Could The Climate Change Debate Use A Dose Of That Old Time Religion?
I freely confess that I get a little irritated at those who use terms of faith to deride those of us who advocate for addressing climate change. First, they tend to be people of faith themselves – usually conservative Christians – so there’s the hypocrisy involved. More important to me, though, is the idea that I “believe” in global warming. It’s not about belief, though: my position within the climate change debate comes from listening to the scientists who study these matters, and the conclusions they’ve drawn from the data. If I believe in anything, it’s that the scientific method provides a means to figure out truth… and I’m hardly alone there.
But perhaps my own approach of “just the facts” isn’t particularly compelling to those who are still wrestling with these concepts, or those who reject climate science outright. Perhaps an emotional experience – a “come to Jesus moment,” if you will – is the right way to get deniers listening to and considering the facts surrounding climate change.
George Marshall of The Guardian made just such an argument this weekend. Arguing that climate change activists aren’t “believers,” but people who hold conviction, Marshall notes that the movement could learn a thing or two from the faith community, particularly evangelical Christians. He turned to mega-church pastor and climate change advocate Joel Hunter for an explanation of how conviction is created:
For Hunter conviction needs to be carefully nurtured. The creation of a supportive community is essential. Only with this can people openly express their doubts and be offered help to “walk through it together”. He then brings people to a moment of choice and invites them to make a public commitment. In evangelical crusades people are called upon to step forward to accept a change in their life – what Billy Graham called the “altar call”. Finally, Hunter says, demonstrating this commitment to the unconvinced should then become a central part of people’s activism.
Yeah, we don’t have many altar calls in the community of global warming activists… but some more opportunities for “witness” might not be a bad thing. Have you ever heard someone tell their story of shifting from climate change denial to acceptance and action? I have… and it can be pretty powerful. Unfortunately, these moments almost always occur among “the converted.”
Training sessions exist to teach climate science – many still learn a curriculum based on Al Gore’s famous Power Point presentation. Maybe training on “evangelizing” should be the next step. How do we talk to those who are skeptical – for whatever reason – that makes them feel head and supported?
Definitely read Marshall’s essay, and then share your own thoughts: how might we climate change “believers” better spread the word…?
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