The Church, Nature, and Climate Change

The connection made between religion and climate change, and the environment as a whole, is not a connection I have ever made. So while reading The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, the connection between the two was a surprise. However, reflecting upon and reading further into the passage written by Lynn White Jr helped me make the connection. Throughout the passage, White argues that due to Christianity, the western world has regressed in caring for and maintaining the Planet. While at the same time progressing through technological innovation. Another passage, Laudato Si, written by Pope Francis, acknowledges that as humans, we have regressed and let our excess cause much harm to the Earth. However, in his writing, The Pope uses scripture to argue that it is not Christ-like to cause harm to the Planet.

When reading White’s analysis and argument of why religion is the cause of climate change, I found it plausible that because Christianity does not deify nature, the western world, which throughout modern history has practiced Christianity, has caused our current crisis. The idea that regarding nature as sacred and causing harm to nature is evil has been seen repeatedly in many different cultures. When comparing Christianity to cultures that respect nature, it can make sense to conclude that Christianity is at fault. Although reasonably argued, I disagree that Christianity is the leading cause of today’s ecological crisis. When I was reading Laudato Si, I realized that the characterization that White made of Christianity is unfair. Pope Francis argues with many examples from the scripture that humans should, and even need, to respect the Planet and all animals because they, like humans, were purposefully created by God. And it was in this reading that the idea of “universal communion” resonated with me. The Pope further argues that if our hearts were authentically open to universal communion, we would achieve equality. To me, equality, in this case, means that we see nature as equal to humans and that it is necessary for us to live. Without caring for and preserving nature and seeing it as something necessary for our survival, we go down the path we are currently on. 

I can see the message that The Pope is trying to get across, care more for nature, and inspire Christians to do more to combat climate change. It is backed up in The Bible that to be a Christian also means that you care for the environment, and if Christians genuinely believe this, it makes me wonder how White concluded that Christianity is the cause of climate change. In wondering about White’s conclusion, I concluded that neither Pope Francis nor White is correct. While Christianity may have a part in both creating and solving climate change, I do not believe it has a role in creating or solving it. 

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