The science and religion dialogue is playing a growing role in the climate change debate. Some have blamed religious beliefs for some denial or disbelief regarding climate change, while others see religion and spirituality as a way to change the trajectory of the planetary crisis.
Hurricane Sandy may bring this disagreement to the forefront once again, as climate change, according to many scientists, accounts for the strength and ferocity of this ‘perfect storm.’ What should be the response among people of faith looking at this disturbing trend in nature?
In this month’s feature, Presbyterian minister John P. Burgess’ finds in the basic cycles and rhythms of nature a steadiness that testifies to God’s faithfulness. But he in no way suggests this is a way for humans to shirk their responsibilities to the planet. Climate change he says is nothing short of prophetic witness.
Although the causes of global warming are complex and multi-layered it doesn’t mean this witness can be ignored. A number of upcoming events this month (see Calendar section) approach one segment of the problem – namely the issue of caring for the earth’s waters. Precisely because human society may share much of the blame for global warming, we need to act as a faith and grace filled people to be stewards of our planet’s shared resources.
One example of this type of response can be found at Chicago-based advocacy organization “Faith in Place” (see News section), which has created a curriculum on the stewardship of water. Another online resource is Lutherans Restoring Creation located at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, www.webofcreation.org.
It takes hard work and willingness to change, and as is the case with much of the dialogue in religion and science – each participant has to come to terms with the reality of saying ‘I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn’.
Last month’s Andrews University Conference looked at the issues surrounding faith and reason. (See this month’s Feature article.) Attendees heard that faith and reason serve to mutually support each other in how they uncover truth. They heard, further, that the dependence on one to the exclusion of the other leads to dire ‘epistemological and social consequences.’
If this is true, we need to approach climate change with faith and reason in balance. The key to approaching climate change isn’t only coordinating a response to increasingly more disastrous and expensive natural disasters or by looking for ways to prevent more people from being harmed. It is in proactively using our knowledge to work as people of faith in shaping a future that is coupled with scientific perspective in solving the problems that, left unattended, may spell the demise of many people alongside that of our natural world.
The answer of ‘I don’t know’ should spark curiosity in the religion and science dialogue. We need to make sure though that our newly acquired knowledge doesn’t create a comfortable complacency in our congregations and lives.