Evangelizing climate science
December 29, 2017 10:33 AM   Subscribe

 
Too many people still want to stick their head in the sand, and it's far too late for that.

Oh, I don't know; there's going to be a lot of sand.
posted by chavenet at 10:40 AM on December 29, 2017 [9 favorites]


I've had some surprisingly successful conversations with believers who are in the camp of 'climate change is real, but not man made, and very possibly God's doing.' The track I take is just to ignore the manmade part and focus on 'This is happening, and it's your job as a christ follower to do something about it, not stand by and let it wash over you.' A couple choice (also, easy to understand) pull quotes from their scriptures helps. I have family members who put far more weight on the New Testament than the old, so this is a nice one to have memorized-ish. It's always a shock when a heathen can quote their scriptures to them:

Revelation 11:18 “The nations raged, but your (God's) wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

You fight climate change and help take care of the world, you're in good with the big man. It takes the responsibility off of them and their actions and their beliefs as 'the problem' by showing them a compatible track to take. "This thing is real, and even if it's not your fault, you need to be a champion against it" is a rather palatable dynamic for certain evangelicals.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:03 AM on December 29, 2017 [38 favorites]


Someone like me would face an uphill climb communicating to that group, but she's a part of that group. All of us humans are tribal, and we tend to listen better to those in our tribe, who share our values. For this reason at the very least, she has far more leverage that I or many others ever will.

This. So much this.

I hope this isn't too much of a derail. But I've thought about this very thing over the course of 2017. It's one reason I've pulled away from satirical political shows on the left that just ridicule and make fun of the right. It's divisive, it's mean-spirited, and it only further entrenches people in their beliefs.

You have to make it personal and you have to be patient because this kind of changing of the minds is slow. What I mean about making it personal is that you have to leverage your relationship and say, "Hey, this stuff impacts me in a particular way and it impacts you and your kids and our social circle." This makes it real and less abstract than some talking head on television screaming about something.

I've had a few good conversations with people who harbour views I'm not a fan of and we've found some middle ground and they've admitted that they're thinking more about people and groups they wouldn't normally have given consideration to because of our conversations. It's not easy. I'll stop there, sorry if I rambled on.
posted by Fizz at 11:46 AM on December 29, 2017 [27 favorites]


Reading this, I remembered in the back of my head that Rick Joyner had mentioned he was in a documentary about climate change and in googling found this.

I will say I have heard him talk online about Christians needing to take better care of the environment but I also agree it is the politics that drives the divide on this topic, not the Christianity.

(And since I am unaffiliated with either party I guess I have some reading to do.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:50 AM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


One other thing-bad theology is absolutely behind a lot of Christians not taking environmental issues seriously. What you believe about end times has an effect on everything you do as a Christian. I wish every Left Behind book in existence would disappear in one big poof.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:52 AM on December 29, 2017 [18 favorites]


These people want the world to end, they are looking forward to it. I don't think that engaging them in a meangingful way is possible.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 AM on December 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


Oh, I don't know; there's going to be a lot of sand.

I got bad news for you.
posted by peeedro at 11:54 AM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


These people want the world to end, they are looking forward to it. I don't think that engaging them in a meangingful way is possible.

so rather like EVERYBODY on the Left wanting the whole world to become sodomites or whatever?

By my reckoning, it's a very narrow subset of Evangelicals that are fully invested in the apocalypse/rapture fantasy. And the best thing to do is isolate them in their diseased malevolence, which is best accomplished by appealing to precisely the kind of people who are responding to this kind of stuff.
posted by philip-random at 11:58 AM on December 29, 2017 [13 favorites]


These people want the world to end, they are looking forward to it. I don't think that engaging them in a meangingful way is possible.

Some of them do. Some of them don't. Even if you narrow your criteria down to 'evangelicals' that's a pretty wide swath, and generalizing too broadly about them or any other singular group isn't necessarily helpful. Muslims aren't all radicalized extremists. I know a bunch of asshole athiests. Complex things are complex.

