faith

Recent writing: faith

While my blog “proper” hasn’t had much action, I’ve been compiling posts about the topic of joining and leaving my former church. I know this isn’t a topic that will interest most of my readers, but as I go through the process of leaving, and the psychological and emotional healing that it demands, I’ve been journalling some of it. I have shared a few of my thoughts on here in a new section. If this interests you, you may find the posts under the heading “Wandering the Spiritual Desert.” I can’t say it enough, but these are personal, journal-type writings (though adapted for the blog audience): that is, they’re not attempts to state a universal truth of any sort. I freely acknowledge that my faith experiences may be vastly different to other people, even to other people who have been a part of the same religious community. It is in no way intended as an attempt to convert or deconvert people to or from any particular faith position. It is best read as personal narrative, with all the limitations of individual perspective that entails.


In other news, I’ve been focusing on my art instead of writing in the last two months. I hope to scan and share some of this art on my blog in the near future! Thanks to all my readers who continue to subscribe: it’s very much appreciated!

I am also already starting work on my NaNoWriMo planning. November 2016 will be my fourth Nano and I’m preparing earlier and earlier each time. One of the biggest time-drains on my writing is choosing character names, so at this stage my Scrivener layouts mostly involve lists of names and their meanings, possible alternate spellings, and attempts to describe the kind of character to which they will best apply.

That said, I am enjoying working on developing the story so much that I will likely start writing it before Nano – in which case I will resort to a Star Wars: The Force Awakens fan fiction that I’ve also been planning but don’t necessarily want to write because I just feel totally awkward about letting people into that part of my brain (it contains far more adult themes than the film ought to generate).

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Memories: Thin Places

Memories. Circa 1989. Aged somewhere between 8 and 10. South-east Victoria, Australia.

 

It was December. Warm summer afternoon sunlight shone down on the backyard. When I was a child, that yard seemed so large and so magical. The hydrangea by the verandah shaded a soft living carpet of baby’s tears plants and moss. There were trees: frangipani, with its bursts of flowers and wattle birds hopping between its branches; a young silver birch with long draping branches; and the apple tree. A winding path led from the verandah steps to the back gate that opened out onto a gravel laneway. Other children lived on the laneway, and we built a cubby house from branches and bark under the tall old eucalypts behind the back fence. Magpies sang among the gum branches, and blackbirds sang from the top of the fence. From a particular vantage point on the verandah I could see my grandparents’ house, a few streets away. It seemed like such an enormous distance and a vast view. Between their house and mine was a large playground, swampy paddocks with herds of beef cattle, and houses. Funny how in a small town it’s still possible to not know everyone.

I lay on the trampoline. One of those big rectangular ones with exposed springs and none of the safety nets that my own children now take for granted. I could hear the neighbours’ family playing cricket. They must have been visiting for Christmas. Every so often a tennis ball would ricochet off the rubbish bin stumps and come sailing over the fence. At least it was tennis balls and not lemons, I guess. I begrudgingly threw it back, becoming increasingly infuriated by the interruption to my meditations. I was trying to recapture a moment. An earlier memory from when I was maybe six or seven. That had happened while lying in the same spot – though perhaps on the grass. It was probably in the days pre-trampoline. There was a small swing set there, too.

I had this overwhelming sense that in this spot I had once connected with God. It is the earliest spiritual memory I still have. There are glimpses, going a long way back, of church and religious school, but this one stands as a very sharp, defined moment in my earliest recollections. And so  I sensed Him – It, Her, They, I didn’t presume to know – in the vast masses of cumulus solemnly sailing through the shockingly blue sky. It was my own personal Jacob’s ladder. A mystical sense that there was, almost certainly, a link between my small mortal frame and the vastness of this life force or spirit that I personified as the God I had learned about in Mass. Nowadays I would describe it as a Thin Place, where the veil between the worlds was permeable. I could peer into a realm where Time itself had no meaning. There were angels there, too, classical, beautiful and masculine beings like those in the old Catholic artworks.

