climate change


Today has seen me opening an eco-conference at Bradford Cathedral with Dave Bookless (of A Rocha) speaking on God’s Word on God’s World – Living as Green Disciples. I couldn’t stay for the whole gig as I am meeting Asian Christians later to talk about persecution, Pakistan and related matters.

But, today there are more scary stories about the melting of the ice caps and the dangers this poses. Damian Carrington concludes:

Decades from now, will today’s record sea ice low be seen as the moment when our Earthly paradise gave up the ghost and entered a hellish new era? I sincerely hope not, but with this global distress signal failing to attract attention, I fear the worst.

Bruce Cockburn (any excuse to bang on about him) was asking similar questions for the last forty years, but here’s one of his enduring best:

Berliner DomI have just launched myself into a series of five conferences (one ended today) which will keep me away until 2 October – though I hope to keep blogging. I leave early tomorrow morning for Rome and then Blackburn (!) followed by Kassel (Germany) – and end up preaching in Berlin Cathedral before returning for the final blast at Swanwick. Roll on October…

At the residential conference which ended today the recently-retired Bishop of Thetford, David Atkinson, shared his great wisdom with his usual quietly-spoken humility. While answering a question about the most pressing agenda for the Church of England at the moment, one of the things he identified was climate change. I have to confess that I am a bit worried about ‘climate fatigue’ setting in – there is so much being said and written about it that I think many people are beginning to glaze over instead of waking up. I hope I am wrong.

What woke me up was David asking: ‘Will we let future generations speak to us?’ In other words, will we have the imaginative courage to hear the blessings or cursings of our children’s and their children’s generations as they suffer the consequences of our refusal to change our costly lifestyle? Will we simply bequeathe to them a broken world with a broken climate because we are too greedy and selfish to hear their cry?

This struck me because it reminded me of a verse from the Old Testament book of Proverbs that says:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

An older version of this formed the title of a remarkable book I read years ago when studying German political history – particularly about the failure of the Church in relation to the Jews during the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in the early 1930s: ‘Open thy mouth for the dumb.’ It is a potent demand.

Auschwitz gateThe prophetic challenge has always been that people who bear God’s name should see through God’s eyes and speak on behalf of those who have no voice. I have always simply assumed this could refer to those who have no voice in contemporary affairs – the poor and the marginalised. It had never occurred to me that it could be a challenge to listen to the voices of those as yet unborn who will one day – long after we have moved on – pay the price for our greed and complacency.

This also resonates with Wolfhart Pannenberg‘s understanding of the resurrection as the ‘proleptic invasion of the end in the present’. Big words, but a simple concept: the resurrection of Jesus by God is the ‘end’ being brought forward into ‘now’ and enabling us to live now in the light of the end. So, Christians live in the here-and-now in the light of having seen the promised end – resurrection. And this actually goes to the heart of Christian hope. For Christian hope is not wishful thinking and does not lie in an anticipated series of events taking place (all that ‘End Times’ nonsense from the USA). Rather, it lies in the person of God who raised Christ from the dead and thus invaded the now with his final word. We trust in God, not in heaven.

Now, I cite this bit of theology because there are those who think the climate change stuff needn’t bother us on the grounds that God will soon intervene and bring it all to a glorious end anyway. And it is precisely this sort of stupid theology that needs to be firmly knocked on the head.

earth_mainThe prophetic challenge mentioned earlier has always been dismissed by those who spiritualise themselves out of responsibility. But the simple equation cannot be avoided: our faith in God (as well as our theology) can only be seen in how we live now in the light of the future. And that means that our ethics now must be shaped by our imaginative and informed understanding of what future generations might be saying to us if only they could speak for themselves and if only we could hear them.

earth-lightJust about to leave the office and got pointed towards the Breathing Earth website. I have no idea how accurate it is and how the figures are calculated, but it is utterly engrossing as well as scary.

earth_mainYesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a lecture on climate change. Not for the first time did he speak in strong language and with a seriously prophetic edge about the world’s most pressing crisis.

I was scanning the response this evening after a full day of meetings and immediately before I go to bed and then disappear on holiday for a few days in the early hours of tomorrow morning. What I note about some responses is the remarkably easy way his critics elide from one issue into another (unrelated) issue and do so with a straight face.

rowan-williams2Take, for example, the following: The Archbishop of Canterbury critiques the issue of climate change and addresses the ethics involved. He is deemed by some to treat unjustly homosexuals in the Anglican Communion, being accused of ‘appeasement’ of those who call themselves ‘conservative’. Some ‘conservatives’ on sexual issues are also right-winger Americans who deny climate change. The fact that some people who agree with the Archbishop on one issue but disagree with him on another undermines his credibility in speaking powerfully about climate change. Then, for good measure, throw in the  added charge that his call for attention to be paid to minorities lacks credibility because one particular minority feels victimised by the way he is handling a wider issue and you’ve hit the jackpot.

Isn’t the silliness of these links obvious? To delegitimise what he says about climate change on the grounds that he pays attention to some people on a completely different issue itself lacks credibility – whatever position (so to speak) you take on the sexual stuff.

john_lennon_portraitI remember writing about my admiration for John Lennon. Unlike the Archbishop, he was a total hypocrite, but it didn’t stop him speaking out. Sadly, it also didn’t stop him writing nonsense like ‘Imagine no  possessions’ on an expensive grand piano in an expensive New York apartment; but hypocrisy in one area does not necessarily negate the truth of what is said in another.

Perhaps we ought to grow up a bit and learn not to make easy associations where they don’t exist. (And, in case it matters, I equally deplore the funding antics of those conservatives who are playing a dirty game ‘in the name of the Lord’. Trouble is, however, I also deplore the antics of single-issue campaigners who can only see one issue in everything.)

Now, I need my few days break…