me, but nonetheless, it caught me by surprise, and I felt I needed to write this simply as therapy.
As a Christian I expected that everyone would be equally concerned about societies actions which are contributing to the suffering of others, especially where there is multi-generational consequence. There are, of course, many ways society hurts others - systemic evils - many of which are implicitly endorsed by Christians through their apathy. However, climate change seemed to particularly be a touchstone for passionate reaction.
The responses in the forum generally fell into one of three categories; an individual commenting on their lifestyle choices to indicate their personal caring for the environment, a politicization of the issue implying hidden and not-so-hidden agendas on the parts of governments, the use of very simplistic theology to say climate change is not something to be concerned about, or else straight out denial that climate change is of any concern.
The responses in opposition were perhaps the most vocal, seemingly irrational and with little supporting evidence. They even went to the extent of suggesting fraud on the part of the scientific community, that it was all a hoax (for unspecified purposes), or that it was a tool of Satan to delude people (to what end was unclear). Comments included the suggestion that man is unable to damage God's creation, that God is fully in control of it all, and that our primary purpose is in any case to save people from hell so we should not worry about climate change. Even young earth creationism and anti-evolution remarks somehow crept in to the accumulation of responses.
I confess that much of this caused me varying degrees of face-palm moments! I struggle to see how people partition their lives and say climate change is not an issue because of other more important Christian responsibilities. Denial of climate change I can almost understand, although even there I see an unwillingness to face up to facts. Yet, the partitioning of responsibilities is one of the most concerning aspects. I am a single creature, I cannot say yes to God on one thing and then give lie to that by my actions on another – all aspects of my life should seek to reflect the same core relationship with God.
I tried to be placatory in the discussions, but I'm not so sure I succeeded. Yet my concern for society's response to climate change, and for Christians to be vocal on this front because it contributes to suffering around the globe, seems to be taken by some as indicative that I have not focused on more essential Christian living, and by some that I am deluded by Satan.
Its deeply saddening that among those that profess the same faith, there is such deep polarization and dogmatism that rational debate is not possible.
I'm left with two thoughts.
First that it is very difficult for Christians with diametrically and strongly held opposing views to objectively discuss matters -- the retreat into unreasoned theology should not be a defense, and I suspect no ground can be made without extensive face-to-face time. For example, this morning I was discussing with some people the difficulties around the use of climate information and the consequent coupled ethical-epistemic problems: that is, the ethics which steer one's actions are often in conflict with those of other people, and that one's epistemology often needs careful and frequent re-examination. It took time and much discussion, and left some quite disturbed, which I think is a good thing (http://jcs.biologist...21/11/1771.full)
Second, the forum comments have made me re-examine the reasons for which I hold climate change as an important Christian concern. I live in Africa, was raised in Africa, and through working with the development, policy and decision making sectors I see how closely coupled the vulnerability of the poor is with the vagaries of climate and the observed changes of recent decades. This, and that climate change is multi-generational, is a strong motivator that as a Christian I need to be vocal about what society is doing.
Yet, when it's all been said and done: