Over 200 Evangelicals write to Congress about the religious imperatives for acting on climate change
By Sophie Yeo
A letter received by the US Congress this week expressed concerns based less on climate science revelations and more on the Book of Revelations.
Over 200 evangelical scientists and academics wrote to the government outlining their worries that inaction over climate change was incompatible with the Christian faith.
“As evangelical scientists and academics, we understand climate change is real and action is urgently needed,” they wrote. “All of God’s Creation – humans and our environment – is groaning under the weight of our uncontrolled use of fossil fuels, bringing on a warming planet, melting ice, and rising seas.
“The negative consequences and burdens of a changing climate will fall disproportionately on those whom Jesus called “the least of these”: the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed.
“Our nation has entrusted you with political power; we plead with you to lead on this issue and enact policies this year that will protect our climate and help us all to be better stewards of Creation.”
This call to action may be surprising, since Evangelical Christians in the US largely vote for the climate sceptic Republican Party. In the 2012 election, 78% of Evangelicals cast their vote for the Republican leader Mitt Romney.
David Harnett is a biology professor at Kansas State University who signed the letter to Congress. For him, the empirical basis of the climate science takes the issue beyond politics but corresponds closely to his religious beliefs.
He says, “I find it very frustrating that the issues tend to be policitised. My argument is that whether CO2 is contributing to climate change depends on scientific proof and evidence; it is not something that can be based on public opinion.
“My convictions as a Christian scientist lead me to pay close attention and put emphasis on issues like global climate change because from the big perspective of Christian faith and the perspective of orthodox biblical teachings, this falls under the entire Christian mandate of stewardship, which means caring for what’s been given to us.
“I really belief that concept extends to natural resources and the natural environment. It has also become a very controversial issue, and I think far too many Christians don’t see that connection at all.”
This is not the first time that Evangelicals have taken arms against climate change. In 2006, a group of 86 Evangelical leaders challenged the Bush administration on their environmental policies with a document entitled “An Evangelical Call to Action”. Like the letter, it emphasises that climate change requires an ethical response, since it is an issue that will impact the poor most of all.
Al Gore, a Baptist, got even more specific in his biblical references in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture, when he compared the Fourth Assessement Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to a passage from Deuteronomy, which presents a choice between life and death.
Harnett says that, although the majority of Evangelicals vote Republican, for many the issues are not clean cut.
“I think you will find that even among Republican Evangelicals there are many who do not simply accept all the components of the Republican platform,” he said.
“They may agree with the Republican platform on ethic or moral issues but at the same time they disagree with the Republican Party on economic or environmental issues.
“I think part of the problem is a lot of the Evangelicals that are Republican hold a position based on the politics rather than the doctrine.”