Sunday, November 2, 2014

Love God, love neighbour, love the earth

This morning I got to speak briefly at Essendon Baptist Church, where I gave a modified version of my climate change rally talk from last year. Here is the text below.

As a Christian thinker and climate scientist, I don’t want to talk this morning just of facts and figures, but imagination and dreams. I dream of a world of peace and justice, where resources are shared fairly, and where the Earth is treasured and protected.

Climate change is not just about science, technology or politics. The science does tell us that humans have been modifying the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, by burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. This has been happening since the start of the industrial revolution. Natural changes such as cycles in the ocean, changes in the sun and volcanic eruptions are not responsible for the warming air and oceans, rising sea levels, or melting glaciers; we are. The science tells us that if we continue on our current path, large parts of the world could become uninhabitable and billions could die.

Technology can and will be part of the solution. Shifting from coal, oil and gas to wind, solar and other technologies, as well as gains in efficiencies, will avoid the worst of the warming scenarios.

Politics is important because change needs to occur from the top, and strong vision and leadership is needed. At the present time, our own government has made cuts to climate science, at times it denies the basic science and questions the integrity of scientists, pursues fossil fuels and removes environmental protection.

Above all of this, climate change is a deeply moral issue, and as we face an uncertain future, every person needs to be able to dream; to imagine a different world, a different way of pursuing the good life.

My dream of a better world is shaped by the Christian story of a God who loves, creates, redeems and renews. The cross of Jesus is the greatest expression of God’s love, and in response I am compelled to love God, and love my neighbour.
To love God means that I must love the world he has made. If the world warms by 2 degrees, more than 99% of all coral reefs will disappear; amazingly rich and beautiful ecosystems that are thousands of years old. Genesis 1 tells us that the earth is God’s good creation. More than that, it teaches the world is God’s temple, and that humans are made in his image to represent him to the world. Further, in Romans 8, Paul tells us that the whole creation groans under human misrule, but will one day be released from its suffering when the children of God are raised from the dead.

So, because I believe in a creator, this world is not disposable but sacred. The destruction we risk is not only wanton, but blasphemous.

In a world where I wear clothes made in Bangladesh, watch American movies on a Chinese TV, and when my Japanese car adds gases that warm the whole planet, everyone is my neighbour. Greenhouse gases know no national boundaries.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus told a story about a man attacked by robbers, to teach us that we are to love our neighbours when they are in need. This story of Jesus calls me to be a Good Samaritan and bind the wounds of those who suffer, and right now, people are suffering from climate change; from sea level rise, heat waves, bushfire and disease.

In Kenya, world malaria expert Andrew Githeko grew up in the highlands, where it was once too cold for malarial mosquitoes to breed. Imagine his shock when a family member rang to tell him that his niece, who was living in his home town, had contracted malaria. When he sent a research assistant to his old home, he found it swarming with mosquitoes. This is happening in tropical highlands around the world. We have not been good neighbours to people like the Githekos.

If we fail to act now to limit future climate change, we are not just being bad neighbours; we are the robbers from the parable, stealing from our neighbours and future generations the chance to live full and meaningful lives.

 So how then do we respond as a church? Christians are called in two ways. As Disciples of Christ, we are to be obedient to all that he calls us to. Acts of kindness, generosity, peace, justice, stewardship, and frugality are not simply acts of personal piety, but impact upon our world. Looking after God’s earth is part of our calling as Disciples of Christ. Buying less, buying green, reusing, recycling and gardening are all acts of a good Christian.

We are also called as a body, a city on a hill and a light to the world. Christians can and should be vocal in the public sphere. Marching at rallies, divesting from fossil fuels by changing banks and super funds, writing to politicians, and even for some, being arrested as Christians, continues the Old Testament prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power. If the churches speak with one voice on this issue, we will be heard throughout the corridors of power.

It is not unchristian to address climate change; it is in fact our duty, for we alone have a message of hope. God bless you.

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