Christians have a role to play in fighting against climate change

By Peter Makwanya

The last time l wrote  about the discourse of climate change l made mention of  the language issue as a possible missing link among a variety of missing links in the fight against climate change. Of course there are so many strategies that can be used to mitigate global warming, provided the right formulae and political will is used.

In this view, climate change is real and cannot be simply wished away. One of the other possible missing links besides language (use of vernacular) in the fight against climate change is the religious perspective. Indeed yes, the ecumenical power is critical as it brings a sober dimension on how to tackle global warming issues.

While the bible talks about the stewardship of treasure and the environment, christians appear to be pre-occupied by the stewardship of treasure, that is money, money, money. Money  in US Dollars, Pounds, Rand, thereby appearing to relegate environmental issues to the dust bin. It is not that Christians are ignorant about the environment but there are also some impediments that may contribute to their lack of commitment to this pertinent issue.

One issue maybe that of the earth as a temporary dwelling place as we wait for the imminent coming of the Lord, ‘soon’ and ‘very soon’. The other issue is the looming destruction of the earth because of sins from humanity so why worry as the Lord is going to come so soon and besides, the earth is going to be destroyed after all. The churches’ outreach humanitarian programmes are comparable to none but it is in the area of climate change issues where they need to impress upon.

As the rest of the world is fast experiencing environmental changes and challenges that are threatening to tear the earth apart, it is the human hand that needs the corrective measure since it is the human activity that has to change its ways of interacting with the environment.

That is when evangelists should come in and lead the way in the fight against climate change. The amount of literature that talks about climate change is quite enormous the world over, therefore it is important to highlight why Christians should set the pace in the fight against global warming. The bible is going to form the basis of this discussion and relevant verses are also going to be consulted.

“And God said; let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them

have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over

the cattle, and over ALL the earth, and over every creeping things that

creepeth upon the earth “(Genesis 1:26).

Of course, this was the world in the beginning. It was bright and beautiful, rolling with lush green plains, clean and uncorrupted, just like Virgin Mary. It was also the world that God entrusted to Adam and Eve, to dwell upon as well as taking dominion over. In terms of the environment, God’s original idea was to have a well-administered environment with limited sicknesses, deaths, famine and poverty.

The most fundamental issue for the Christians is that, ours is just stewardship as God is the Alpha and Omega, the ultimate owner of the world. Ellen White reaffirms the purity and the complexion of the first state of the world when she says:

“As the earth came from the hand of its maker, it was exceedingly beautiful.

its surface was diversified with mountains, hills, and plains, interspersed with

rivers and lovely lakes……There were no loathsome swamps and barren deserts

Graceful shrubs and delicate flowers greeted the eye at every turn

The air,untainted by foul miasma, was clear and healthful.”

While one would not advocate for the world to get back to its basic nature because of the present multiplicity of its inhabitants and modern construction trends and development, Christians still have a role to play in advocacy and awareness, with the bible as the central reference guide.

The gift of stewardship should be inherent in every Christian. It’s regrettable that the environment has degenerated into its present state of affairs due to lack of accountability and care from the people. The nature of responsibilities and commands God issued were not given to any other creature other than human beings.

It is also the human beings who possess features that God has in every respect but it is a result of sin that human beings have lost one of the outstanding qualities that God possesses. This is the quality or gift of listening. Listening is a skill which severely lacks in human beings, especially when one gets up the social ladder, listening actually fades like the setting of the sun.

Only hearing will be evident due to the death of conscience. Poor listening skills did not start with those in leadership positions but they have their genesis in the Garden of Eden, where Adam was the chief culprit.

If we revisit Genesis 1:26, the issue of dominion is well articulated. By engaging in the greening process to reclaim the forests, the Christians will be exercising dominion over the environment in a good way. But if the human beings engage in continuous plunder of the environment, defacing and disfiguring the earth as well as releasing dangerous gases into the atmosphere, then they cease to be accountable.