When I was ten we moved out of that house. We were still in the same town – I even took the same school bus, just took it from a different stop, and for years thereafter the driver waved hello whenever he saw me – but moving to the other edge of the town felt like half a world away. My cats were buried there. The trees full of song birds were there. The kids I knew were just a back gate and stroll down the lane away. My first Thin Place was there. It had been my great-grandparents’ house and while I never knew them, traces of their lives and legacy were strewn throughout that home. Gone was the pastel pink wallpaper I’d excitedly helped choose when my parents renovated the house. The plants we grew: poppies along the northern wall of the house, veggies right down the back, the nasturtiums with their population of cabbage moth caterpillars, the sprawling passionfruit vine, and the gums along the lane framing the view to the swampy farmland in the valley. I couldn’t look out of the front window anymore to see the horses lined up at the recreation reserve before the annual agricultural show’s equestrian competitions, nor hear the masked lapwings circling angrily when the weekly tennis club disturbed their nests.  I couldn’t see my grandparents’ house from the verandah anymore, and in the new house the view between us was obscured by the hills. (I was later surprised to discover that I could see our new house peering through the chicken wire fence at the edge of my primary school oval.) I was devastated in ways my limited language was unable to express. I came down with a nasty flu shortly thereafter, and I do think that time marked the beginning of my depression. But no ten year old can likely say, in a coherent and self-reflective fashion, “I’m really struggling with the grief of this major transition in my life, to the extent it’s clouding my ability to manage my internal thought world.” It would be twenty years before I finally got help.

And I did eventually find other Thin Places. Looking out over my other grandparents’ farm, alone, rain beating my face and wind soughing through the tops of the cypresses. The beach. The bush. Anywhere with flowing water. Silent moments in church, and sometimes, moments when the flickering candle light reflecting off the stained glass windows and the voices of the faithful singing soared and though they were raw and imperfect and sometimes seemed lost in the hugeness of the sanctuary, it was as though they rose to heaven like incense. But nothing ever again quite broke through the veils between the worlds the way that had happened lying there under the vast expanse of clouds in the yard that then seemed like a world unto itself.

Peering into a person’s soul

I am currently decluttering my RedBubble Portfolio, to make way for more recent art that best represents who I am now, as well as to make it easier for customers to navigate the available products for sale. As a result I will be sharing some of my old creative writings here on WordPress, as a way of preserving them. In several cases my mind, opinions, beliefs, values and overall understanding of life have changed since the time I wrote these pieces, but I still feel that they are personally valuable reminders of the various stages of my life journey thus far.

I have noted the amount of views that the original post received on RedBubble prior to deleting it from my portfolio there. Just for my own interest’s sake.

This piece of writing was first posted at my RedBubble Creative Writing Portfolio.

Date of original post: January 2010

Total views, at 2 May 2016: 449

Something about peering into a person’s soul

2010-01-02

Lover and monster.
My desire to read the soul.
What words exist within the frame I see before me?
I would rip you open if I could.
Monstrous longing to know, truly know, who resides within.
These mortal vehicles are walls between our spirits.
We decorate ourselves in empty fabrics and gold and paints.
We position these bodies as statues.
Polishing the surfaces.
Cleaning the stains.

For what?
So that we can pretend?
Lie? Deceive?
We know that we are more than this.
We congratulate ourselves on upholding the delusions.
We cut ourselves in pieces. We tell ourselves vile fantasies.
I do not want these lies.

I will peer into the soul that fearfully cowers behind your eyes.
I will read the words written on your heart.
I will try to see you as the Creator sees you.
Frail, broken and damaged. Alive, beautiful, and eternal.

 

NaNoWriMo Journal 2015: 17

Friday, 27 November 2015

It’s time to panic! I’m learning to associate my US-based friends’ social media posts about Thanksgiving (both for and against the occasion) with end-of-nano panic. We don’t have a Thanksgiving. I guess our similar holiday is Australia Day in January, which usually marks the end of the summer holidays, and sparks debate about the abhorrent treatment of Indigenous Australians by English invaders, versus calls to just shut up and enjoy walking around in Southern Cross-emblazoned paraphernalia. Though there were attempts by Christian political lobby groups in Australia to start a day of national thanksgiving and prayer. I’m not sure if that ever really gained much traction outside of evangelical circles.

