This is an article written by Christine Redwood, a member of the Social Issues Committee of the Baptist Union of NSW. She submitted the piece for publication in the denominational magazine, “Together in Ministry”, but it was rejected by a Baptist Union staff member before it reached the editor. I publish it here with pleasure, in the hope that many more people read it than would have been the case if it were trapped between the pages of that seldom-read magazine.
Becoming a Christian who cares about God’s world
By Christine Redwood
I joined the Social Issues Committee (SIC) in 2010. In the first meeting I attended, we discussed climate change and the government’s proposed Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). It was decided not to make a statement on this debate since the government policy was still been formulated. It was subsequently abandoned altogether.
However, the discussion generated my curiosity. ‘Climate change’ is a controversial term among some people, particularly those still debating whether it is real and others questioning whether it is part of a natural cycle or largely the result of human action since the industrial age. For this reason I have been hesitant to become involved, and so I ignored it.
Gaining a Biblical Framework
Following the SIC meeting, however, I read Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living by Nick Spencer and Robert White. This book reminded me of God’s vision for this world and how that vision, revealed in Scripture, should shape the way we live. In Romans 8:19-23, for example, the apostle Paul reminds us that the rest of creation will share in the salvation which is coming to us. As we remember our responsibility as stewards of this creation, we strive in hope, filled with the Spirit, not because we will fix all the problems, but because we live in anticipation of God’s coming redemption. Christians can be witnesses and participants in where the world is heading.
Moving to Action
I then attended a climate change forum run by TEAR Australia. Attendance at the forum was low compared to other popular Christian events, but it had quite an impact on me. I was spurred to ask the question “What does God require of me?” The speaker shared stories of communities suffering from changing weather patterns and linked the need to act with the Christian’s call to love our neighbour. I threw myself into every opportunity I heard about to live this out.
For Earth Hour we had a party in the girl’s block at Morling College to raise awareness. I attended my first protest in Newcastle, concerned about the increase in coal exporting as Australia would become the biggest coal exporter in the world. It was a very peaceful protest as people hopped into kayaks and took to the harbour. I wrote at the time in my journal, ‘I’m realizing how everything is linked. Greed is the be all and end all in this world, and that is wrong. We need to invest into relationships, community and sustainability.’
I attended a second protest in the city on climate change just before the federal election. The absence of Christian voices was noticeable. I was hesitant to bring up the issue of climate change in my church. I think perhaps one of the reasons I haven’t spoken about climate change is that, truthfully, I need to change my actions before I can speak. Some people might think protesting is radical, but it is a relatively easy thing to do.
It is harder to live ethically every day. How many times have I left the house without taking my reusable bags? The effort of purchasing ethically produced products is frequently accompanied by a sense of futility. Nobody sees you as you do the chores, using laundry powder that’s safe for the environment, turning off the power point when you’re not using appliances, walking instead of driving etc.
I need more role models. A friend of mine switched to green power. She is the only Christian in my immediate circle who I know that has been wrestling with how to be a good steward of the creation. Her witness challenges me. I believe we need to encourage one another from the local church level to working together as a group of Baptist churches. We need to step up and engage not only on this topic, but speak into and act on the broader issue of the environment.
Churches should be role models for our society. If we believe God has called us to be stewards of this world, then where is the evidence? I am by no means the person to be following. I struggle to live out my beliefs, yet I struggle more with the fact that too often Christians don’t even seem to be living differently to the rest of the world. What does it look like to live out what we believe?
I feel like we talk more than we act, or become focused on issuing statements to the government without changing our own lives. I wonder how often the ordinary person thinks through the choices he or she makes every day.
I admit that too often I am a ‘big picture’ person at the expense of small details, yet ethics requires us to start discussing with one another the small details of love. We need to worship God in our chores and change many of our habits. Let’s be people who really care about God’s creation and love our neighbours, and let us be people who give attention to both the big picture and little details of our lives and how they impact the world around us.
Theologian, researcher, teacher, writer, foodie, husband, dad. Works at Moore Theological College.