Is it too early to gauge whether Cop26 has been a success? I’ve been persuaded to abandon cynicism by a more optimistic friend who suggested that the fringe activities may have helped encourage and inspire people to care for our world. However, I’m unqualified to comment on whether, or not, the interactions of world leaders will prove effective.
Climate Change has certainly been front and centre for the last few weeks. And amongst the throng of campaigners, activists and protesters, have been churches and Christian organisations. Again, I’m persuaded, for a number of reasons, that this is positive. Perhaps it verges on ‘climate heresy’ to suggest a need for persuasion. But the church should always be wary of uncritically adopting perspectives based on popularity.
For example, while it’s vital that Christians engage with the issue of environmental degradation and climate change, we should not indulge into the wailing of the apocalyptic cult that surrounds it. Care for God’s world and its inhabitants is worship. Engaging with the concerns of our neighbours is an act of love and mission. But we must not live as those without hope.
Despite my thoughts on ‘bannergate‘, there are more pressing crises facing the world. This is where my sympathy emerges for those mildly exasperated by the present emphasis of many churches. Long before Cop26 there existed a trend for churches to express greater concern for the fashionable issue of the day, than for the core message of Jesus. It’s not that these concerns cannot coexist, but arguably some Christians appear more eloquent and confident in sharing the need for climate justice than in sharing Jesus Christ.
There is a great need to care for our environment, but the Gospel teaches that there is an even greater existential crisis at the centre of each of our lives. We are all going to die! And, in geological terms, very soon! If we have been marching, tweeting, posting or blogging about saving the earth, do we exhibit half that passion for the salvation of the lost? It’s not either or, but when I look at my own denomination, climate and other justices are often much more prominent than concern for the ultimate justice of God.
And for me, here’s the clincher. Of those who have read this far, how many are rolling their eyes and thinking that this view is terribly passé and unreconstructed. Because in reality many of us have grown a little ashamed of a simple Gospel. We are uncomfortable with its lack of sophistication and the hint of literalism about sin, death, heaven, hell and salvation.