This post originally appeared in Orbiter Magazine under a different title
Thousands of years ago, an Israelite known for his wisdom penned the words, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the Sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
For the most part, he was right. Kingdoms rise and fall, seasons repeat, and every show eventually gets rebooted on Netflix. All that is has been before, and all that will be has already been. There’s comfort in the cycles of history, and many religious people find peace in knowing that God has been above and within it all, keeping the world a (generally) safe place for people to live.
That comfort, however, often breeds complacency, and that complacency has led many to dismiss the grave dangers of climate change. I’ve heard intelligent, thoughtful people say that climate change “is no different from any other problem humanity has faced. War, disease, natural disasters—there is always something threatening us, and God always brings us through.” Yes, history repeats itself, but that includes geologic history as well! We are hurtling toward carbon dioxide concentrations equal to the time of the dinosaurs—five times the C02 we have today—and will likely approach levels in 2019 that haven’t been seen in human history.
Despite the data, the experts’ analysis, and the potential for cataclysmic devastation, there are still millions of Americans who aren’t worried at all—or, worse yet, think the whole affair is a hoax. Since 1970, trust in science has decreased significantly among conservatives and regular churchgoers while remaining fairly consistent among other groups, and as a pastor and former evangelical, I have a vested interest in understanding why. We will not overcome this global crisis unless we are united, and until we understand one another, that is impossible.
The evangelical movement is not like other movements within Christianity…
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