Preaching on Climate Change: Why it Matters

Learn about the benefits of preaching on climate change and educating yourself about the issues this catastrophe presents.

| August 2018

  • global disaster
    Climate change is not going to affect me; it’s someone else’s problem. The challenge is too enormous; there’s nothing I can do about it, so why should I think about it?
    Photo by Getty/BenGoode
  • book cover
    “Climate Church, Climate World by Jim Antal is an educational guide for people of all faiths, encouraging them to prompt humanity towards changes like a new moral era, one which honors and sustains God’s gift of creation.
    Cover courtesy Rowman Publishing

  • global disaster
  • book cover

Climate Church, Climate World (Rowman Publishing, 2018) by Jim Antal is a guide for people of all faiths to find value and gain insight by focusing on how the church and people of the church can address the climate change crisis. Antal invites communities of faiths together to bear witness and acknowledge that God’s creation is suffering and in jeopardy. Viewing the climate crisis as a theological emergency brings together these groups and gives them a common goal to initiate an intervention. The following excerpt is from Chapter 6 Worship as a Pathway to Freedom.

Preaching on climate change matters for two primary reasons that are in tension with one another. First, preaching on climate change matters because people don’t want to hear about it. Second, preaching on climate change matters because people know they need to take action to address it.

There are many reasons people give for not wanting to hear about climate change, especially in church. Here are a few: Living day to day is already hard enough. Church is supposed to give me rest and refreshment and to recharge me for the next week. Climate change is not going to affect me; it’s someone else’s problem. The challenge is too enormous; there’s nothing I can do about it, so why should I think about it? I come to church to be inspired, not to be depressed. Climate change is a political issue; politics doesn’t belong in church.

Despite these complaints, at some level, most people recognize that something is terribly wrong with the world. Most parishioners recognize that human activity is primarily responsible for the catastrophe that is upon us, and that human beings have the responsibility to tackle it.

This tension is familiar to any pastor who has served a congregation whose history includes a significant, unseemly “secret” that everyone in the congregation knows and that no one wants to talk about. The “secret” could be about a current or former staff person, about church finances, an unresolved church “fight” that took place years ago, or about any number of other things. If such a congregation is to heal, the “secret” must be exposed, faced, and engaged. When this process is handled well, the congregation is blessed with renewed joy and freedom.

In a majority of churches, climate change is this kind of “secret.” Let me make this same point by citing some recent polling data. A 2015 poll conducted by Yale revealed that two-thirds of American voters think that global warming is happening, yet two-thirds of Americans rarely or never discuss it.

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