The stories of the Scriptures help us confront our deepest existential questions. Theologian Jerome Berryman puts these questions in four different axes: (1) the question of meaning (“Why am I here?”), (2) the question of freedom (“What should I do?”), (3) the question of individuality (“Why am I alone? And how do I live with others?”), and (4) the question of death (“What happens next? And does my life mean anything?”).
Today, our planet is facing an existential threat, a question about its future, which in some ways touches on each of these four questions. We face a changing climate that threatens the future of life on our planet, wrought by actions and activities that we have done. We have loaded the gun pointed at ourselves, as it were. And if that is a violent image, then so be it. Climate change is a violent phenomenon, and one that will continue to grow in its violence.
The stories of Scripture contain the creation stories in Genesis. I will not be arguing for a particular interpretation of those here, but reflecting on the thrust of that story, which is plain in many interpretation. God cares about creation. God as Creator brings creation into existence in order to get to hang out with it, to love it, to enjoy it. Not only does God want to experience the wonders of creation, God invites self-aware beings into the project as well, by commissioning human beings to continue the ongoing creative acts by stewarding or caring for creation. The human journey begins in a garden, and as the story of Scripture unfolds, it ends in a green city. Along the way, we meet the risen Christ on Easter morning, who gets mistaken for the gardener, appearing as Adam should have in Genesis. But we also have the flood, in which human activities have precipitated a divine reckoning, and yet the world endures in the mercy of God. In short, God is scandalously involved with creation and does not give up on it. And neither should we.
Scientists argue that these next few months will be a key point in organizing political and economic action around combating climate change. Various meetings are coming up and various troubles continue to plague the international cooperative effort begun at Paris a few short years ago. So, we cannot wait. Climate change is not something that another generation can solve. We must begin to address it now; it is a threat to us. In Afghanistan this year, more people are being forced to flee their homes in search of water than because of war. And this is just the beginning. The time to act is now, and so we must. And so we can. And so we will.
The stories of Scripture convince me that the answers to my questions, specifically regarding climate change, are (1) to help bring about a restored garden of Eden, (2) to live and make choices that are not just for me but help our common situation, (3) to dig into the entire web of life, recognizing myself as part of a much larger network of creatures and individuals, and (4) to make sure that my life and my dying needs back to the entire created order that God is still seeking to save, to heal, and to bring to the fullness of life. At least, these are the beginning.