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Christian Climate Activist Challenges Church To Take Action

What’s your response to Christians who argue that humans were called to have dominion over creation?

I would say yes, but it’s incomplete. Yes, Genesis (chapter) 1 says, God creates humans in his image and tells him to rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and everything that moves along the ground. And I wish that Hebrew word for rule, “radah,” was softer, but it’s harsh.

But I think the error is separating Genesis 1 from Genesis 2. In Genesis (chapter) 2, God takes the man that he creates from the dust of the ground, breathes his breath into him and says “avad and shamar” this garden, which is translated as “serve and protect.” I think these two commands become a couplet of instructions. So Genesis 1 and 2 tell us to rule by serving and protecting.

The rest of Scripture is clear that creation has one king, and it’s Christ. If we’re going to rule alongside Christ, we have to look at how Christ exercises his authority. He becomes a baby. He washes feet. He climbs up on a cross. Christ exercises his authority through humility, service and sacrifice, not through exploitation and domination. So rule, yes, but rule through service and by protecting the vulnerable.

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Why did you include a chapter on being pro-life in this book?

I think many of us, particularly in America, are suffering from a myopic idea of what it means to be pro-life in the modern world. So many of us associate it simply with the issue of abortion. If we truly want to honor life as the gift that it is from God, let’s think about things like climate change, pollution and the spread of disease, which is made worse by climate change.

If we’re going to be serious about protecting and defending life in all of its fullness, we have to be concerned about not just abortion, but young kids, adults, the poor, people of color, the elderly, the disabled. And we have to think about how other issues like climate change affect people’s ability to access that abundant life that Jesus said he came to give right here and now.

What advice would you give to people who are wrestling with the ethics of bringing new life into this world?

So many people in our generation are really grappling with that. I want to honor that and say, good for you for realizing we need to think about these giant issues that will affect our children. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe there’s ever been a generation that hasn’t felt existential dread. Our parents and grandparents were living under the specter of nuclear holocaust.

Ultimately, where my wife and I land is that our trust in God’s good plans for the world has always been stronger than our fear of what could happen. But I think with that trust also comes responsibility. So we are raising our boys to understand the consequences of human greed and selfishness that have led to the degradation of the world they are inheriting. And we’re trying to raise them in a way that lives more lightly on the earth and incorporates advocacy for policies that can change that. I don’t think it’s morally defensible right now to choose to have children and then go to sleep to the realities of climate change and the future our kids are facing.

Who did you write this book for, and what do you hope they take away from it?

I wanted this book to be accessible to anybody who’s a believer or is interested in how believers talk about this. When I sat down and I had a person in mind, it was for a millennial or a Gen Z Christian who grew up in the American church who was concerned about climate change but doesn’t think their church cares about it. I want those people to come away from this book encouraged. I want them to feel seen and to go away empowered with actual tools to integrate this more deeply into their life of faith. So if a young Christian is standing on the edge of climate despair and thinking the church doesn’t care, I want this book to pull them back and say, you’re not alone. Millions of other Christians like you understand this. We’re concerned, too. And we want to do something about it. So let’s get to work.

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