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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!


Hope in the Face of Facts

One day in late February of this year, I sat outside in a tee-shirt having a cup of tea.

It was warm and sunny; a welcome reprieve from the seasonally normal weather conditions. As it turns out, it was a very long way from normal – a record-breakingly hot day. What is starting to feel normal is breaking weather records.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore climate change. 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have been since 2001. The earth’s polar ice sheets are melting at an alarming rate, leading to rising sea levels.

The increase in temperature has been driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. We need to make immediate and radical changes to survive. But however urgent the situation may be, politicians, economists, and business leaders seem frozen in inertia.

In April, the protest group Extinction Rebellion organised 10 days of disruption in central London, designed to provoke action. Commenting on the protest, George Monbiot wrote in his Guardian opinion piece entitled ‘Only rebellion will prevent an ecological apocalypse’:

‘Those who govern the nation and shape public discourse cannot be trusted with the preservation of life on Earth. There is no benign authority preserving us from harm. No one is coming to save us.’

He gives voice to many people’s fear, anger, and depression about the unfolding environmental crisis that few in power seem able or willing to tackle. Perhaps you relate. The outlook is bleak for our planet unless we make monumental changes very soon.

It is right for Christians to campaign, agitate, and lead the way in radical lifestyle changes. After all, we know we are stewards of a world that belongs to its creator God. But it is not right for us to lose heart or grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9). Belief in a loving, invested, present God changes everything when it comes to climatic catastrophe. We can be, as the poet Wendell Berry put it in his poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, ‘joyful, though [we] have considered all the facts’.

Our faith means we can remain hopeful when others may despair, because our hope for rescue is in God and not in ourselves. And while things may seem to be teetering on the edge of total disaster, the end of this story is not apocalypse, but the redemption and restoration of all creation.

Jo Swinney

Jo is an author, editor, and speaker. She lives in Bath and blogs at www.joswinney.com

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  1. I welcome the emphasis on hope – it is a powerful offering of the church to those in despair.
    However, lament, grief and repentance are all also appropriate Christian responses.
    We can rejoice in hope of the redemption of all creation – but real hope will call us to witness a self-sacrificial love of the Earth and to act in solidarity with all people affected by climate change, repenting of our overconsumption and greed. Ours is not the false hope that leads to a complacent apathy that ignores the suffering of the poor who are most affected by the environmental crisis.

    Let’s pray the church models Christ and the hope we have by stepping into the mess we have made of this planet.

    By Rachel Mander  -  10 May 2019
  2. Like Rachel, I also welcome the emphasis on hope. I also agree that we must work with fellow Christians and with others to help protect God’s creation.

    Here are a few groups that might help us with that:










    By John Steley  -  10 May 2019
  3. ‘Let’s pray the church models Christ and the hope we have by stepping into the mess we have made of this planet.’

    Amen. And in this context the church is primarily a bunch of individuals who live differently for even bigger reasons than simply the environment. An underlying cause of the woes of our environment is the materialist chasing of new things. Many Christians are not contenting themselves with the things of God, living a simple life of faith, worship and service. If the church as an institution raises its voice along with many others, but the individuals in the church fail to live differently, then we will model the hypocrisy that Christ prophesied against.

    By Tim  -  10 May 2019
  4. Thank you, Jo, for pointing us at this poem.
    Our culture has become so measurement-oriented that things which can’t be measured are often deemed worthless.
    “So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute.”
    That is a phrase to treasure.

    By Moira Biggins  -  10 May 2019

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