Faith, Climate Action, and the Season of Creation: September 1 – October 4

If you are a faith leader, please talk to your congregation about the link between your faith and climate change. If you are a Christian leader please participate in the upcoming Season of Creation. If you’re wondering why, read on.

Recently, sitting on the steps in front of my church, I told a friend that I had joined the Blessed Tomorrow program at ecoAmerica. I explained that the goal of Blessed Tomorrow is to help faith groups take action on climate change. “That seems so random,” she said. “What does faith have to do with climate change?” I was a little surprised by the question, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

Although religious leaders representing the vast majority of believers in America and worldwide accept that human-caused climate change is a reality and that it is a religious and moral duty of major importance for people of faith to help prevent further damage, many Americans don’t see the link.

Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence, ecoAmerica research has found that only around a quarter of Americans accept the reality of human-caused climate change. Although the Pew Research Center found that a higher percentage of the American public believes it, “major religious affiliation groups did not differ from the religiously unaffiliated in views about climate change.” Further, a recent peer-reviewed study of Gallup polling data found that, in the United States, Christian concern for the environment might actually be decreasing.

Even so, the Christian case for climate action is straightforward. The natural world fulfills our needs as a gift of God, and the purpose of humans is to care for it. We all depend on the stability and productivity of the natural world, but especially so the poorest and most vulnerable. As such, Christians should care for the Earth because it is a gift from our creator, because we are commanded to, and because we are to love the most vulnerable among us as we love God and to act for their good. There is a real and urgent connection between living a Christian life and acting to prevent further climate change.

Despite the efforts of international and national Christian leadership, the message is not getting through. The reasons for the disconnect are extremely complex, but the solution isn’t.

ecoAmerica’s research shows that only 10% of Americans hear about climate change from local faith leaders, and only 24% discuss it in their places of worship. However, 39% would trust their faith leaders as a source of information about climate change. This means that clergy at a local level have the ability to make a real difference to our current climate crisis just by talking to their congregations about it.

As soon as I drew the link between faith and climate action, my friend understood that it made sense. It often doesn’t take more than that. Happily, Blessed Tomorrow and our partners have a great deal of material to help you get started. For example, you could include an article in your church newsletter using Blessed Tomorrow’s Talking Points on Faith and Climate, or preach a sermon on care for God’s creation using our Let’s Talk Faith and Climate guide.

Christian leaders have a great opportunity coming up soon: you can participate in the Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is a world-wide ecumenical festival lasting from September 1 to October 4. It has its roots in the work of Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, and has been adopted and expanded by Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, the Lutheran World Federation, and many more.

The Season of Creation is intended to help Christians think about our place in God’s creation and our responsibility to creation before God. You can participate in the Season of Creation in many different ways. There are many denomination specific resources available, as well as a fantastic guide on how to put together a Season of Creation celebration. Please prayerfully consider participating this year, and if you do, register your event on the Season of Creation website to support the expansion of the festival.

Dr. James Crocker is the current Blessed Tomorrow intern. He has a doctorate in Theology from the University of Oxford and previously worked on the Test of Faith project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge.


Developing Climate Virtue

Last Wednesday I threw away a paper towel tube. I could have recycled it, but recycling would have taken extra effort, so I didn’t. Recycling is a habit, and in me it is a habit half-formed.

If I had recycled that cardboard tube, it could have continued to be of use. Now, it will likely end up buried in a landfill, where anaerobic bacteria will transform it into methane, a greenhouse gas thirty times stronger than carbon dioxide.

I put short-term convenience ahead of long-term good. In my faith tradition, we confess that wrongdoing occurs ‘through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault.’  This is how I think about our environmental crisis.

It is easy to start reducing carbon emissions. We can often make significant improvements with minor changes to our habits, at little expense, and sometimes in ways that save money. This is good for our world and our wallets. After all, a kWh saved is a kWh earned. Conversely, excess carbon emissions are bad for us all, and disproportionately impact the most poor and vulnerable. But if we know how to do what is right, and it is easy to do it, why don’t we?

Medieval theologians would say that it is because we are ‘vicious’. That is, we are creatures of vice. We are prone to, and have accumulated, many bad habits. Bad habits are hard to break.

A lot of wrongdoing results from bad habits. A lot of everyday goodness happens as a result of good habits. Habits are good when they help us to flourish. Among other things, flourishing means to live content, healthy, and free. In our great philosophical and religious traditions, a good habit goes by another name — a virtue.

When we live virtuous lives, we live well. When we live vicious lives, we live badly. That is why great thinkers in the ancient world, like the Roman Senator and Christian philosopher Boethius, said that virtue is its own reward, just as vice is its own punishment.

This means it is not merely good to be virtuous, it is rational. Nevertheless, being rational does not come easy. We spend decades in education laboriously training ourselves to reason well. So too we need support to be morally rational.

Faith communities support us in developing virtue. They provide us with loving communities where we can grow and learn without being condemned. They provide us with fellow travelers who can support us through difficult times, and rejoice with us in victories large and small. They provide us with forgiveness as a weapon against despair at our own wrongdoing.

Our faith traditions can help us develop climate virtue – habits which lead to a stable climate and a healthier world for us and our children. That is why Blessed Tomorrow is partnering with faith organizations across the country, providing them with the resources they need to support their members as they strive to get in the habit of doing God’s work in a warming world.

Dr. James Crocker is the current Blessed Tomorrow intern. He has a doctorate in Theology from the University of Oxford and previously worked on the Test of Faith project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge.



Blessed Tomorrow is a program of ecoAmerica


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