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.
3 Replies to “Becoming a Christian who cares”
Thanks for your article, and thanks Rod for sharing it. There are many who feel as you do, but there are many too who are only concerned with getting people ‘saved’ in terms of saying the words, but not saving them in this world. And I agree that it all comes down to greed.
For instance, many people are starving in developing nations because of the greed of the first world. We buy up land and grow crops for us, not them and cause them to lose biodiversity so that they are unable to grow their own. We develop super fertilizers which then require super pesticides and only this week a global meeting of doctors pronounced that we have run out of antibiotics for the superbugs and there is nothing coming to combat it.
God has given us the right to be stewards and carers of creation, the creation God called good. But we’ve stuffed it up badly. So yes, before I blab on futher, Christians and the wider church should stand up and make a much louder noise! And more than about climate change, but all of creation care including cruelty to animals, loss of biodiversity etc etc.
In terms of encouraging congregations to work together you may be interested in the “Five-leaf Eco awards”, or the UK (original) version of Eco Congregations. http://ew.ecocongregation.org/
Finally A Rocha – an organisation that works with communities and churches worldwide. http://www.arocha.org/int-en/index.html
In the meantime, find someone at church that is interested in something like recycling – something practical. And at a church function ensure that what can be recycled is – even if that means dividing up between you and taking it home. People will actually see that, and even if they thing you’re over the top, who cares. Actually, my belief is that God cares, and will thank you for it!
All the best.
Thanks for publishing Rod. I wonder Christine if you could write some more about your own internal understanding of Climate Change as an issue. I note that many Christian commentators do not express a decided view themselves as to the reality of or sources of Climate Change.
My view is that there is plenty of evidence out there and there has been for many years but most obtain their information from the media and have not made much effort to examine the source material. I agree that if Christians are called to be good Stewards of our planet, then the results should be measurable, there should be evidence and given the number of Christians, it should be statistically significant.
I am not a Christian, but am encouraged by what I read here, I hope you can receive further encouragement from Christians.
Well done for becoming informed on climate change from a Christian perspective. Unfortunately as a society we are relying on the young to lead us in this area. For many people it is all too hard to have to cnsider climate change in thier lives. I am shocked by the number of people who don’t believe that it is happening.
The evidence is clear-every year is the worst storms, the coldest winter, the worst bushfires on record. Just ask the Insurance companies whether clims are up or down due to these events. What are we going to do for all the Pacific Island climate change refugees?
We need to be acting locally but thinking and praying globally. Our beautiful planet Earth needs us to care and God expects us to care for the gift of this planet.
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