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When climate activism becomes a religion

Young environmentalists fall into a despair common in works-based religious systems

Climate activists block a road in central Berlin on Oct. 28. Associated Press/Photo by Markus Schreiber

When climate activism becomes a religion
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Today, world leaders will descend upon Dubai for COP 28, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, where climate change radicals will be out in full force.

As Western countries reject traditional religious belief, some embrace a new kind of spiritual ideology: environmentalism. The Climate Psychology Alliance of North America caters to those swept up in the panic and fervor of saving the Earth, offering therapeutic priests of a sort to work with climate-distressed patients. 

The mental health of radical climate activists should be questioned. They’re stopping traffic in Berlin, destroying art work in Australia, and in one extreme case, a man set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court (later dying of his injuries.)

It’s good to care about the Earth, but when the physical world becomes one’s only hope and primary anxiety, it diminishes the reality of a good and sovereign God. 

In Philippians, Christians are instructed to “be anxious for nothing,” bring our concerns to God in prayer, and ultimately, discover the “peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” Without that reassurance, where can one go with their worries about climate, when they think everything is in the fallible hands of humans?

America’s youth are falling prey to worldly anxieties when it comes to climate change. Sixty percent of millennials and Gen Z say they have “felt anxious about the environment in the past month” and over half seek out a company’s environmental policies before accepting a job. 

Climate concern spans the political and religious spectrum as well, with multiple conservative and faith-based organizations sprouting up in recent years. These can be hopeful, positive entities that combat the despondent and panic-driven movements on the left. 

Those who abandon authentic faith, however, as we see Western populations doing in droves, will easily fall into the toxic despair that emerges from a reliance on personal works and fallen humanity. 

God created humans with a need for something more—Himself. So, when they deny Him, they will ultimately cling to something else that offers meaning and purpose. Christians believe humanity is lost without Jesus. Environmentalists believe we are “doomed” without swift climate action. 

Writer and climate skeptic Michael Crichton aptly characterized how the environmental movement has co-opted Judeo-Christian terminology when he said they see us all as “energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability.” 

With climate choirs performing in cathedrals, a Church of Climate Change, and therapists advocating anxious patients employ the Serenity Prayer, the religious tone is undeniable. 

When one believes humans are responsible to be their own saviors, it will feel like an impossible task—because it is. 

Greta Thunberg is the iconic figurehead of the youth climate movement, appearing with world leaders on stages and uttering revolutionary-like statements about climate. 

“There is hope, but it does not come from governments or corporations,” she said at COP25. “It comes from the people.”

Thunberg is responsible for spreading alarmist information that hasn’t come to fruition. Her tactics are reminiscent of former Vice President Al Gore, whose 2006 climate change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” was billed “the most terrifying film you will ever see.” In the film, Gore predicted that the global sea level could rise as much as 20 feet “in the near future.” This hasn’t come close to happening. 

Younger generations needn’t resort to sensationalized climate talking points when there are sane, sensible policies and actions available to us that don’t require harming life as we know it. 

One of the most under-discussed policies in the climate debate is the importance of worldwide, economic freedom. The very best way to create efficient technologies and generate the money necessary for countries to combat climate change comes from empowering them economically. 

Entrepreneurship, capitalism, technology, innovation, and deregulation are all pivotal ideas to accelerate if we want to care for both people and the environment simultaneously. These concepts also respect the dignity of human beings by promoting freedom, responsibility, and creativity. 

Conservative environmental group C3 Solutions found that the world’s freest economies are also the cleanest. Is it any wonder that a country like communist China emits more greenhouse gasses than all other developed nations combined? 

When one’s hope is in this world, anxiety will overcome us. When one believes humans are responsible to be their own saviors, it will feel like an impossible task—because it is. 

As Christians and common-sense individuals, we can trust in the Lord, care for the Earth, and follow proven principles of economic empowerment to lift people out of poverty and create a cleaner, healthier planet. 

For those racking up therapy bills to process their anxiety about man-made climate change, I have a better idea: Go to the God who created your Earth and ask Him to deliver you from your man-made oppression. 

Many of those who attend COP attempt to hold the world in their own hands. They grasp at control they will certainly never possess.

Ericka Andersen

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and mother of two living in Indianapolis. She is the author of Leaving Cloud 9 and Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women. Ericka hosts the Worth Your Time podcast. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Christianity Today, USA Today, and more.

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