If you approach people with respect, and knowledge of their beliefs and traditions (even if you vehemently disagree with the worst parts of them) you can get traction with people. Finding common ground and how to communicate that common ground is really important. There are always things that religious and nonreligious people will disagree on, but it's possible to work within their frameworks to get to common ground most of the time.

I agree with your point that engaging with extremists is nigh impossible, but I would venture that most self identifying evangelicals aren't extremists.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:05 PM on December 29, 2017 [14 favorites]



Oh, I don't know; there's going to be a lot of sand.

I got bad news for you.


Arabian sand may not be good for any other human purpose, but it's perfectly good for sticking your head in.
posted by ocschwar at 12:26 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I agree with your point that engaging with extremists is nigh impossible, but I would venture that most self identifying evangelicals aren't extremists.

I don't, for example, think my mother actually has a high commitment to extremist viewpoints on this sort of thing. But here's the problem: What my mother does have is an inordinate amount of respect for what her pastor and the people on her Christian radio stations and Christian Youtube channels and so on say about a given issue. And a lot of those people are much more committed to those viewpoints than my mother is, and as long as that remains the case, she has chosen to believe those people over maintaining a decent relationship with her own lesbian sister long since I was a kid--how does one go about talking her into going against those perceived authority figures on this when it heavily implies that they're wrong about so much else?
posted by Sequence at 12:31 PM on December 29, 2017 [8 favorites]


I would venture that most self identifying evangelicals aren't extremists.

I used to think that too. Find some and talk to them and ask them if they think the world can be saved or if it's all downhill to Hell from here. It's kind of scary but they seem resigned to it being the end. I blame too many zombie shows and a lack of ability to see that the decline of their own culture does not mean the decline of all cultures.

I think that if a religion does come to the forefront of environmentalism it will not be Protestant Christianity with it's hatred of disorder and fear of the dark and the forest. The environmental movements gaining ground in India and China (and a lot of Asia) and some of the recent Papal environmental decrees seem far more likely to me to tap into human kinds desire to live in harmony with the planet. If you can get hold of translations there are some really interesting and old spiritual arguments for respect and responsibility there.
posted by fshgrl at 12:35 PM on December 29, 2017 [8 favorites]


Sequence; That's a way more nuanced and legitimate question/take than "Bah! Evangelicals want the world to end so there is no reasoning with them!"

I mean, I was raised in a damagingly conservative religious environment, and have gone through (oh shit, years and a billion dollars of) therapy. Even I can see that there's multiple levels of evangelicalism, let alone christianity. But I've had successful conversations with religious people (that know full well that my conversion is off the table) about climate change....not a ton mind you, but they happen.

Engagement on that level has to come from within, and that's much of what the article is talking about; individuals from within the sects (or sect-adjacent) have to do that heavy lifting. Which is frustrating, because it doesn't seem like traction is happening fast enough. Offering up theologically in-line sources that support the idea that Christianity and climate change aren't incompatible is a pretty great way to start. I would start forwarding her to some of the less-than-left articles on Patheos, or the actual youtube series linked in the article. Even if she disagrees with them, having voices from her own sect can make more of an impact than those voices from outside the sect. There's already a built in combative stance there, and if you can help bypass that by softly showing that there are "people that are 'saved' so no worries there, but hey check out this about climate change" that can reach some people.

Those voices are certainly the minority in modern evangelicalism, but they do exist. We can help turn up the volume on those.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


I blame too many zombie shows
And that's where I realize that the rise of zombies to the top of the Pantheon of Fictional Monsters has occurred almost simultaneously to the rise of Evangelical End-Timing. "The Walking Dead"as a 21st century Chick Tract. It makes a lot more sense now...
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:53 PM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Offering up theologically in-line sources that support the idea that Christianity and climate change aren't incompatible is a pretty great way to start.

The FPP isn't about "Christianity". It's about evangelicals, a relatively small sect in most of the world although big in be US. Who absolutely do expect the Rapture to come. It's a major tenet of their faith.