I entered my story text so far into the word count validator and lost 578 words from my story. There’s a huge discrepancy between the word count statistics in Microsoft Word on my lap top, Scrivener on my PC, and NaNoWriMo’s official counter. As my winning or losing is determined by the Nano website’s official counter, I have to re-calibrate my Scrivener aims according to my best guess of Nano’s difference. (Nano usually seems to subtract roughly 70 words from my scrivener account.)

I have today and Monday left available to me to write. Saturday and Sunday this weekend are going to be so busy that I will likely not have any time. People keep saying, “Surely you’ll find time on the weekend, if you’re motivated enough.” Those people clearly aren’t stay-at-home mothers morphing into hair and makeup artists for their daughter’s two ballet concerts over two days and a separate full dress rehearsal in a suburb about half an hour away. At literally exactly the same time my son has a bunch of commitments – namely a birthday party and a church end-of-year celebration for the department in which he volunteers – so that I have the interesting dilemma of needing to be in two physically disparate locations at exactly the same time. If I were the main character in my NaNoWriMo story I may have that ability. But for now my real life is looking a lot like that logic puzzle where the boatman has to carry a wolf, a goat and a cabbage across a river without leaving them alone in a predator/prey situation.

It’s hard to focus on my story. I’ve had so many social interactions over the last two weeks that my introvert levels of exhaustion are very high. I love catching up with friends. I had no time to write yesterday, either, as I was out for a coffee (which was positive, so don’t get me wrong there, I appreciate friends who drag me out once in a while to talk about the deep stuff of life). At the same time I realise that because so many of us are asking really hard questions about life, faith, our collective dissatisfaction with controlling religious leaders in our lives, and fears of some that if they don’t get out soon they might one day find that they’d given their life, money and allegiance to a cult. Who knows? These are important questions and I think everyone needs to face them at some point in their faith journeys, but my impulse now is to start dialoguing on spiritual abuse forums to learn the warning signs from those who’ve already been there, when what I really, really need to do is to write almost 10,000 words within the next eight hours, get Nano done, so I can recover, and maybe even have some time to start confronting that most Wonderful Stressful Time of the Year, Christmas.

I have come down with yet another severe cold, which includes a really painful headache. My head is pounding as I type and my sinuses are beyond blocked. If I keep clenching my teeth I’m going to have to put in my mouthguard. The coffee grinder broke so I’m now reduced to using a mechanical hand grinder that makes me feel like I’m playing hurdy gurdy (which is okay, I guess, because I just imagine that I am like Anna Murphy the singer and hurdy gurdist in this song… Why yes, she is singing in Ancient Gaulish).

My story is at that disjointed stage where I’m just throwing in any scenes I can imagine. I’m not even bothering to connect them. I can do that later if I need to pad out the story. I look forward to getting this first draft completed so I can excise all its crumminess and get to the good stuff. A lot of people have requested to read my story and I massively appreciate the enthusiasm, but the reality is that I’m writing this first draft for me and my eyes alone. I don’t have the cognitive freedom to write it as creatively as I need if I’m spending the whole time worried that someone else might read it and see how terrible it is – it is in no way representative of the best of my writing. However, on a second draft edit it might manage to make the grade where I’ll look at possibly providing copies to my in-real-life friends (the ones that are sympathetic enough to understand that I’m really just developing my writing craft and that I don’t have the luxury of editors).

I’m looking forward to finishing Nano, and getting back into painting and drawing. December is always a hectic time of year. I can’t believe it’s almost upon us, and that my kids are finishing their first year at new schools (last Nano season I wrote a bit about why we left their previous school and home schooled during 2014, see here). Changing them to nonreligious schools has proven a fantastic choice for them and I’m just so glad that it’s mostly gone well for them. There were lots of hiccups along the way and new social dynamics to negotiate, but I can say with a lot of relief that neither of them has been bullied or beaten-up. Nor have the warnings of their previous school’s principal proven correct in any sense when he said, when we left, that non-Christian, government-based schooling was a factory of atheism that would force our children to give up on their faith. On the contrary, my kids have grown more confident in the knowledge that they choose to self-identify as Christians, while learning that their classmates come from myriad religious belief systems to which they are devoted at varying degrees of intensity (my kids now count Muslims, Sikh, Mormons, Catholics, Agnostics and Atheists from a huge range of ethnic backgrounds among their schoolmates). I realise just how more reflective it is of real social life in Australia. It’s so multicultural here in Melbourne that you either learn how to navigate the varied landscape of religious and philosophical worldviews – or put up the blinkers and pretend that everyone who isn’t exactly like yourself is “bad.” I love that just by changing schools the kids have been able to learn that “others” are more like us than they are different, and that differences aren’t bad, they’re what makes life interesting.

