Saturday, January 28, 2017

Evangelical Scientist Katherine Hayhoe: Climate Change Evangelist or Old Testament Prophet?

Can you be an evangelical Christian and believe in climate change? Katharine Hayhoe says yes—she is one, and she believes it is happening.

Hayhoe, who is originally from Toronto, is the director of the Climate Science Centre at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
There are, of course, lots of scientists who believe in climate change. But there aren’t as many who are openly and proudly evangelical—a group in the U.S. not known for being accepting of that issue.

Surveys in that country show that only 28 percent of white evangelicals say humans are responsible for climate change. That’s the lowest of all Christian groups in that country.

Why is that the case? After all, the Bible has a lot to say about how God loves and cares about creation, and evangelicals say they take the Bible seriously.

For Hayhoe, the reason is due to the way politics and religion is mixed in America.

“I see a difference between theological evangelicals and political evangelicals,” she says.

Theological evangelicals, she explains, “take the Bible seriously. They love God, and love others. But many evangelicals in the U.S. today are political evangelicals. Their main source of authority is not the Bible, but what some political parties or leaders say, or a particular political ideology. And these are the people telling them climate change isn’t real.”

A theological evangelical, on the other hand, sees that “humans are made in image of God, and that we are responsible for every living thing on the planet, we are stewards or caretakers of creation.”

For her, “objections to the science of climate change have nothing to do with being religiously evangelical. They have everything to do with being politically evangelical. They oppose it not on a religious basis but a political basis.”

Because she spends much of her time speaking to churches about climate change, Hayhoe has been given the moniker of “climate change evangelist”—something she doesn’t think really fits.

“An evangelist is someone who spreads the good news,” she says. “But I feel like an Old Testament prophet saying that you need to heed my warning . . . the clock is ticking. Every year that passes by without action means we are losing time to try to fix this problem.”

And yet, she is hopeful. “There is good news about how people are doing things to help the planet,” she says.

She is also optimistic that more evangelicals will come around and see climate change as an important issue.

“I believe that as Christians we are given a new heart by God, and with it comes a desire to love and help people and care for God’s creation,” she says.

This includes caring for others, including those affected by climate change.

“If we look on the effect of climate change on the poor and vulnerable in the developing world, all the climate change refugees, people suffering from drought, those near coastlines whose homes are being flooded as the seas rise, these are the people who our hearts should desire to help because of who we are as Christians, and as humans,” she says.

“As Christians who want to share God’s love in the world, when we see suffering how can we turn away and not help?”

And one way to do that, she states, is by caring “about a changing climate.”

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