With the rise of social media (including this blog) has come an explosion in sources of news.
In one way, this can be seen a a democratisation.
As the group that live-streamed my induction service, ‘Independence Live’ like to put it, ‘Don’t hate the media - be the media!”. Small groups can indeed bring the unexpected truth, or a welcome alternative slant on events.
Nonetheless, we’re probably still the right side of the horrific tipping point when nothing anywhere is trustworthy at all.
That said, in the semi-global environment of the English-speaking internet, there is plenty of scope for fake news, and indeed, for those sincerely looking for clarity to gain completely false impressions. Worse still, these can be picked up by - you guessed it- the media. The impression can be given that churches or faith groups are obstacles to the acceptance of the alarming scientific insights which can help nations wisely encounter the challenges of climate crisis.
Inevitably, I have encountered some folk in the churches, instinctively suspicious of what they see as an imposed narrative and timetable of climate crisis, with implications for all our lives and lifestyles. You may have a few in your own congregations.
These good friends are prime fodder for climate denial campaigns, YouTubers bloggers and vloggers, as well as those with some sort of scientific background, eager for research funding.
It is well-known and well-established that some energy industry corporations give (to you and me) huge backing to climate denial groups focussed primarily on the United States.
Thus, if climate denying friends direct you to their latest assertively and aggressively voiced YouTube clip, which is holding them back from bringing their commitment on board with your environmental programmes, do check the accent! It takes only a little jargon to blind with (non-)science.
As we are beginning to assemble material for Creation Time/Season of Creation this year, I have been looking over the lectionary readings for September 2019 ( Year C).
To the extent that there is a common thread, it is one familiar to mission-minded Christians: ‘bringing the baddies on board’ or the imperative of convincing and enlisting those whom you (or I) might see as annoyingly misled, unqualified, or in some sense ‘the wrong people’. A challenge, in other words, to our own prejudice.
But since our ministry as EcoCongregation Scotland is located here, rather than across the Atlantic, there is a different context, and indeed, there are different obstacles.
Look around, and ask around.
In the UK, there are, as far as I can see, (and I have checked) no mainstream Christian or religious groups actively involved in climate denial.
Our biggest challenges in Scotland are apathy, postponement and sidelining: where lip-service to the importance of the climate issues is formally paid, but strategies are employed to keep things on hold.
And this happens not out of malice, but rather because that is the way things are done. All of which we probably understand, and all of which, many of us (either knowingly or otherwise) condone or take part in. It might be nice to carry on this way, but the urgency of climate crisis compels many re-assessments.
Perhaps readers of ‘Lord of the Rings’ might be encouraged to recall the difficulty the Hobbits had with the Ents, here shamelessly paraphrased:
“Climate change? yes.
it affects us all.
But you must understand, young EcoHobbit
it takes a long time to say anything
in Old Churchspeak,
and we never say anything
unless it is worth taking a long time to say.
(cf The Two Towers. JRR Tolkien)
When the Ents (a sort of tree-like giant) were eventually convinced, they became formidable and committed allies. The engagement of churches, -especially when they have the confidence to act as churches - is a powerful force for good.
Don’t give up on your churches, even if they’re taking a while to wake up.
Be encouraged by the good news from other active EcoCongregations. (And come along the Gathering in Dundee, 30th March)
Be graciously impatient, And shout loudly: your good news can change minds.
PS: Another encouragement possibility.