In other words: your religious communities beliefs are not universal or even typical. I've never encountered another religion that celebrated apocalypse like American evangelicals
posted by fshgrl at 2:41 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


Another Evangelical who believes in Climate Change is Paul Douglas from Minnesota. When I was a kid he was the nerdy weatherman on Channel 11, but he's also a meteorological entrepreneur, believer in the science of climate change, a Republican, and an Evangelical Christian. Here's a Q&A article regarding his rather unique combination of beliefs:

Paul Douglas: Evangelical Christian Republican Poster Boy for Climate Change

Also, he wrote a book called "Caring for Creation: The Evangelical's Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment". He's still doing the weather in town, but also does a lot of public speaking and writing, encouraging his fellow Republicans and Evangelicals to come to the table and be openminded about climate change.

Full Disclosure: I had a huge crush on Paul Douglas when I was a kid, but beyond that I think that he's a stand-up fellow who is kind of pushing against the mold here. He's a trusted voice in my part of the country (I mean, if Paul Douglas says there's a tornado coming, there's a tornado coming, get inside) and I'm glad he's using it to try and bring science and reason to a population that tends to dig in their heels and deny science as something that is the opposite of religion.
posted by Elly Vortex at 3:17 PM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


My usual argument with those who say the Bible shows how the end times will play out is that there's nothing about how soon that end will be nor how much misery we'll be subject to in the interim.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:15 PM on December 29, 2017


(I have book recommendations-for eschatology that is-if you have a loved one who thinks we can let everything go to hell because Armageddon.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:06 PM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


St. Alia, I think this thread is a good place for those book recommendations.
posted by amtho at 6:01 PM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


how much misery we'll be subject to in the interim.

This may not be a very effective line of reasoning. If you tell them there will be suffering, they'll tell you they already know. There are a whoooole lot of evangelicals who believe in (roughly) the "Left Behind" stylized apocalypse, but reject the Rapture component. They fully expect to be part of whatever misery occurs during the eschaton, and often believe they'll be doing the majority of the suffering, actually, because they anticipate their own persecution and martyrdom as a consequence of their faithfulness. And anyway, suffering is the Lord's refining fire. In my younger, Christian days I attended a congregation with these beliefs. I still know lots of folks who believe this, they attend pretty mainline, non-denom churches. I don't mean to be super negative or implicate all Christians, but in my experience, fshgrl has it. There is a major hard-on for Armageddon running through evangelical spheres.
posted by Ornate Rocksnail at 6:35 PM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


My dad is, well, not strictly evangelical, but he's very religious and shares most of the same (often odious) beliefs. It's not so much that he WANTS the world to end, but he believes that Jesus is coming back, like tomorrow, to take all the true believers up to heaven, so he doesn't really care about what happens to the environment. I haven't really figured out how to deal with that one yet...
posted by Weeping_angel at 6:56 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


I also agree it is the politics that drives the divide on this topic, not the Christianity.

My question is similar, about how much the actual religion is driving the tribal identity as opposed to social/political association. I read an article recently that I can't find the keywords to find again that discussed true believer Evangelicalism vs. social Evangelicalism. One is about having a deep conversion experience and being deeply religious, and the other is about how in surveys of self-described Evangelicals show that more people are participating in church and religious activities and related mindsets not because of a deep belief system but because of the community they find/were raised in/basic tribal stuff. So even within this block of people, the true believers are in the minority and others are going along with what they're being taught by the community. And not necessarily by the pastors, but by the community at large.
posted by hippybear at 8:20 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


The FPP isn't about "Christianity". It's about evangelicals, a relatively small sect in most of the world although big in be US. Who absolutely do expect the Rapture to come. It's a major tenet of their faith.