Anyway, enough progressive proselytising, it’s time to go back to my story… which, like my previous paragraph, seems to be morphing into a bit of a commentary on how we marginalise people because of external differences. In my story the bird-people were historically being jerks to the lizard-people but now the bird-people are starting to confront their deeply-embedded prejudices and realise that all the peoples must unite if there’s ever to be a restored pathway to travel between the inhabitable planets in their solar system… how my story went in that direction I’m really not sure. It’s going way off the original plot plans, that’s for sure.

Current word count: 41,144 / 50,000 words

Today’s writing soundtrack: a compilation of Native American shamanic music. I’m not sure I even like it. I’m also not sure how it ended up on my youtube suggestions, but there it is. I might switch to Gregorian chants soon. The birds singing out in the garden blend seamlessly into the music.

Learn more about climate change – for free! – via Open Universities Australia. Do it. Seriously. Also some musings about Christian religion and climate change.

A couple of months ago one of my friends mentioned that Open Universities Australia ran free online refresher courses in a variety of topics. I filed it away in the back of my mind, but eventually succumbed to curiosity and looked up the courses. I immediately signed up for the climate change course and am now in the last week of the online lectures and assessments.

I very highly recommend that as many people as possible take this course. It’s pretty straightforward. You watch a roughly 5 minute video and then answer a multiple choice question. After one week or module – a total of eight to ten videos per module – you complete a short assessment. There are four modules and then, if you average 60% or more in the quizzes and assessments, you’ll get a PDF certificate of completion that you can print out if you want. Too easy and it doesn’t cost a single cent (except your own Internet bill!). The course is presented by the highly-regarded Open Universities Australia but is available to anyone with an Internet connection. You don’t need to be in Australia to take the free courses.

You can learn more and enrol in the course here: https://www.open2study.com/courses/climate-change. Please, give it a go. If you’re even vaguely interested in learning more about climate change and the surrounding discussions, even if you don’t know what you personally believe on the topic, this course is well worth the effort. It discusses a huge variety of angles on climate, from meteorological science to the social justice issues it is already affecting. I am personally impressed with the quality and breadth of the free course, and it provides plenty of information for further reading. As someone who already studied climate change at university level, it’s been a great refresher as well as introducing me to aspects of the science I didn’t research in my uni days (as I was more concerned with the socio-political discussion surrounding climate action, rather than the science itself).

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I have a uni degree in sociology (sociology, or social science, studies and analyses humanity’s interactions with various “structures,” like politics and philosophy – as I like to jokingly say, it studies “-isms”).

For my honours by research degree I specialised in environmental sociology, exploring the interconnections between climate change and animal agriculture, using the lens of ecofeminism and a critical realist perspective to frame the discussion. I started my uni course not particularly well-versed in climate change, but after years of immersion in the arguments both for and against climate action, I came out convinced that climate change is an extremely significant and important issue that must be tackled from as many angles as possible.

However, at the time I was also heavily involved in a non-denominational Pentecostal megachurch. Technically, it’s still my church community but it seems inevitable that I will leave in the near future – though that’s a whole other story.

When church friends and acquaintances heard that I had returned to my uni studies as a mature age student, a fairly predictable conversation would ensue, and it always went a little like this:

Them: “What are you studying?”

Me: “I’m doing my honours in sociology.”

Them: “Sociology? As in Tony Campolo?”

Me: “Yeah, he’s a sociologist.”

Them: “Oh cool, he has some interesting views*. I liked his social justice talk at church. What topic are you studying?”

