Listen closely. You may hear a giant grunt over the internet on August 11, the formal launch date of a new network of evangelical Christians alarmed about escalating temperatures, retreating ice, spreading droughts, and rising sea levels.
Climate Caretakers – whose founding members include Houghton College, the Lausanne Creation Care Network, Micah Challenge USA, and Sojourners – characterizes itself as a “campaign aimed at mobilizing Christians to prayer and action on climate change,” according to Brian Webb, Houghton’s sustainability coordinator.
“The time for silence on climate change within the church has passed,” said Webb. “No longer a simply political or even a scientific issue, climate change is now a moral imperative that the church must respond to.”
Evangelical Christians are often portrayed as the last monolithic bastion of climate-change denial – and with some reason: polls repeatedly show that only 44 percent agree with the scientific consensus, down by 20 percent from the national average. But that’s hardly unanimity, and the wall seems to be crumbling: Only 34 percent of evangelicals believed in human-induced global warming in 2008. What’s more, evangelical leaders and intellectuals have been calling Americans to retreat from their consumerism and embrace their roles as God’s environmental stewards for some time.
History shows that the minds of evangelicals can change. There was little consensus on abortion until the early 1970’s – then came the historic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and campaigns by Francis Schaeffer and his son, Frank, along with C. Everett Koop. The tide turned and the “ordinary evangelical” is now pro-life. Indeed, many evangelicals who agree with the scientific consensus plead for consistency: How “pro-life” are we if we protect our kids in the womb but abandon them to floods, devastating storms, and famine-breeding droughts?
“The Caretaker community comprises ordinary evangelicals who have committed to aligning their values and actions by taking specific and concrete steps to reduce their environmental impact,” said Webb. Signatories can expect a monthly e-mail with a couple “action items” and “a few prayer requests.” The first challenge is for all new members to measure their carbon footprint. Climate Caretakers also plans on sending representatives to the 21st UN “Conference of the Parties” (COP 21) in Paris in order to “demonstrate Christian support” for a viable international agreement on tackling human-induced global warming.
Climate Caretakers has actually had a web site and a Facebook presence for a couple of months, but August 11 has been tapped to launch an internet blitz: “It’s the day we’re hoping to flood as much of the internet as possible,” said Webb. “Essentially, we’re going to ask all those who have signed on to blitz their friends/media to publicize the group.”
So if you hear the internet grunt like a load-bearing worker on that date, blame Climate Caretakers.