The Prophets of Climate Change Warn Us Of Our Potential Doom

The Prophets of Climate Change Warn Us Of Our Potential Doom August 16, 2019

No Artist Listed: World All Earth Globe Space Environment Planet / MaxPixel

Scripture is full stories with prophetic warnings about potential futures. Whether we take them as literal history, or as some theological myth, or a mixture of the two, we should learn the lessons being implied by them and consider the ramifications of them in our lives today. What is important is to realize that these warnings are given for a reason: to help motivate people to change before it is too late. Sometimes, like Jonah with Nineveh, the threats are heeded, society is reformed, and the terrible destruction which was threatened is averted. Other times, as with Noah, the warnings are ignored if not ridiculed, leading to ruination.

Today, we can consider those warning us of the dangers of climate change as a similar kind of prophet as that of Jonah and Noah. They tell us, in no uncertain terms, the potential danger which lies before us. It is not as if they are the first to do so. Even in Scripture, we can find similar warnings. The words of Isaiah could easily come, not from the distant past, but from the present:

The earth mourns and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth.  The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left.  (Isa. 24:4-6 RSV).

Humanity seems to never learn.

Unchecked selfishness and greed, especially by those who have money, power, or political authority, creates its own destruction. When the leaders of the world, in whatever shape or form their authority is to be found, ignores the common good, and so ignores the needs of the people they should be helping, it should not be surprising that the imbalance which is established will end up creating devastation throughout the world. Prophets tend to tap into this: they intuitively understand the ramifications of great social evil. Their warnings must be read not as indicating what must come to pass, but what will come to pass unless great reform is undertaken to prevent mass carnage in the future.

The warnings which we have concerning the future of the planet earth as a result of climate change are “apocalyptic” in scope. For centuries, humanity has ignored the consequences of their actions. They have tried to take over and dominate the world, but they have not understood how the world itself works as a whole. Now, we have before us, the effects of all our so-called development. If we had been more careful with our actions, being concerned with the potential ill-effects of them as we did them, so as to limit or prevent such ill effects from happening, we would not be facing the vast changes in the climate which will greatly impact world of the future. Scientific research now reveals what we have done to the earth, and the implications of our actions for our future. If we do not do something, the warnings will become reality. From extreme heat, to the melting of glaciers in the Antarctic, to the destruction of  islands and other land around the world,  humanity must not only prepare for the worst case scenario. Food will be limited;, creating the conditions for great and terrible global wars of survival.

We still have time to come together and prevent such a future from coming to pass. If we do not, we risk the end of civilization, if not humanity as a whole.  We are, as Pope Francis has indicated, facing a climate emergency. What we do now will indicate whether or not we survive, let alone if we are worthy of survival. There is still time for sustainable development, but if we do not engage it now, it will become harder, if not impossible, to fix the ill-effects of climate change in the future.

Species of wildlife are vanishing. The waters of the earth are becoming polluted. The air is becoming more difficult to breathe. The whole ecological balance has been lost. Some people, like President Trump, do not seem to care. Instead of strengthening protections for endangered species, Trump and his administration seem to seek to eliminate whatever regulations so that they can loot the remaining resources of the earth for their immediate pleasure.  Corporations rejoice as they make more money as regulations, like the Clean Water Act, are overturned. To make this some palatable to society, the Trump administration seeks to silence scientists, hoping that through such ignorance, they can sustain their policies for the rest of their short lives, letting the future deal with the ramifications when they are dead.

Not everyone who supports such deadly policies dispute what is going on. Some nihilistically look forward to the destruction of the earth. Some of them might even consider themselves to be Christian. They want to bring about the end of the world. They think they can force God’s hand, to speed up their entry into the kingdom of God. What they do not realize is that such an attitude is condemned by God, and will receive its due reward (that is, its just punishment). Those who put an end to the destroyers of the earth, the saints of God, likewise will receive their own reward, their own special blessing from God:

And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast, that thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign.  The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear thy name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”  (Rev. 11:16-18 RSV).

Christians are called to protect the earth, indeed, to share in Christ’s work to save it. If they ignore their duty to it and support instead the injustices of the rich and powerful, they will join in with the punishments of the rich and powerful.  They will sow the seeds of their own destruction. Because they desire to be like the rich and powerful themselves, they will share in the condemnation of the rich and powerful.  “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9 RSV).

Environmental justice must be a part of the Christian response to what is happening to the world. Julianus Pomerius explained that there are two types of injustice, one which is directly established and willed, and the other which happens when some injustice which could be prevented is not:

There are two kinds of injustice: one, whereby we inflict injuries; the other, whereby we neglect to avert those inflicted on others when we can. For in a certain sense we ourselves are oppressors when we scorn the downtrodden though we are able to defend them from oppression. Nor does it avail me anything that I do not circumvent or deceive a man if I permit him to be deceived or circumvented. [1]

If some Christian says they are not doing anything to the earth themselves, but also, they don’t think the governments of the world should come together to help save the earth, and they work against any and all environmental solutions coming from the government, they are workers of iniquity and will be condemned along with those who actively destroy the earth. It is a serious issue, because, as scientists tell us, as the Pope tells us, the future is not yet determined. When we consider the consequences of our actions, then we can understand how and why what we do can impact the world around us. We still have time to change things. We still have time engage environmental justice, and in doing so, not only halt climate change, but heal the damage which we have done to the earth. We must put an end to the destroyers of the earth, not by following their path of destruction and annihilating them, but by converting them, making them stop their own destructive ways. We must make them realize that we are in this together.

We are at a tipping point in history. We have prophets speaking loud and clear about the dangers which lie before us. What is humanity going to do? Will it take in the warning and follow through with reform, or will it laugh it off, and perish in their own merriment? Only time will tell.

[1] Julianus Pomerius, The Contemplative Life. Trans. Mary Josephine Suelzer, PhD (Westminster, MD: The Newman Bookshop, 1947), 149-50.


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