Sunday, April 20, 2008

Church and climate change

Don't Panic!

This is helpfully written on the wipe-clean cover of the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. I'm wondering whether it should also be written on the bible (and I'm starting to wonder whether Douglas Adams was having a snarky dig at the bible with that).

In church this morning, a chemistry professor at the university was preaching. What she preached about doesn't really matter, although it contained a lot of chemistry (which was strangely acceptable, this church is a very academic place). Anyway, at one point she was talking about Climate Change, and said something along the lines of "Climate Change is a fact, and sometimes when we think about the implications of our behaviour, it sends us a bit crazy. But the important thing to remember is not to panic - because God is in control."

I have a few questions:

1. Is she saying that we shouldn't be trying at all or just being realistic?

2. Even if we accept God is in control, since when have people been immune from the effects of sin? Is it not possible that God will leave us to lie in the bed we've created by burning fossil fuels?

3. What happened to repentance and the call to life-changing behaviour anyway?

This whole Christianity thing is starting to sound like a dance where we find ever more reasons to avoid dealing with the responsibility and eventually the effects of our actions.



Blogger Karin said...

"This whole Christianity thing is starting to sound like a dance where we find ever more reasons to avoid dealing with the responsibility and eventually the effects of our actions."

Depends what you mean by Christianity. That certainly doesn't sound like something Jesus would have gone along with.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I agree. Unfortunately it appears to be an endemic feature of most churches.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

I think many people are bogged down and may not feel they can cope with yet more things to worry about, but the theology varies from church to church, vicar to vicar/minister and Christian to Christian.

Church congregations are like the rest of the population - a lot of them are Daily Mail, Times and Telegraph readers, but there are some who read the Independent and the Guardian and have a theology and even a lifestyle that reflects that.

The mention of newspapers is to illustrate a point and not meant to be taken too literally.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I've not heard anyone calling for the kind of lifestyle changes which are necessary to combat climate change.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Karin said...

There was John Bell at Greenbelt last year and the year before and probably before that, for a start. Some Wildgoose books do, too. Obviously there were also those not obviously in the church spelling out the need for lifestyle change at Greenbelt last year, too.

Also my Bible reading notes this morning referred to this need, although not in detail.

Within our Ethical Matters group, many of whom are also church goers, there are a number who understand the need to buy local and avoid air-frieghted out-of-season produce etc. We also had talks on energy efficient houses and numerous other related topics.

It may be the minority now, but the domino effect could make it a much more widespread thing.

Outside the church there are a number of groups.

3:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I'm not sure you're understanding my point Karin. Even if John Bell reached a significant number of people at Greenbelt (which he doesn't. It is a tiny minority of attendees) and even if Greenbelt is affecting the wider church (which is isn't really), his message is not enough.

The change he is calling for is not enough. People don't seem to understand the gravity of the situation, and not even John Bell has really spelled out what lifestyle change is needed to save the planet.

3:34 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

I'm just saying that voices in the church aren't totally silent on the issue, and of course people like John Bell don't just speakk at Greenbelt.

It's not just a matter of enough people not being reached, it's a matter of not enough people listening and taking the message on board. Also the church represents a minority of the population, so what is happening outside the church is even more important.

What exactly is it you think is needed, Joe?

3:49 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I'm sorry, I can't be bothered to continue this circular conversation.

4:03 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

It's not circular, Joe.

The fact is voices in the church are speaking out about climate change and the need for people to do things about it.

Whether enough people are doing so or in the churches you go to is a different matter.

If you don't think those who speak out are giving the right message, what would you say/do differently?

It's no good just complaining, a solution to the problem is needed. If you don't have one, perhaps you shouldn't complain about the people who are at least trying. They're getting through to me and people I know.

It's also true that there are more people outside the church than in, so if you really want people to do something about climate change, they need reaching, too.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Karin, I recommend you spend some time on a carbon calculator, and then consider how much more you need to do. We need to repent and change our ways. We are too scared to talk about this as an issue whereby people actually need to change their lifestyles rather than a few lightbulbs.