(*Alternatively they would proceed to tell me why Campolo is too leftist and/or a compromising heretic.)

Me: “Environmental sociology. I’m researching political attitudes to climate change.”

Them: “Do you believe in climate change?”

Me: “After reading numerous arguments for and against it, I’m convinced that the weight of evidence reveals it to be a very real and measurable phenomenon, caused or at least exacerbated by human activity.”

Them: “You really believe in it? Well, see I was listening to a sermon by [–any North American or Australian politically conservative preacher you can imagine–] and they said that climate change is just a myth. It’s God-hating lefties who are pushing it.”

Me: “Well, I’ve read the science and the political analysis surrounding it and there’s a lot of convincing evidence that if people don’t do anything about it we are, to put it nicely, screwed. I believe in God but I also believe climate change needs to be addressed. I don’t think God’s mandate in Genesis to tend His Garden gives us blanket permission to destroy it.”

Them: “See, the thing is, as [–not in any conceivable way qualified-to-make-a-statement preacher–] said, talking about climate change is a way for environmentalists to make money. They’re also trying to scare us into giving away our money.”

Me: “And… you’re absolutely certain that some preachers aren’t possibly doing that very thing? It’s entirely possible they’re trying to scare people into throwing money at them, too, by threatening them with spiritual consequences if they aren’t ‘generous.’ Anyway, the science behind climate change is pretty solid.”

Them: “Science isn’t always trustworthy, especially if it doesn’t begin the Word of God.”

*sigh*

At that point I’d usually be asked to read some paper or article suggested by the other person – and I mean, this script here is a condensation of many, many utterly fruitless conversations I had with church acquaintances and friends over the two years of my honours degree. The article would inevitably regurgitate the same clichéd conspiracy theories about how science is anti-God, unless, of course, that science remotely hints at the plausibility of young earth creationism.**

If they hadn’t heard it preached from the pulpit then it wasn’t real. The only reference to climate change I personally recall hearing from the Pentecostal pulpit was a retelling of the oft-repeated but rarely fact-checked tale of Irena Sendler “losing” the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore because, as claimed, those crazy lefties would rather reward a Powerpoint slide show than a brave woman who saved countless lives during WWII, and “it’s not like scientists even agree on climate change.” Nowadays it seems to me that it’s really profoundly irresonsible for preachers to use their influential platforms to promote views they haven’t thoroughly researched and understood (or at least fact checked lest they fall prey to a half-true chain email), especially when it’s on such major and politicised issues.

I couldn’t begin to psychoanalyse the reasons why certain pockets of Christendom are so hostile to science – if that science in any way suggests that their worldview is incomplete. I’m not a psychologist. However, sociologically there appear to be a number of factors, though it’s been a while since I’ve studied them in depth, some of which surround the basic human need to not change one’s deeply ingrained and selfish habits. If climate change is real then it requires that we do something about it. If a lot of people make a lot of changes in their lifestyles it could have a positive effect on global warming and anthropocentric climate change.

For me, as an example, though my efforts are by no means perfect, and nor is this list comprehensive, I’ve chosen to live a plant-based lifestyle (I don’t eat any meat, fish, poultry, and virtually no dairy or eggs, ideally it’d be none, and I avoid animal-based products in other contexts wherever I can) and we buy renewable energy from our electricity provider (solar and wind) as well as carbon-offset gas. As far as possible we incorporate organic and biodynamic foods and as natural as possible and preferably recycled or recyclable house hold cleaning products, toiletries and linens. We grow some of our own food, too, and I am convinced that learning to grow and share our food will be a major aspect of alleviating the pressures on the agricultural system in feeding the world. We learn what we can, and we make adjustments as far as possible. We can’t do everything but we can do something. We are moving in the direction of a minimalist lifestyle. Everyday we choose actions that affect the size of our “ecological footprint.” We are conscious of the fact our efforts are not perfect but in good conscience we seek to make adjustments as we can.

