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When Christians get entangled in climate idolatry

Small ice figures are seen on the stairs of Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009, as part of an art project by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). One thousand ice figures by Brasilian artist Nele Azevedo were melting within 30 minutes symbolizing the effect of global warming.
Small ice figures are seen on the stairs of Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009, as part of an art project by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). One thousand ice figures by Brasilian artist Nele Azevedo were melting within 30 minutes symbolizing the effect of global warming. | (AP Photo/Maya Hitij)

The climate school strike movement grabbed the spotlight lately, with students across the world protesting against inaction towards the “climate crisis.” The movement’s leader, Greta Thunberg, has found supporters even in the global church leadership.

However, in recent years, the church’s support for the climate movement seems to be morphing into a social justice issue that is void of sound Biblical doctrine.

Over the past year, Greta’s climate strike movement has drawn huge support from all strata of society. After Greta’s “How Dare You” speech at the UN climate summit September 23, many leaders from the global church body came forward to show their support.

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Among them were the usual and familiar voices like Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic church. Roman Catholic officials of lower rank were no different.

In April, Heiner Koch, Archbishop of Berlin, made an interesting remark regarding Greta’s climate crusade. He said Thunberg’s campaign reminded him of “Jesus’ entrance in Jerusalem” and considered Thunberg as a “true prophet.”

It is not very common for Christian leaders to compare actions of mere mortal human beings to the glorious entry of the Son of Man into Jerusalem. The story only gets more interesting with every passing day.

The Roman Catholic missionaries of Maryknoll have compared Greta to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The missionary order’s official Tweet stated, “Christians getting their knickers all in a twist over the passionate, articulate & knowledgeable witness of Greta Thunberg because of her age seem to overlook the age of the Virgin Mary at the time of the Annunciation. Young women can & have changed the world.” (Of course, ability to conceive a child and ability to understand the complexities of climate science are not precisely analogous.)

Others like Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, have actively dedicated themselves to the evangelism of the climate strike movement during their sermons and speeches. During his recent trip to India, the Archbishop made a series of claims about the state of climate change and its impact on poor countries like India.

The problem? It was full of errors, and there were no statistics provided to back up his claims. I exposed the same in a detailed article and gave evidence of why India is not in a climate crisis.

The Archbishop of Canterbury now thinks a person cannot be a follower of Christ if he or she doesn’t support the climate crisis movement. In his Tweet dated September 23, 2019, the Archbishop wrote, “In 2019, following Jesus must include standing in solidarity with our neighbors around the world who are on the front line of the #ClimateEmergency.”

And it is not just the bishops and popes who have been crusading for climate.

A section of scientists within the church body are proponents of climate crisis. One such scientist is Katherine Hayhoe, who has spoken at many churches in North America, persuading them to join the climate movement.

In June, Hayhoe alleged that some Christians are skeptics because they deny the concept of free will and human accountability for individual choices. She denoted it as the major motivating factor for Christian skeptics not to act on climate.

But she was completely wrong, as none of the evangelical climate-skeptic scientists I know endorses her type of predestination. In the church body, there are numerous highly acclaimed scientists who do not subscribe to the climate crisis movement. Some of those prominent scientists are Roy Spencer, David Legates, Neil Frank, Anthony Lupo, John Christy, Charles Clough, and Anthony Sadar.

Commenting on her gross misrepresentation of evangelical skeptics, Calvin Beisner said, “I suspect she would have a difficult time finding any evangelical skeptics of her climate alarmism who reason that way. I certainly don’t know of any. It seems it’s just her straw-man argument, a caricature that she wouldn’t be able to sustain by quotations from those she has in mind.”

People often assume that all scientists agree on the single collective hypothesis of man-made global warming and the dangers of it. But it has never been so. There are a large number of scientists who do not believe in the hypothesis that modern warming is primarily driven by humans or is dangerous.

The presence of skeptics does not guarantee the immunity of the church from falling prey to the radical nature of climate environmentalism. A lot of my Christian friends remain uninformed about the details of the climate crisis movement and the players involved in it. If anything, they were surprised when I raised critical questions about Greta’s claims about “dying people” and “stolen future.”

The church’s position hangs in the balance. Though being neutral, the church is increasingly being exposed to climate crusaders who are imploring them to join the climate fight.

With the Pope and Archbishop calling out their followers to embrace climate activism, it won’t be long before the Evangelical, Reformed, Baptist, and other denominations begin to get attracted to climate activism.

My final note to the church body: Resist idolatry and treat climate predictions with caution. Embrace empirical, evidence-based science. Don’t fall victim to the emotional appeals of school children, unelected leaders of the United Nations, and a few religious leaders who have no expertise in climate sciences and no understanding about its complexity.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Bangalore, India.

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