I was asked recently if any Christian minister stood by 15 year old Greta Thunberg when she started her school strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament building on August 20, 2018.
No, I discovered, she was alone that day from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm. So, what has been the Christian response to her since, and are any Christian ministers standing by her now?
Well, we know one Christian minister who isn’t. He’s the senior pastor of the Texan megachurch First Baptist Dallas who had this to say: “Somebody needs to read poor Greta Genesis, Chapter 9, and tell her the next time she worries about global warming, just look at a rainbow. That’s God’s promise that the polar ice caps aren’t going to melt and flood the world again.”
So is that excuse enough for all Christians to not stand by Greta? Or more to the point, is it excuse enough for me to not stand by her?
I had to think about that, because if I believe what God promised in Genesis 9:11 that “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood (and) never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth,” then I shouldn’t be worried about global warming either, should I? It frees me up to get on with my life, even if what I’m doing contributes to global warming and sea levels rising. It doesn’t excuse me ignoring global warming or my contribution to it – of course not – but it does take the worry away that we’re on an irreversible course to self-destruction.
That being said, God also says I should love my neighbour, and Greta is my neighbour, and a very worried one at that. She’s young and scared, like many others her age. And not surprisingly, when she’s living in a culture that’s bombarding her with highly convincing scientific graphs and warnings that if things continue much as they are then she and billions like her are in for a miserable existence that’s making many young people wonder if they should even be contemplating having children of their own.
And that does concern me. I’d like to be able to console her, therefore, but how? What can I dig out from my Christian armoury of Scripture that on the one hand doesn’t excuse us for what we’re doing to the planet, but on the other hand doesn’t paralyze us with fear?
Well, for me, it’s slicing down to the bare bone of why I’m a Christian, as voiced by Paul in Acts 17, starting in verse 26. “From one man God made all the nations, deciding their rise and fall and determining their boundaries, his purpose being that anyone in these nations could seek him, feel their way toward him and find him, and discover he’s not far away at all. And no wonder, since it’s due entirely to him we have life, that we function, and are who we are. Your own poets said it well, that we are his offspring. Our very nature comes from him.”
So, Greta, that goes for you too. You were made by God, you share his nature, and you are who you are at this very time in history doing what you do, because this is what God created you for. And here’s hoping that in the gifts and dreams you have that you come to see you are so like God, who made you the way you are to make it easy for you to come to know him. And in knowing him you’ll realize just how much he loves you and deeply appreciates you valuing the marvellous world he created.
He also appreciates us when we realize we’ve treated his planet home abysmally and we seek his forgiveness and help to change. And change we must because he will bring all those who’ve caused and contributed to the destruction of people’s lives and the ruining of the environment to justice. No one gets away with anything (verses 30-31). And we know all this is true because the one doing the judging was resurrected from the dead (verse 31).
In other words, Greta, there really is a God who has the power to make your dream of a better world come true. So carry on what you’re doing, because what you cannot accomplish now you’ll have the chance to be part of correcting later when all nations are called to account for their actions.
So I’m all for standing beside you as a Christian minister, if only to let you know you’re loved for nothing more than being you. But it’s also to let you know that God wants this world taken care of and we Christians had better be in sync with that too.