It’s hard to say the words climate change without evoking passionate feelings. Recently I slid down the slippery slope of attempting to engage a global-warming “skeptic” – online – by trying to fight science with science. The resulting comments (all from fellow skeptics, I might add) decried climate change as a “human myth.”
I don’t want to be naive. I fully realize the chances of persuading anyone of anything over electronic media, let alone Facebook, are not very high. But what did catch my attention was one particular comment.
One person went so far as to say that the fact that humans could think of themselves as the cause or the solution of climate change was the height of arrogance. “Completely ridiculous” were her exact words. This charge was new to me, and I am still wrestling with the implications of it.
My first tendency is to flip the accusation: It is the real height of arrogance to think that you can live your consumeristic lifestyle of conspicuous consumption with no impact on the environment or anyone else.
My second thought was to consider the truth of it. Is it, in fact, arrogant to think that the actions of even a few million or perhaps even a couple of billion of people could atone for the sins of decades of others? Could we, in fact, change much of anything?
To be fair, all of this comes down to our most basic theological understandings about ourselves and the world around us. It’s tempting to get lost in that world, but on an elemental level, humanity is created somehow in God’s image. Yet in the face of the greatest good, we routinely choose that which caters to our most basic desires.
One writer says of the Garden, “It’s not that it happened, but that it happens.” That is, every single day we routinely choose that which is easiest, most convenient, most self-serving.
Trying to change the mind of a person who is radically convinced that they no longer have the power to change their environment is to try to treat a symptom rather than a cause. Our view of creation care has more to do with our understanding of our own identity than it does about polar bears and ice caps.
As people created in the image of God, many times we talk about environmental stewardship. For many reasons, this perspective gets distorted. At its most basic level, caretaking means repairing the things that are broken. Fundamentally, our work as followers of Christ is to be redemptive agents of change. This isn’t limited to the state of souls but extends far wider and deeper than many Christians have ever considered.
A few years ago I read somewhere that “littering is a spiritual problem.” My fundamentalist tendencies come out at that statement; I can hardly pass a wrapper or a plastic bag passing with the wind without doing something about it.
It has become, in some ways, something of a curse, but I have to confess I breathe a bit deeper in those moments. It may seem tiny and insignificant, but in those moments I feel keenly aware of my relationship to both the Creator and the creation, like plunging your hands into soil or breathing deeply the fall air.
Whether that is pride or arrogance, purpose or responsibility, I cannot say. I can only say that it feels viscerally and ethereally right.
Trey Lyon is associate pastor for faith development at Towne View Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Ga.