There this joke and it goes like this — A flood was coming and a man of faith trusting in God sits on his porch believing that God will deliver him. Just as the water is beginning to swirl around his ankles, a woman in a canoe passes by and offers the man a seat in her boat. The man calmly tells her that God will deliver him and he needs no help. An hour goes by and the man is up to his waist in water when a helicopter comes by and drops a rope for him to grab, but the man again replies that God will deliver him.
The man has now moved his rocking chair up to the roof and an overfilled rescue boat calls to have him join them. He refuses once again insisting that he trusts in God and needs no assistance.
An hour later, the man steps before God and he asks, “God, why did you not deliver me and prove to those people how powerful you are?” and God said, “I tried to help you out, but you denied all three of the people I sent to save you!”
White Evangelism is that man right now. It seems to be incredibly convinced that a divine act of God will fix climate change if it even thinks climate change is happening in the first place.
Which is ironic really, because the God that would come down and magic up a solution or condemn science is seemingly nowhere to be found in the bible.
God and environmental belief
Only about 6% of the population cites religion as the thing that most influences their beliefs about climate change. Yet, the least likely group to believe that climate change is caused by human activity and should thus be reversed by human activity are white evangelicals — by a lot.
Only 28% of this group believes that humans have anything to do with the environment — the nearest following group is Protestants at 40%.
Sweeping in to confuse everyone, however, is Hispanic Catholics. Nearly 77% of them think climate change is an issue — 7% higher than Hispanics in general, and 13% higher than religiously unaffiliated individuals.
Clearly, the God we follow — technically the same for all three religious groups mentioned above — doesn’t dictate our beliefs in climate change, or whether we should care.
And yet, the environment in which White Evangelicals have surrounded themselves has somehow created a bubble in which climate change isn’t an issue because… God says so?
God and science
I grew up in the church. “The church” being Black Baptist, mixed non-denominational, White Evangelical, and Hispanic Evangelical. My mom’s parents were protestant, and my dads were Baptist.
In some of those places and certainly in what was — and is — portrayed of mainstream Christianity, science had become the enemy. It was the thief stealing good Christian followers in the night and convincing them that something came from nothing and that investigation outside of the Bible is worthwhile.
Oddly, God doesn’t seem convinced of anything of the sort. God was even the base from which science was built. If there was an omnipotent God who created the universe, he must have built it using rules, as a result, the universe is predictable and discoverable — Galileo, Newton, etc were all God-fearing (not church fearing) individuals who believed this.
Somehow, as soon as science gave a narrative that the church's interpretation of the bible didn’t anticipate the two worlds split and have become bitter enemies ever since. Not because the God that used to believe in science doesn’t anymore, but because the Church didn’t think that science fit their narrative anymore.
God and… Fix-it Felix?
In White evangelical churches, our lives are left up to the whims of the creator. His love for us is unconditional, and we just have to trust him as he takes us through our trials.
Those trials are meant to test us and to teach us.
In the Hispanic church I went to — God loved us unconditionally, but if you prayed well, spoke in tongues, and behaved, he would show that love to you on this earth.
Both beliefs have their own issues and cause their own problems. But the first is a belief of helplessness and the idea that whatever we do it doesn’t ultimately matter because God will do what he likes. The second, however, is incredibly human-driven. The second belief gives us power over God’s favor and thus over our lives.
In the white church, we have lost our autonomy. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich) says “I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”
Essentially we’re dead in the water because God has his own plans — how could we help.
Explain this, please?
There are difficulties with behavior-based faith, but the whole “God will fix it” idea doesn’t seem to follow from the bible — a book that evangelists believe is divinely inspired and essentially unquestionable.
In fact, God seems more likely to create problems alone than he is to solve them alone. The flood was God’s decision and he used Noah to build an ark and keep all sorts of species from dying out. Think about all the times the Israelites were defeated in war — what brought them back? Not a divine act of God, but more often than not a war fought by people or careful action based on the advice of prophets.
Nineveh? Fixed using Jonah. The near massacre of the Jews in Persia? Fixed using Esther. Delivery from Egypt? Fixed using Moses.
The Christian God doesn’t seem to fix problems on his own — sure, he could, but he almost always uses people to do the physical work of enacting change. Based on the Bible, that’s how he works.
Could someone explain to me why the people I grew up with have this idea that climate change isn’t our problem and that God will fix it?
White evangelism is a man sitting on a roof about to be overcome by floodwaters who refuses to jump into the boat of people trying to do something about it.
They are convinced they will be saved by their God.
Who knows, maybe they will be, but it seems as if that God is more likely to save them through the chants and actions of environmental activists than through a divine replenishment of the ozone layer or a magical removal of atmospheric CO2.