As an evangelical, let me assure you, not all of us believe in the rapture. Even among those who do, very few view it as a major tenet of their faith. The concept was invented by John Darby in the 1830s. Although Anglo-Irish, by quirk of his influence on the Scofield reference Bible, his views-such as the rapture and dispensationalism-punch way above their weight in some US evangelical circles.
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:36 PM on December 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


And if you watch the video in the linked article, it gives a good scripture-based rebuttal to the rapture-sitters. The scripture says they are not to “sit on their hands” and wait for the rapture - but work and care for others until then. Caring for others, one assumes, includes everyone affected by climate change.
posted by greermahoney at 8:54 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


Honestly, the Beatles put it most simply with All You Need Is Love. The problem is getting people to extend their personal definition of Love wide enough. I'm basically a hippie at heart, and that was the basic premise, as far as I can figure out. Just Love, and Love widely and Love mightily and Love in every way possible, and it will all be achieved. Weave that web together across mankind, and it becomes reality.
posted by hippybear at 8:58 PM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


The scripture says they are not to “sit on their hands” and wait for the rapture - but work and care for others until then.

I rest my case. It's still a death cult, just some people are trying to win brownie points until we all die in a fire. I don't think it's possible to see how pervasive it is in the US culture unless you're not from here. Most people in the world do not think we will all die in a pre-ordained fire here pretty soon, or that they are just marking time till then. Most of us think that the human race can transcend it's origins.
posted by fshgrl at 9:30 PM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


Sigh. I spent Christmas dinner biting my tongue as my father-in-law and brother-in-law talked about wind turbines being useless and how wouldn't it be great to have a lovely big coal fire power plant, because they are so much cleaner.

Divorcing faith from politics would be lovely- we share a faith, but man, the politics...
posted by freethefeet at 9:38 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Victorious Eschatology by Harold R. Eberle is good. Also Jonathan Welton has written a lot on the topic but I have read The Art of Revelation and liked it. The belief system itself is called partial preterism.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:25 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Belief systems gather in groups. I blame Jerry Falwell back in the day for creating the Moral Majority. Politics has gotten entwined with evangelicalism in what I see as an unholy way.

Some of us are starting to wake up but herd mentality really is a thing.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:01 AM on December 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


This is maybe getting a little off-topic, but I found this thought interesting:

> I think that if a religion does come to the forefront of environmentalism it will not be Protestant Christianity with its hatred of disorder and fear of the dark and the forest.

Having been raised in a pretty conservative American Evangelical denomination and since rejected it fully, the idea that these Christian groups have an ingrained "hatred of disorder and fear of [nature]" resonates with me to some extent. But at the same time, I'm not entirely convinced, because it seems like the sort of idea that might be rooted in our ideas about the relationship between 17th century New England Puritans and the forest. Puritanism is absolutely not the historical antecedent of American Evangelical Christianity.

In fact, the Congregationalist churches of the Northeast that the Puritans founded are one antecedent of the modern-day Unitarian Universalist Church, a radically inclusive organization that is pretty much entirely doctrine-free.

My understanding of the history of the American Evangelical movement is that while the denominations that comprise it have been around since the colonial period, it didn't really begin to cohere into the set of ideologies we're familiar with now until the Second Great Awakening in the 19th century. This would be many years after the end of the association of the "dark and the forest" with the American frontier, since the frontier had moved pretty far westward by that point.

And while conservative American Protestants have been politically active for a long time (e.g., the Southern Baptist Convention has racist and pro-slavery roots, arising from a schism between Black and white Baptists during Reconstruction) the modern "culture warrior" agenda that we're familiar with doesn't seem to date back much farther than Jerry Falwell and his cohort in the 1970s and 1980s.

I'm not totally rejecting the idea that American Protestantism has inherited a deeply-felt fear of nature, but I'm feeling a bit skeptical about the generalization. I mean, they certainly love to make (deeply misguided) appeals to "nature" in justification of their anti-LGBT agenda, for instance.
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 9:55 AM on December 30, 2017


God's natural order is what they're referring to and its the exact opposite of nature and the wild. These are people who are so uncomfortable with anything other than paternal authoritarian regimes they would rather pretend dinosaurs were in the bible than accept natural selection is a thing. Because uncontrolled change is something they can't accept.

I mean most religions are basically there to make people feel better about things they can't understand. But when you can understand stuff and reject that for make believe anyway because you like the fantasy better and think it could happen if you believe hard enough, well... you deserve what happens to you at that point I guess. Top bad it's happening to us all.
posted by fshgrl at 1:49 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]


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