Climate change and the Christian commitment to care


by Ruth and Martin Conway, Operation Noah supporters

Churches see themselves as caring communities, especially supporting those individuals ‘who are in any way distressed in mind, body or estate’. The caring includes a prophetic role, with followers of Jesus encouraged to challenge blatant exploitation and discrimination. Also included is ‘caring for creation’, mindful of the interdependence of all living things and humanity’s crucial role in maintaining the conditions for life on earth. This commitment to care is rooted in personal faith and prayer and the worship life of a congregation.

But this commitment can easily become too narrow in its focus. Major causes of distress lie not just in the breakdown of personal relationships and wellbeing, but in unjust economic and financial systems and in the degradation of ecosystems that support life. The use of fossil fuels to power consumer-led economic growth is leading to uncontrolled change in the climate system, already experienced as unpredictable, life-threatening weather patterns, and creating dire conditions for future generations.

Photocredit: YODA Adaman on Unsplash

Caring therefore demands more than an individual response to immediate need. It demands that the churches in their corporate life should also tackle root causes:

  •  by switching investment from companies involved in fossil fuel extraction to those developing carbon-neutral and renewable energy sources, as well as to those enabling industries and individuals to cut energy use;
  • through church leadership declaring publicly why this is a necessary response in order to avert suffering on a huge scale and to drive home to politicians and business leaders that economic activity cannot thrive if the ecology on which it depends is destroyed; and
  • by nurturing the expectation that congregations work with their local community to build a sense of belonging together in difficult times, sharing skills and resources and modelling simpler lifestyles that accelerate the transformation to a low carbon ‘economy of enough’.
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