Climate change and faith: A Christian imperative
By Elizabeth Vincent, Domestic Policy Intern, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
The Conference of Parties (COP) climate change talks in Paris last year posed several potent questions about a general human response to climate change and a specific response from faith communities. How, as faith communities, can we draw from our ethical underpinnings to address our dependence on fossil fuels and the hidden price tag of emissions and global warming? Considering that many attempts within our political system to address climate change are faced with gridlock, we cannot underestimate the importance of faith communities – and interfaith collaboration – to put pressure on politicians to address climate change.
Faith communities play a significant role in raising awareness about the impacts and consequences of climate change through education. Sunday school classes, small group studies, and college courses address topics from fossil fuels and conscientious eating to political advocacy and responsible investments. Our God-given responsibility of good stewardship of the earth invites us as churches and faith-based organizations to incorporate environmentally-friendly practices within our institutions.
The Christian tradition, and the Anabaptist tradition in particular, has a rich heritage of creation care and simple living. This heritage necessarily leads us to consider the ecological impact of our driving habits, purchasing decisions, and production of waste. As people of faith, we can and should extend this ethic of action to a political response to global warming and the suffering it has caused for so many of God’s people.
We, as Christians, are biblically mandated to serve one another and therefore we must acknowledge how our actions affect others. The communities most impacted by climate change are those with the least resources to mitigate the damage and adapt to permanent changes, such as rising sea levels. Low-lying communities in Bangladesh, for example, are facing the burden of rising tides but have few economic resources to mitigate this loss of land. In the highlands of Bolivia, drastic weather patterns jeopardize the ability of small-scale farmers to provide for their families. In Canada and the United States, communities are also feeling the consequences of climate change in extreme weather patterns and persistent drought. Ultimately, we must accept that climate change is an issue that affects all of us regardless of country of origin or social status.
If we, as Christians, are going to fulfill our mandate to love our neighbors and care for creation, we need to start doing now what we should have done decades ago: reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and actively advocate against practices that contribute to climate change. Working solely as individuals, we cannot reverse climate change. But, if faith communities around the world continue to work together and push for policies to address climate change, as they did leading up to the Paris talks, we can make a difference.
Ask your members of Congress to support efforts to address climate change, including by supporting U.S. commitments to curb carbon emissions and by fully funding the Green Climate Fund to assist vulnerable communities around the world.
Learn more about the Mennonite Creation Care Network.