My personal theory, one that I cannot base on research and so is based more on personal experience and discussion and reflection, is that to suggest that our patterns of consumption and our lifestyles are damaging the planet is, in a way, a critique of a particular Pentecostal view that God is our infinite provider of health and wealth and blessing and abundance. Now, I know there are myriad ways of interpreting Biblical texts on “abundance,” particularly in light of Jesus’s references to the evils of worshipping material gain. But I’ll be as politely blunt as possible – as much good as can be found in Pentecostal circles, based on my experiences of 14 years of heavy involvement in Pentecostalism, as occasional outside observer, one-time true believer and now back to frustrated insider who probably won’t stick around much longer – there is often a subversive, though sometimes even overtly explicated, belief that God gives to us generously. Despite the many disclaimers and caveats spoken in preaching, it is assumed that this generosity involves money, business success, material wealth, and basically all the other trappings of rampant capitalism. This is not true of every Pentecostal, of course, and most would tell you that we ask God for prosperity and blessing in order to be able to give on that blessing to those who need it. It appears that this attitude in middle class Pentecostal circles where the Spirit operates as what I would dub our “capitalist co-worker” is an attitude that goes unchallenged. Yet I’ve also been privy to the whispered conversations from those who shamefacedly admit that their earnest prayers and years of fasting and sacrificial tithing came to nothing and all they’re left with is debt and uncertainty and credit cards they can’t repay, all while continuing to pour what little they have into the seemingly endless stream of building programmes, missions work and other fundraisers that come up. As far as I have encountered it, Spirit-filled capitalism doesn’t work by endlessly pouring God-breathed money into the coffers of charitably minded believers in order to be fairly distributed as the Spirit commands. Of course, some well-off Pentecostals are profoundly generous and they do a lot of good with their wealth. Yet it seems to me that unbridled wealth accumulation takes and controls from the finite resources available to all of humanity and brings it into one community. That’s not to say it won’t be given to the poor or needy in some measure. But still, I often think it’d be great if the conversations surrounding money in the Pentecostal circles I moved in over the years could be more balanced and honest about the fact that their views on money just don’t work for everyone, and that there are incredible financial burdens faced by genuine, kind, and prayerful congregants whose time and money are taken and there simply is no reward or blessing or prosperity for them whatsoever. (Though those people would likely be immediately dismissed as living beyond their means or not praying enough or having an ungenerous mindset, so I can see why people rarely speak out about their hardships.)

To bring this back to the point: the things that cause climate change are inextricably bound with patterns of human consumption. In my uni days, my dissertation centred around the specific ways that modes of animal-based food production contribute to climate change, not to mention the links to animal and human suffering that arise as a result. But no one wants to be told that by living their lives they’re also engaging in the destruction and obliteration of the very ecosystems that sustain us. No well-off Christian wants to think that they are successful at the expense of others. It makes me think of a recent “discussion” (argument) that I saw on a friends’ facebook thread where she dared to suggest that in Australia women face greater challenges in earning potential and high level corporate jobs (a statement she backed up with statistics, sociological research and detailed analysis). Immediately a church member I was vaguely acquainted with, and who is quite young but successful in the financial sense, piped up with the assertion that Australia is a meritocracy and that if women were good enough at these jobs then maybe they’d be getting the work in the first place. I think the same thing happens in discussions of climate in Pentecostal circles: a well-researched and carefully articulated position on the problem of climate change and the urgent need for action is presented (and there are Pentecostals and other Christians speaking out). Then comes a reactionary and predictable counter-response in which the suggestion that we ought to consider how our materialistic lifestyles impact the environment is taken as a personally offensive, theologically distressing and unacceptable view by the prosperous believer.

