On Friday, September 20, people from all backgrounds, traditions, and corners of the world will join together for the largest climate demonstration in human history. Climate change is an unprecedented crisis, and it requires an unprecedented response. Christians must play a critical role in the movement, providing the moral leadership to call for bold action in addressing the climate crisis.
As members of the Steering Committee for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (Y.E.C.A.), we strive to help our generation do just that. We organize young Christians across the country to lead their churches, colleges, and communities in climate activism and education. Next week, Y.E.C.A. activists will lead a dozen events on their college campuses across the country, from Philadelphia to rural Tennessee to urban California.
They won’t be alone. Energized by 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, millions of students around the world have been leading walkouts and protests every Friday for over a year. On September 20, for the first time, youth activists are calling for adults to join them in their climate strike. This action is an opportunity to show the world a united front, demanding that we address the climate crisis at the scale and scope it requires.
As Christians, we believe that responding to climate change is a moral imperative. Genesis is clear that we have been entrusted by God with the keeping of all His creatures and the earth itself (Gen. 1:26). Yet we have too often confused dominion for destruction when the biblical concept of dominion is, in fact, a responsibility for the well-being of all creation. When we pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases or rely on oil that leaks and destroys life in the Gulf of Mexico, we are not being responsible stewards of God’s earth.
Christians are also called to climate action on behalf of caring for other people. Jesus is clear: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 22.35-40). Today, entire island nations like Kiribati are disappearing beneath rising seas. Hurricanes regularly upend life in places like Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and the coastal United States. Asthma rates linked to the burning of fossil fuels keep rising in communities of color. Global patterns of disparity compound this; communities in the Global South are on the frontlines of climate change, being hit first and worst, even while they have done the least to cause it. How can we love our neighbors—a command central to our faith, according to Jesus (Matt. 22:34-40)—if we know that climate change is intensifying all of these patterns and we refuse to respond?
September 20 is an opportunity to respond. To respond to our neighbors around the world who tell us that their ability to thrive is being undermined. To respond to God’s world as it cries out, longing for redemption. To respond not only with our words but with our bodies and our lives.
September 20 will mark the beginning of a movement that will emphasize the importance of climate action throughout the 2020 campaign and beyond. As Christians, we refuse to watch from the sidelines. In order to stand with the poor, oppressed, and lowly as Christ teaches (Luke 1:52, 4:18), we must take action. Friday’s climate strikes provide an opportunity to act on our biblical values and join an international network demanding climate justice for all—to care for God’s creation and for God’s people. As Greta says, “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
On Friday, we respond by taking to the streets. Will you join us?