Pope Francis makes the case for tackling climate change; Evangelicals do too

In keeping with Catholic teachings that God’s children are the stewards of God’s creation, Pope Francis made the religious case for tackling climate change this week. Think Progress reports, Pope Francis Makes Biblical Case For Addressing Climate Change: ‘If We Destroy Creation, Creation Will Destroy Us’:

popePope Francis made the religious case for tackling climate change on Wednesday, calling on his fellow Christians to become “Custodians of Creation” and issuing a dire warning about the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change.

Speaking to a massive crowd in Rome, the first Argentinian pope delivered a short address in which he argued that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value, noting that failure to care for the planet risks apocalyptic consequences.

“Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

The pope centered his environmentalist theology around the biblical creation story in the book of Genesis, where God is said to have created the world, declared it “good,” and charged humanity with its care. Francis also made reference to his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a famous lover of animals, and appeared to tie the ongoing environmental crisis to economic concerns — namely, instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor.

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said.

Francis also said that humanity’s destruction of the planet is a sinful act, likening it to self-idolatry.

“But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: ‘I don’t like it! This is not good!’ ‘So what do you like?’ ‘I like myself!’ – Here, this is sin! Do you see?”

The pope’s comments come on the heels of a five-day summit on sustainability convened at the Vatican earlier this month. The summit, entitled “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature, Our Responsibility,” drew together microbiologists, legal scholars, economists, philosophers, astronomers, and other experts to discuss ways for the Catholic church to address a range issues caused by climate change. In a joint statement published after the close of the conference, participants echoed Francis’ belief that environmental justice and economic justice are inextricably linked.

“Human action which is not respectful of nature becomes a boomerang for human beings that creates inequality and extends what Pope Francis has termed ‘the globalization of indifference’ and the ‘economy of exclusion’ (Evangelii Gaudium), which themselves endanger solidarity with present and future generations,” the statement read.

The pontiff’s catechesis and the Vatican’s summit appear to be part of a renewed effort by the Catholic church to draw attention to environmental issues. Keeping with a long history of Catholic environmentalism (including several pro-environmentalist sermons delivered by Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor), Francis addressed climate change in his inaugural mass as pope, and is rumored to be working on a formal encyclical on the environment.

And it’s not just the Pope in Rome. American Evangelicals say that climate change is a pro-life issue for them. Evangelical Group: Climate Change Is A ‘Pro-Life’ Issue:

mitigate and adapt to climate change, hoping that their message will resonate with Scott’s staunch Christian values.

Rev. Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), is leading the group’s campaign for Scott to recognize climate change as a major threat in Florida. EEN is collecting signatures for a petition asking Gov. Scott to create a plan for climate change, one which so far has garnered about 12,000 signatures. Hescox told ThinkProgress that EEN chose to focus on Florida because of its vulnerability to climate change — Floridians, especially in the Southeast region of the state, are already struggling to adapt to rising seas that lead to sunny-day flooding and stronger storm surges.

 

“We wanted to help the evangelical church understand in Florida that climate change is not a liberal issue or any issue other than a people issue,” he said.

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Hescox said “We’re hoping that with his values and his understanding of scripture, that helping him to understand climate change in a way that uses the values that he and I probably share — more conservative, pro-life values — will help him understand climate change is a real and very big threat to Florida.”

That way of looking at environmental issues in a Biblical lens is one that’s central to the EEN’s work. The group emphasizes creation care, the idea that humans have a duty to take care of the Earth, because the Earth and its creatures are the creation of God and to love God’s creation is to love God. The group also notes that the poor are often those who are affected most by pollution, and many Christians believe they have a duty to help the poor.

“The first real handbook of sustainability is the Biblical book of Leviticus. It talks about crop rotation, about how to care about animals,” Hescox said. “That’s why it’s a matter of life for us — everything we do, as human beings, to mess up God’s creation impacts human life.”

Hescox pointed to the suffering climate change has caused around the world as reason why climate change is something Christians should care about. Air pollution is linked to asthma, kidney disease and heart problems, and climate change is expected to cause a rise in vectorborne illnesses like malaria and West Nile. These are some of the most compelling reasons to act on climate change, Hescox said.

“For us, it’s a pro-life issue,” he said. “We are pro-life from conception to natural death, and we believe anything that affects the quality of life is something that’s a pro-life value.”

Hescox said he plans to deliver the petition to Gov. Scott in the coming weeks, and he’s also participating a panel at a church in Florida on Tuesday on why Christians should care about climate change. He’s done these types of panels in other states before, he said, and thinks churchgoers have been very receptive to his ideas. He’s hoping Gov. Scott will be, too.

Not the typical message you hear from the energy company ads on the tee-vee machine, and from the conservative media entertainment complex, now is it?

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