I concede that these are my views, accumulated through years of personal conversations and reflection on those conversations, as well as reading widely on Christian environmentalist viewpoints. However, it appears to me that there is a general attitude that if God is the God who blesses us with material prosperity, even if that prosperity is purely for passing on the blessing to the needy, then it’s akin to heresy to question how the trappings of financial success (like large houses that need a lot more land space and heating/cooling, large meals, large cars, etc) might be causing more damage. I guess, if I look back at my first forays into Pentecostalism (I married a Pentecostal, to cut a long story short) then the early warnings that I was in a community I would never relate to without completely changing who I am were there from the start: one of the earliest sermons I recall hearing there was by a guest preacher who straight-faced declared that God blessed her with a new and very expensive four-wheel-drive car on an annual basis; and then there was the chat I had with a woman introduced to me as a prophetess who talked about how her best friend had been “blessed” with the exact amount of money needed for the particular cosmetic surgery procedure she wanted. I mean, maybe God is in the business of funding new cars and bigger breasts for some of His daughters. Please hear me: I do not want to create a false dichotomy that belittles the genuine suffering of a person who is profoundly unhappy in her body, and who feels that her confidence improves through surgical alteration of her external appearance; and nor am I making the claim that certain types of cars are immoral, so don’t misread me there. I’ve got friends who have 4WDs because they enjoy the challenge of driving on some of Australia’s bush tracks that are set aside for that very purpose – I’m not trying to take that from them. But, then, maybe, just maybe, the women in these encounters were already well-off, middle class, successful in the capitalist sense of the word, able to make decisions about big cars and preferred body image, not worrying where their next meal would come from or whether the electricity would be switched off or that their beat up old bomb of a car that took every spare cent just to keep it running would die in the middle of the night on an empty highway while the newborn baby in the back was about to wake up for a feed and the toddler’s crying and the cheap second-hand mobile phone is about to go flat (that actually happened to me!)… Maybe it’s possible that if there really is a benevolent Creator God then He isn’t as massively concerned with one’s cup size or torque or whether one’s children get to go to the fancy super-pricey private Christian school – and maybe, just maybe, He’s looking with sadness at the way that one privileged section of humanity is using the bulk of available resources while countless thousands or millions of children are literally dying from a lack of clean drinking water.

I may have gone on a tangent here, so I’ll try to summarise: those of us who are Christians in the middle class West tend to have the luxury of not worrying about whether we’ll have water to drink or food to eat. We may even see good in accumulating wealth, and after paying for our own needs then redistribute the rest to the poor and needy in our own communities or support overseas missions. That’s great. It’s a good thing to help in whatever way we can. But climate change is already affecting communities, through an increase in extreme weather patterns (droughts, flash floods and hurricanes). Once-predictable harvest seasons have shifted or never occur. Parasites, like mosquitoes and the diseases they carry are spreading as temperatures warm and increase their habitable zones. The complex ecosystems that provide our water and food and soul-healing natural aesthetic beauty are dying off, species by species. Glaciers are melting at a much faster rate than they can be replaced, thus destroying a once-reliable source of freshwater for the communities that live downstream. As impoverished communities leave their now-unlivable homes, maybe because the drought hasn’t ended, they clash with other communities, and in some cases wars begin that destroy many, many lives – because there isn’t enough habitable space to go around. Climate change isn’t just an issue of environment. It’s affecting human lives. It’s an issue of social justice. And as Christians who take seriously Jesus’s words on caring for the poor, surely, when we see a pattern of destruction that so adversely affects human lives, we don’t have the luxury of pretending that it doesn’t matter. For those of us in developed countries, we may feel that we have the luxury of whinging that we don’t want wind turbines because they’re “visually awful,” for example, as a certain former Prime Minister said, but let’s put that in the context of the kinds of suffering our excessive lifestyles may be causing further down the track for more vulnerable people groups.

The first step is to get educated, though, to be able to understand and articulate what exactly we’re fighting when we talk about climate action. So go on, if you want to learn something new, try the course. I’ve enjoyed the learning process so much that next time I’ll be trying some of their other short courses.

**Experientially, having interacted with countless people who are aligned with a view that takes a literal historical reading of Genesis chapters 1 to 11, young earth creationism and anti-environmentalist attitudes do not necessarily go hand-in-hand – though after years of reading creationist publications I found it interesting how often the desire to link science to the Biblical texts resulted in skeptical attitudes to climate change. Some creationists that I’ve met take quite seriously the call to lovingly tend the environment, in light of God’s dominion mandate in Genesis, Chapter 1. From memory, because it’s a long time since I read it, I think that the John Ashton-edited book series on scientists with a creationist belief system includes some scientists who were interested in the intersection between faith and ecology. (I found an interesting counter-article on that book series here.)