How far do evangelicals whether in the USA, Britain or elsewhere regard Climate Change? It is not an easy question to answer.
At the end of this I give a link to a chapter I wrote way back in 2011. Ironically I completed it as there were minor tremors 10 miles from my house probably caused by fracking. Those tremors meant my essay was out of date before it was published!
Looking over this chapter, I still agree with most of it, but it suffers too much from a historical, backward look and not discerning the events going on at the time. I started to write it just after the 2009 Copenhagen conference on Climate Change and in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At that time I was unaware of the fracking revolution in the USA and that there was exploration for fracking right on my doorstep. Despite my cycling the country lanes on the Fylde, in the absence of protestors fracking exploration was almost invisible! Since 2011 Climate Change is far more to the fore and of great interest to Christian greens and the whole church.
It would be fair to say, that for Christians Climate Change is the dominant environmental concern and at times one wonders if anything else matters except Climate Change and fracking. Sadly the discussion is now often based more on emotion than science.
I made several omissions in my essay including not referring to Canadian Katharine Hayhoe. (whom I thought was American as she lives in Texas!!) If I had been more USA aware in 2011 I would have mentioned this book http://climateforchangethebook.com/preview.html A Climate for Change by Hayhoe and Farley published in 2009.
from the preface;
Bike to work. Hug a tree. Eat granola. Live off the grid. Wear hemp. Bathe in a stream. And worship the earth.
Go ahead. Label us – just because we think global warming is a serious problem that you should know about.
But here’s who we really are.
We’re Christians. We don’t worship the earth. We worship the Creator of the universe. We believe that God spoke the world into existence and sustains it by His power. We believe that Jesus Christ is the way to eternal life, that the Bible is God?s Word, and that nothing compares to the importance of the gospel message.
Now, for what we don’t believe. We don’t believe the universe came into existence through random chance. We don’t believe that life came from nothing or that humans evolved from apes.
We believe in common sense. We believe in the sensible progression from older to newer technologies. Yes, we live in a house with air conditioning. We drive cars. We don’t have solar panels on our roof (too expensive), and we’re not vegetarians (meat is just too tasty).
Don’t worry – we’re not going to try to convince you that Earth is four billion years old or that it’s young, but with the appearance of age. Even we, the authors, disagree on that one.
Climate change is about thermometers and temperatures. It’s about what’s been happening on our planet since the Industrial Revolution. It’s Chemistry 101. Now, can we talk about global warming?
(from the Preface of A Climate for Change)
I was taken aback about the denial that humans are evolved and that one author seems to be a Young Earther.
My distinction of Greens and Browns is probably too simple. I am tempted now to subdivide Greens into Bright Green, Dark Green, Dim Green and possibly some other shades. In the UK among all Christians I would say the latter two are in ascendant !!!
This was my Conclusion
It is not possible to draw a neat and simple conclusion on Evangelical attitudes
to climate change. McKeown’s division into Browns and Greens is
good, but is too simple. McKeown highlights the divide between the different
Evangelical factions, but matters are more complex than his aptly
polarized scenario shows. There are the infl uential activists on either side,
personifi ed by John Houghton for the theory of climate change and Calvin
Beisner against it. These individuals have been highly active for the last
15 years, and at times it seems that there can be no resolution and that
Evangelicals are simply divided.
However, certain things are clear. The more moderate Evangelicals are
convinced of climate change and work positively with the wider church
and – if they have scientifi c skills – in the scientifi c community. Those
opposed are very vocal and dismissive of the ‘ junk science’ and have made
much of alleged ‘fraud’ by Chris Jones of the CRU. Despite the vindictiveness
of these allegations, the conservatives or Browns have become more
environmentally aware in the last decade, as groups such as the ISA have
slowly shifted their position. The strongest examples of shifts in opinion
are to be seen in those such as Richard Cizik, who rejected decades of environmental
indifference almost overnight.
As I write on a cold and damp July evening (and revised it after the coldest
December for decades), it is diffi cult to foresee the future and whether the
political clout of the more conservative Evangelicals will inhibit efforts to
address climate change. For most Evangelicals, climate change is a matter
of indifference and they will probably refl ect what they have been taught
with varying levels of conviction. As Creation care is more widely espoused
by Evangelicals, whether in the conservative or moderate form, environmental
concerns are becoming of greater concern. According to a recent
article in Christianity Today 21 , environmental issues have hit the United
States hard this year (2010). The editorial, entitled ‘Let the sea resound’,
begins: ‘The question is no longer, “Do you believe in global warming?” but,
“What do you believe about the Gulf oil spill?” The BP spill has brought
creation care closer to home. Whether global warming is a dire threat or
not, human- made or not, we are all now more aware of our relationship to
other parts of God’s creation’. No one around the Gulf of Mexico has been
able to avoid the effects of the spill, and it has become a primary concern
of President Obama. The environmental record of America has never been
good, but this spillage exceeds any previous catastrophe. Americans have
been forced to see that the environment is fragile in a way they have never
before perceived it. As the Christianity Today article says, ‘There seems to be
little doubt that the Gulf oil spill is the United States’ environmental 9/11’.
Tree huggers are objects of ridicule, but many have become ‘sea huggers’.
Perhaps American Evangelicals may become ‘climate huggers’. 22 If that
happens, the present bias against climate change in the United States will
change, as American Evangelicals have considerable political infl uence,
especially in the Republican Party. Most American Evangelicals support
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Religion 130 in Environmental and Climate Change
the Republicans and as long as they follow the creationist line of climate
change, Republican politicians will do the same.
Over the next few decades, both the absolute numbers and proportion of
Evangelicals and Neo- Pentecostals are set to rise, making them of greater
signifi cance, both socially and politically, in many parts of the world. I
must emphasize that this will not only be in the United States, where they
are so infl uential now, but in countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America
(especially Brazil). Thus, their views on climate change and what should be
done about it are of great signifi cance for our planet.
To read what went before please click below
In this blog I deal with evangelicals on both sides of the pond, who I divide into two groups; Greens and Browns
I wrote this nine years ago and much has happened since then , with more polarisation and aslo the radicalisation of some evangelicals who are convinced of climate change, but that’s another story………..
I completed this paper on April fool’s Day 2011 and shortly after April fool’s day 2021 read this paper by Don Batten of CMI
The best to say about the article is that it is clearly written but woeful on theology and science.