St Peter's Church, Manchester
Compassion — Acceptance — Welcome
A reflection after the march in December 2009
This weekend I went to ‘The Wave’, a march demanding that more be done to combat climate change. The title had many meanings but perhaps the most poignant of references was the one to rising sea levels, which will see millions upon millions displaced or dead in the next hundred years.
Attendees of the march dressed in blue; a sea of protestors surrounding the houses of parliament; a building that might really be flooded if the Thames bursts its banks.
Young and old came together for this cause. It saw an elderly man wearing the slogan “Rage! Rage! Against the dying of the planet!” and small girl on her father’s shoulders leading the chant “Act for the polar bears! Act for the penguins!” The women's institutes, trade unions, churches and charities united to stand up for the planet and its inhabitants.
There was a visible Christian presence on this march. Organisations such as Cafod, Christian Aid, Tearfund and the Student Christian Movement, as well as individual churches, waved their banners high. For me this is a faith issue, and we need a Christian witness and perspective on these debates.
Some may ask “why is climate change a Christian issue?” and this seems a strange one to me, a bit like asking “why should Christians care about the world?” Because Jesus did, because he told us to, because we are a free and redeemed people who are called to share redemption, because God created this world… These are a few answers, all correct. But another is the fact that materialism, individualism and pessimism seem to be at the root of climate change, which is already directly causing poverty.
The ideas that the material is all there is, that stuff matters, that you need to look after number one because nobody else will or that we can’t change anything any way, imply that we can just consume and emit as much as we want, because what else really matters? This can all be combated by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who offers us a chance to look beyond ourselves and into glory, who saves us by dying but also by showing us how to live.
If he were here today preaching, I wonder if he would say “don’t be like the hypocrites, who recycle in public where everyone can see but don’t want to car share because it would be an inconvenience.” (Matthew 6). Maybe not, but you see what I’m getting at…
To be honest, I’m often like the hypocrite, but that highlights another thing Jesus offers those who care about climate change; repentance over guilt. Instead of feeling guilty about our carbon footprint, we can turn back to God and ask for help.
So the Christian flags flying on the march is a great sign, and I hope there’s much more to come for the church and climate change…
See you at the next protest!