For this reason, Christians engaged in advocacy work need to come forward and lead the way in conscientizing people about climate change issues from the biblical point of view. Governments can spend millions of dollars for mitigation purposes or attend high level meetings in an attempt to find the missing link, but who knows that missing link in the fight against climate change may not need such scientific sophistication or high level discussions. Leaders of the world can invade the picturesque venue for this year’s climate change conference in Durban, stay in five star hotels and speak the best English, French or Portuguese ever, but they will come back as they were in the first place.

Only God is the answer and key to the problems of global warming therefore, acknowledge his existence and omni-importance, then he will deliver us from this global scourge. If this assertion is far fetched, then why is it that there is no change in the magnitude of global warming from the time the Swedish Scientist Svante Arrhenius together with Thomas Chamberlain, a hundred years ago when they calculated, as put across by Toulmin (2009) that human activities could warm the earth by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? This undertaking continues to unravel despite global efforts to manage it.

The relationship between humans and the environment should be reciprocal in nature. As human beings get nourishment from the environment, they need to nourish it in return, hence there should be inter-dependence and a symbiotic working relationship. It is therefore the duty of evangelists to emphasize the issue of human dominion over the earth as well as the need to have welfare of environmental issues at heart.

A sense of caring rather than that of exploitation should be instilled and cultivated into humanity. Through the gift of stewardship, humans have responsibilities over the environment and their conscience should report to them instantly if they are to violate eco-friendly regulations.

Our good intentions towards the environment may not succeed in the absence of faith. From the Christian point of view, faith appears simple but it’s not an easy undertaking, it has numerous casualties as many have stumbled and faltered. Faith is a pivotal quality that regulates intrinsic motivation in humans.

There are a lot of doubting Thomases around the world because they lack faith and self esteem. The Achilles heel of global warming is the problem of sin. It is because of sin that humans have sacrificed their relationship with God, fellow humans as well as the environment because of personal gratification. We are constantly appealing to the major polluting nations like the USA, UK, China and India to lower the amount of dangerous gases they emit into the environment without appealing to God to intervene.

By so doing we are directing our efforts to the wrong people and God is watching. It’s the sins of the mentioned countries that have affected the environment, to a greater extent. Their sins have made irreparable damage to the environment and they need to repair the damage themselves so as to reconcile with God and nature.

While quite a number of things have been said and explained; how do evangelists intervene and carry out their advocacy work in an attempt to fight climate change? Their ecumenical work can make use of the following strategies:

a) an all inclusive inter denominational national prayer to be conducted. It is common   knowledge that the power of prayer is not palliative but it’s real and can make wonders and change things in the process. This time Christians are praying to God to intervene and save us from the effects of global warming.

Of late some of our Christian leaders, in an attempt to pray for the nation, have often succumbed to the idea of prayer- bootlicking, when they got carried away and ended up politicking  by  thanking  the lord for giving us the longest serving president. That kind of rhetoric and glib may not be necessary in this event. Also, in collaboration with the meteorological department and in the event that a major natural disaster is looming, fasting and praying should be done at national level. As a result of this, God will intervene and, possibly, lessen the impact of the disaster.

b) a national disaster fund needs to be set up to be managed by evangelists themselves, not politicians, as it might be used for campaigning or may end up disappearing into thin air. There must also be the training of personnel in disaster management so that when disaster occurs they would use appropriate skills and technology to manage the disaster.

c) the adequate funding of the meteorological services will become handy in making forecasts of looming disasters. Furthermore, natural disasters destroy  crops thereby affecting the harvests hence farmers need to stay prepared in order to save their crops or know exactly when to or not to plant.

d) the churches should solicit for donations nationally or internationally in order to complement government and Non Governmental Organisations by giving clothing and food handouts as well as blankets to the affected people. A number of churches have very big farms and some of the produce needs to be stored in their strategic grain reserves and be distributed in the aftermath of any disaster.

e) when disaster strikes, people get knocked, bruised and injured, some even die in the process. Others get dehydrated and fatigued as well. Since church hospitals and clinics are found in remote rural areas, they will be the first to get to the scene of the disaster with medicines to treat the affected as well as offering counseling services to traumatized individuals.

Peter Makwanya is the ZEJA treasurer for the Southern Region and writes in his own capacity

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