Michael Shaw, pastor of Devonport Baptist Church, writes about a commonly heard objection:
I attended the February Fridays for Future March, along with 1,000 others from Plymouth and Devon XR. As we stood outside Barclays Bank calling for a radical change in their investment policy, an older man and his wife reacted to our protest with shouts of “people just want to get on with their lives”.
Two days later Storm Dennis hit Devon, just a week after Storm Ciara had caused flooding and devastation across the UK – two storms that have brought many parts of the UK to a standstill. Listening to the radio, we know these are no longer exceptional events. These are the new normal, as the devastating impact of climate change starts to unravel. These severe weather events are going to do more to stop people getting on with their lives than any protest outside a bank will ever do.
The science of climate change is clear and it is consistent. It has been available to us for decades, but we have done nothing. Successive Governments have encouraged us to recycle, to stop using plastic bags etc, yet they seem to be doing less and less to prevent the crisis, for fear that they may stop people getting on with their lives.
Unfortunately some of the most ardent sceptics of anthropogenic climate change are found in our churches. They seem to want to change people lives spiritually but seem in denial that we need to change our ways of living. Many think that this is God’s will or that God will bail us out. A poor eschatology has led many to believe that this world will be burned up, rather than purified, by fire and that the destruction of the Earth is all part of the final plan to herald the return of Jesus. Others simply don’t believe that God will allow us to fall into destruction, despite our greed and our idolatry of the economic and political systems we have created. Maybe some need to read the Old Testament prophets before the exile, or the words of Jesus when he is asked about the Temple in the Gospels, and talks of the ransacking of the Temple in 70AD.
Sadly, too many Christians are like that man, walking through the crowds of Prophets saying ‘don’t let me have to change anything, just let me live how I want’. And yet the call of John the Baptist and Jesus to the Jews was repent, change your mind, live differently, turn away! The role of the church is to bring about change, not maintain the status quo.
The Church needs to be at the forefront of the movement for change, not lagging behind, or trying to catch up. While the church is still the voice of that older man, it will continue to be irrelevant and ignored by many people under 40. If the church wants to connect with younger people we need to change our minds, we need to get active and we need to be walking with the Prophets, rather than shouting them down.