Recently, we have focussed on what the Bible says about poverty. There can appear to be a clash between caring for the poor and caring for the planet. All the talk about tackling global warming, about carbon footprints, greener lifestyles and the need for renewable energy might seem to take us away from focussing on justice for the world’s most vulnerable people. Yet this is a false dilemma. The fact is that it is the world’s poor who are suffering first and suffering worst in a world affected by avoidable climate change.
From 30 June-8th July 2018, we are being asked to pay special attention to issues related to climate change as part of the Climate Coalition’s Speak Up Week of Action.
Climate Change is an issue of justice, because of how it adds to the inequalities in the world and makes the poor even poorer through no fault of their own. As Christians we are called to take action at every level. Click To Tweet
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
Isaiah 58:6-10 (NRSV)
Christians who are concerned about the poor need to take action on climate change. The kind of fasting that God wants from us is not simply to give up a luxury for a few weeks in Lent each year. As Isaiah 58 reminds us, true fasting means loosing the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free and breaking the yokes that hold the poor in servitude. Climate Change is an issue of justice, because of how it adds to the inequalities in the world and makes the poor even poorer through no fault of their own. As Christians we are called to take action at every level from the political to the personal.
Politically, we should campaign for the national governments to reduce our carbon emissions. Many UK Christian organisations (A Rocha UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Church of Scotland, Eco-congregation Scotland, Green Christian, the Iona Community, the John Ray Initiative, Justice and Peace Scotland, Operation Noah, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, the Salvation Army, SCIAF, Scottish Episcopal Church and Tearfund) are part of the Climate Coalition. It campaigns for policies that will stop the climate warming by more than 2°C this century (although ideally limiting the temperature increase to 1.5°C) and will also protect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
We should also encourage our governments to help fund poorer countries in tackling the impacts of climate change – which industrialised nations have largely caused – and also to fund their emissions reductions plans.
You could do this by talking to your MP about climate change as part of the Climate Coalition’s Speak Up Week of Action.
Personally we need to look at our own lifestyles and begin to make choices that lessen our impact.
Finally, Isaiah 58.10 leaves us on an encouraging note. If we pour ourselves into working for justice, if we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then God promises that our light will rise in the darkness and our night will become like the noonday. Our relationships with the worlds poor, our relationship with the earth and its resources, and our relationship with God are all deeply connected. Righteousness is all about right relationships. How we react to the poverty in today’s world and to climate change are closely linked to our own welfare and to our relationship with God.
This reflection from the Revd Dave Bookless comes from our 2009 Creation Time material, Creation in Crisis: a time for prayer and action.