4:17 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

Joe I'm well aware I need to do more than change a few light bulbs, and I do do quite a bit more than that.

The most important changes need to be driven by governement and industry, but what individuals do is also important. Even little things like changing light bulbs has a positive impact, so well done to anyone who is doing that.

There is a lot more you could be doing yourself, Joe, but you don't. Why not? Because you live in 21st century Britain, you have a family and are part of a society which has given you certain expectations and expects certain things from you.

Each of us needs to continue to make progress, but we will each do so in our own way and in our own time.

Last August I think Tony Juniper said we had 10 years to make the necessary changes. That seems a realistic time-scale to work to as far as I am concerned.

I could worry about everyone else, but the only person I can change is myself.

Perhaps the changes I make will inspire others to make changes themselves, and I will talk about climate change and environmental issues to anyone who is interested, but I shan't preach or tell people how badly they are doing.

People need to be encouraged, not badgered and bullied. Most people are struggling with life. Helping and encouraging people generally so they feel more able to cope with change could be the most important thing we can do to increase the number of people who take the necessary steps.

Being a moaning minnie certainly isn't going to help.

4:35 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

No, that is total nonsense.

Either we want to save the planet, or we don't Karin. We cannot wait for politicians to make pointless compromises (at present the compromises suggested are way higher than those needed under the IPCC report). Most emissions are caused by consumers, directly or indirectly. It is down to us to change, not anyone else.

It is not the case that any of us can change at our own pace, deciding which parts are relevant and which are not.

There is a fierce urgency of now - either we chose to accept and repent and change, or we don't and face the consequences.

Frankly I am starting to believe that the whole exercise is pointless because we're basically already dead. Nobody - including you or I - really want to contemplate the change necessary on our lives. We come up with all kinds of excuses why we cannot, all the while pretending that we are doing something, when we're actually doing very little.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

Joe, all this verbage is pointless unless you come up with a better idea, which so far you haven't.

What exactly do you think people should be doing? You still haven't said.

5:43 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Well we agree on that at least.

See my above comments on repentance, elsewhere on this blog about self-sacrifice, consider what people are telling us about what we need to change in our lifestyles (eg carbon calculators) and join-the-dots, Karin.

Last time I looked, my contribution if spread across the whole population of the world would have used 3.5 planets. I need to make changes to reduce my contribution by more than two-thirds. That is a significant change.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

Even after joining the dots I'm not sure what you think we should be doing specifically.

I am aware of the changes I can make and I have made a number. Many take time, energy and planning, so I do what I can and am mindful of how I might improve when I feel able.

I don't see any point in beating myself up for being human. That won't get me anywhere.

I am guided by Jesus' teaching that we should love God, and love our neighbour as we love ourselves. If I understand it properly, then I think this can only lead me into a more sustainable way of life, but one that also brings me joy, hope and affirmation.

I think this is the only way to bring about worthwhile, long-term change.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Joe said...


is that clear enough?

7:02 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

I repent on a regular basis - of my attitude to the planet and in general. By repent, I mean try to align my life more with God's Way.


Don't bother saying 'no', I've already guessed that will be your answer. :P

7:04 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

Be the change you want to see in the world, remember, Joe? Keep faith.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Biblical repentance is an acknowledgement of wrong and a change of direction (literally a 180 degree turn).

And with respect, I already said some while ago that I'm not sure I am ready to take on the demands of the gospel.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Karin said...

Like I said, by repentance I mean aligning our lives to God's Way, which usually means a change of direction, except for those who are perfect.

Is the gospel demanding? The Gospel is Good News. It is an invitation to God's Shalom, to a life at peace with ourselves and others, of well-being. The abundant life, but not in a consumerist sense. It seems demanding while we cling to the ways of the world, but if we can let them go we no longer find it demanding.

9:02 AM  

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