The 5 C’s of Christian Environmentalism

By Keira Kang

Citizens for Public Justice believes that every Christian has a mandate to care deeply about God’s creation, just as God cares for each and every one of us. In hopes to provide guidance for Christian environmentalists on how to contribute to the well-being of the natural world and all of Earth’s inhabitants, here are the 5 C’s of action plans that you can take to respond to today’s climate change crisis: 

Commitment 

All humans rely upon the environment in which we live, and we share an intrinsic connection to the creation around us. A society’s disregard and neglect towards nature often results in the suffering of people who are individually created in the precious image of God. 

With an awareness of the links between the environment and human rights, Christians must show their active commitment to God’s wider creation, propelled by their underlying commitment to God. Through commitments to take stronger initiatives and work alongside community members, fellow climate justice activists, church groups, government actors, and environmental professionals, Christians can move towards our common goal of advocating for our planet collectively, enthusiastically, and honourably.

Compassion

As acknowledged in the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs’ report “Climate Change and Social Inequality”, climate change produces vastly disproportionate impacts among populations due to existing socio-economic inequalities and development gaps around the world. Our planet has already warmed about 1°C since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Once we hit  2°C of warming (above pre-industrial levels), here are some predictions of what our future societies would look like:

  • major cities across the Middle East and Southeast Asia would become unlivable for the average adult, due to extreme temperatures;
  • over 200 million people would be displaced around the world, becoming either internally displaced people (IDPs) or climate refugees;
  • all small-island developing countries would be submerged underwater due to sea-level rises;
  • 18 percent of insects and 16 percent of plants would witness their climatically-determined demographic areas “reduced by more than half”;  
  • more than 12.6 million people would die globally due to climate-related diseases.

These impacts are at a scale that we have never once witnessed throughout history. 

As Christians are faced with such forecasts of climate injustices, we must reflect upon the ways that Jesus lived during His time on Earth. In the New Testament, disciples are called to “bear one another’s burdens” as a way of fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Compassion for God’s creation is an integral aspect of Christ’s character; it is a quality that we must exhibit as the Church, the body of Christ. Genesis 1:28-30 also demonstrates that our ecosystem, including people, plants, animals, and all other living things, are intrinsically bound together through a familial connection of mutual responsibility and compassion. 

Keeping this core biblical teaching in our hearts during this urgent period of climate emergency, Christians can encourage one another to be filled with charitable and loving hearts for all of God’s creation, seeking not only to preserve our individual needs, but to encourage the flourishing of all living creatures.

Christ-centeredness

 As Christian environmental activists, we may at times become preoccupied with personal frustrations and anxieties concerning our planet rather than sharing selflessly in the suffering of Christ. Activism can then revolve around our vision, our eagerness to fight against government inaction, our acts of service, and our hours spent in advocacy. However, Romans 8:9 teaches that our efforts and our lives are not our own, as it states “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.” In fact, no matter how many environmental goals we may be able to check off on our to-do-lists through good deeds, we must remember that every breath has been supplied to us by the goodness of God’s sustaining life force — and the Gospel is all about what Jesus Christ did for us. 

In understanding this, we can educate ourselves and advocate for this planet as living sacrifices, in awe of Christ’s amazing sacrifice. With Christ’s message at the core of our environmental efforts, Christian environmentalists must re-center ourselves to Jesus so that our dedication to the creation will always overflow from our love for God. 

Conservation

In Psalm 24:1, we are taught that “the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”. The “fullness” in this passage teaches that the Christian biblical approach extends far beyond our concern for human beings, as humans are also called to love and care for the Earth, for the plants in our gardens, for the marine life in our oceans, and for every other life on this planet. From the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, to the land that we live on each day, Christians have a moral responsibility to adopt an environmentally-conscious way of living in order to conserve and maintain all essential aspects of God’s precious creation. From exercising God-given wisdom in our use of natural resources, to supporting political parties that advocate for habitat conservation in their policy frameworks, Christian environmentalists are encouraged to showcase their faithful love for God’s creation through comprehensive conservation efforts.

Climate Justice

As CPJ understands the teaching of Scripture, the role of government is to promote just relations between people within God’s creation, correct injustice in a way that restores relationships, protect the environment, and foster conditions that enhance the common good. 

In advocating for concrete socio-political action through a Christ-centered lens, Christians must first and foremost demonstrate our respect for life and our love for the Earth. If human activities cause the warming of the planet, which in turn drives species towards extinction, intensifies natural disasters and threatens human health, then it inevitably becomes an issue of life and love. So too is consideration of future generations; we cannot over-consume and deny our children and grandchildren a healthy, secure and safe life. 

Modelled after the message of love in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son”, caring for creation as a climate justice activist implies that we understand the lands and seas and all of God’s creatures — now and into the future — must be treated with love, respect and admiration. 

As an extension of our love and appreciation for creation, Christians should desire to have societal structures and institutions in place that benefit everyone and  promote the common good.. In today’s society, it is essential to ensure that we elect authorities and have leaders in place who actively respond to the climate crisis.. 

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