In a previous blog, "Camping Out at the Carnival of Climate Denial," I discussed how we seem to have come to a strange place as a society on climate change, where scientists have been telling us for over a decade how serious the problem is, and lately they've been telling us that unless major changes are begun soon, dangerous tipping points could be reached that could produce devastating dynamics that cannot be "undone." And yet instead of listening to these warnings from the experts, too many of us are stuck at the carnival of climate denial, allowing the carnival barkers and hucksters to entice and intimidate us into staying, and helping to immobilize our country's response in the process.
It is well past time for those of us still at the carnival of climate denial to exit the gates and allow the love of God to help us see and face the truth about climate change or global warming and the need to act. Once we do, we will discover that overcoming global warming presents us with tremendous opportunities to love God back and create a better world.
Let me clarify things right up front: climate inaction is no longer an option for those who have the love of God in their hearts.
What are some of the common barriers to action? Let's face them together:
Do you not know what a serious threat global warming is, especially to the poor and vulnerable? Do you not understand that we all have a role to play, that for Christians overcoming global warming is now a part of following Jesus Christ today? Then it's past time for you to understand this. My book, Global Warming and the Risen LORD, can provide some guidance (as well as a great deal of encouragement).
"I Still Don't Think the Science is Settled"
Some of you might want to say to me, "Jim, you may think the science is settled, but I still don't think it is. I'm sorry, but reasonable people can still disagree." For Christians and others of good will, this dodge is simply unacceptable today. If you are still not convinced, read the latest reports from our National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for yourself. (Check out my earlier blog for a brief introduction.) Ask God to help you see the truth, to have "eyes to see."
Mistrust of the Messengers
Maybe you've been distrustful of the main messengers on climate change: scientists, environmentalists, Democrat politicians. Maybe they are "them" to you, people not to be trusted. Maybe you feel that scientists have disrespected your faith, or even tried to take your faith away from you, that environmentalists and democratic politicians don't share many of your values or beliefs.
You must allow the love of God in your heart to help you lay this mistrust aside. All truth is God's truth; it doesn't belong to the messengers. Indeed, the gospel itself is proclaimed by sinners (like me); doesn't mean it isn't true.
Fear of Lifestyle Impacts
Some of us might admit this outright. We're afraid of a material lessening of our lifestyles due to the transition away from fossil fuels. We think overcoming global warming means living with less, "freezing in the dark," making "sacrifices," some sort of energy flagellation. Some of us not in denial about climate change may even give mild lip service to the idea of "sacrifice," feel guilty, and then do essentially nothing. Such an uneasy emotional catharsis is actually harmful to the cause, because such energy should be properly channeled into real action.
You must face this fear (and indeed all fears related to global warming). But you do so with the Risen LORD right by your side (Mt. 28:19-20; Rom. 8:38-39).
While overcoming global warming will require tremendous changes -- and change is hard, sometimes even feeling like "sacrifice" -- I actually think it will bring improvements to our lifestyles. Less pollution and its health impacts, more efficient use of energy, lots of sustainable jobs. The investments we make will create a clean energy future that will be the foundation of our economy in the 21st Century.
Immobilized by Inaction
Maybe you've actually accepted that climate change is real and human-induced and that it's a problem. "I'm not one of those right-wing climate deniers." But have you really acted? If the love of God has allowed you to see better than others, have you lived up to this with strong leadership? As it says in the parable of the faithful servant, "To whom much is given, much is required" (Lk. 12:48). For you, the time for inaction or for baby steps is over.
Fear of Facing the Truth About Another Big Challenge
With everything going on in your life, how can you carry another burden like global warming, especially when no one person can solve this problem? Here a spiritual fact for you to rest in: the Risen LORD is the one leading the way in overcoming global warming. You will join Him and others in this journey. You are not alone. Acting in common cause with others as we follow the Risen LORD is the essence of empowerment.
For those of you who are not taking action, the barriers to you doing so might be different than what I've articulated here. But whatever they are, you must now work through them with God's help. The change necessary is tremendous: we must have a 10-fold increase in carbon productivity in 40 years. We can't afford to have any person with the love of God in their hearts on the sidelines.
Simply put: it is past time for every Christian and others of good will to do their part in overcoming global warming. There are no longer any legitimate reasons for inaction. The time for "neutrality," for not acting, is past, as is the time for misguided opposition. A stance of "neutrality" no longer exists. To not choose is to choose. Inaction is in league with opposition. Denial and inaction are in opposition to the love of God in your heart.
If you allow yourself to be empowered by God's love to escape denial and immobilization, you will find both spiritual liberation and participation in one of the great causes of our time.
As I explain more fully in my book, overcoming the tyranny of global warming is the next great cause of freedom. Reducing global warming pollution, helping our country and the world get a handle on such pollution before we reach dangerous tipping points can free the vulnerable from a tremendous amount of human suffering in terms of impacts averted. And the solutions that help to create sustainable economic progress both here and in poor countries can greatly enhance the democratic and economic dimensions of freedom around the world, especially for the poor.
But it is also a part of the great and wondrous story of the spiritual dimension of human freedom that began when God breathed the spiritual life force into our earthen bodies and set us on our journey with Him of choosing rightly and thereby experiencing the fullness of freedom. For it is only by choosing rightly that we are truly free, and in so doing do we become spiritually beautiful and glorious.
For Christians, we believe the only way we can choose rightly is to follow Jesus Christ, our Risen LORD. Furthermore, we know we cannot do this on our own. Every step we take in His will is empowered by His grace and guided by His Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
My friends, it's now become pretty simple. There are only two choices: climate action or inaction; to follow the Risen LORD in overcoming global warming or not to follow Him in this great cause of freedom. Choosing to follow Him in love brings freedom and spiritual beauty and glory.
The Rev. Jim Ball is author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD: Christian Discipleship and Climate Change .