To people of the Christian faith, Jesus is crying out: For the sake of our neighbors everywhere — for future generations and the global poor — we must act urgently on climate change.
A few months ago, I would write considering how the Bible compels us to protect God’s creation. I might focus on the human vocation as stewards for God’s garden (Genesis 2:15), of God’s covenant with all creatures through Noah (Genesis 9). I would end with the first verse of Psalm 24: “The Earth is Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all that live in it.” I would write that this calls Christians to action on climate change.
But not so anymore. As a recent graduate, I’ve been working with a church office in Massachusetts to organize churches around the issue of climate change. I have since become acutely aware that climate change is not simply an environmental issue. Climate change is the gravest social justice issue humankind has faced.
Climate change amplifies every other injustice; it disproportionately threatens the most vulnerable. If we care about hunger, we must reckon with the fact that climate change will reduce agricultural yields and make food prices skyrocket. Similar links exist between climate change and nearly every other social issue, from refugees to public health to national security.
As Christians, we are called by Jesus to perform the Works of Mercy — to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless. Climate change undermines all of these. To ignore climate change is to work against our present and future neighbors, and against ourselves.
The longer that Exxon Mobil (and Yale) profiteer by burning away our future, the more severe climate change will become. Fossil fuel companies have a stranglehold on our politics, our universities and the limits of our imaginations. Unless we create systemic change, the world will lose.
Given this, we are called to do more than change our light bulbs, drive a Prius and buy carbon offsets. We are called to take up the prophetic task, to testify to hope and light, to cast off the yoke of fossil fuel companies through divestment.
Others have elaborated why divesting from fossil fuels is the cornerstone of the movement for climate justice. Here at Yale, particularly, divestment is the opportunity that we have been given to shine our light brightly to the world. Jesus tells us, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” As Yale students, we have been blessed beyond our own understanding. From a Christian perspective, this includes the charge to steer the Yale name and a $24 billion endowment away from a morally bankrupt industry. That matters. For most of us, there will never be a comparable chance to strive for justice and atonement at such a significant scale.
Where our treasure is, so our hearts will be also. It is high time we divested our school’s endowment from an industry whose core business model makes the planet into a vision of hell. It is high time we put our hearts in solidarity with the poor and with future generations, with the planet and with those who depend upon it.
This movement needs the Christian moral voice to move forward. Climate change is the defining moral crisis of our era. From abolition to the civil rights movement to the push to end child labor, every social movement in the U.S. has gained steam when Christians brought a moral voice because churches set the moral norms in this country. Imagine what it will look like when people of faith everywhere begin to realize that divestment is the frontline of contemporary discipleship. The fossil fuel industry will become a pariah and we will live up to the dictates of our faith. We will give our descendants a full future on a living planet, instead of apologies and grief.
For reasons that have more to do with political alignment than faith, Christianity is often placed at odds with climate action. But Christianity is fundamentally about truth — “the truth will set you free” — and climate change is a fact, backed by rigorous science. Acting on climate change aligns with all the values and teachings that Jesus represents.
So let us not be too comfortable in the state of the world as it is. Let us hunger and thirst for climate justice, before billions of our neighbors hunger and thirst in earnest.
Patrick Cage is a 2014 graduate of Yale College and a former member of Fossil Free Yale. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.