America’s Christian conservatives are pretty well known at this point for being anti-climate science and environmental action. As Bernard Daley Zaleha and Andrew Szasz write in Why Conservative Christians Don’t Believe in Climate Change, studies show that:
[T]he higher the level of religious commitment (as measured by self-reports of religion’s personal importance, frequency of religious service attendance, and frequency of prayer), the lower the level of environmental concern. Another recent study showed, similarly, that American Christians, collectively, when considered without regard for denomination, have less environmental concern than do Americans of other faiths or those who say they are not affiliated with any institutional forms of religion.
Now I’m far from a religious expert, but it seems to me that the Bible — specifically the story of Noah — features a Judeo-Christian God with a history of using extreme weather (i.e. climate change) to further his purposes. Check out this translation of the story of Noah:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.
It’s easy to see the parallel with this story to today’s struggle with climate change. The climate crisis is caused by emissions of greenhouse gases from burning carbon fuels to power our economy. While a strong economy is a necessity and can be force for moral goodness, it’s also based on greed in a way that the God of the Bible might easily condemn as “wickedness.” Pope Francis has certainly drawn similar conclusions.
At the very least, continuing on this current path without heed for the consequences certainly sounds stupid, in a “times of Noah” kind of way. So wouldn’t this story be an eye-opener (or at least a conversation-starter) for Christian conservatives to think about climate science?
Jesse Jackson took this approach in a recent column imploring for more climate preparedness:
In Genesis, the Bible teaches that God came to Noah and warned him about the coming floods. He told Noah to build an ark — sophisticated infrastructure — to ensure that man and selected animals and birds could survive. There was no nonsense about each being on his or her own. Strong swimmers went down with the weak. Rich mansions on the hill were flooded with the poor huts in the valley. It took infrastructure, planning and preparedness to survive the flood.
I know there are researchers and advocates trying to reach this community and get them involved with climate solutions. But given the plain text of their religious document, I’m surprised it’s such an uphill battle.