Posted by: ericgrimsrud | September 24, 2018

Jesus of Nazareth on climate change

I recently received a letter from an acquaintance named Roland James of Morehead, Minnesota.  He is a 1969 graduate of Concordia College (Morehead) and, therefore, undoubtedly shares a Norwegian Lutheran educational background such as my own.  He subsequently spent many years working within the public energy utilities of Arizona and became a strong advocate for the discontinued use of fossil fuels.  The concise letter he sent me is provided below.  After reading it, Mr. James and I strongly recommend that you also read the sermon by Rev. Peter Sawtell referred to below.

Mr. James’ Letter:

The paradox:  If we save the conventional Big American Way of Life based on fossil fuels, we will lose life itself.’  
Mark 8:27-38:  Jesus tells his followers to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  It is clear that truly following Jesus is not safe or easy. He explains further: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” — the paradox of both saving and losing one’s life.

“Those who want to save their life will lose it” undermines much of superficial and egocentric “am I saved” Christianity.   And Jesus continues, “those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” If you put your own individual salvation and welfare on the back burner and live in love and compassion, seeking justice and focusing on God’s intention for the well-being of all creation — then you will find a life of abundance in community, service and faith. Only by letting go of what we think of as normal is there a path to the abundant life.  But this isn’t only about our internal life. It is also a sacrificial, risk-taking way of living that Jesus called “taking up your cross” out in the world. 

 What is called “business as usual” is now a suicidal way of life.  All we have to do to destroy the planet’s climate and biosphere and leave a ruined Earth to marginalized people around the world, to our children and grandchildren, and to other species is to keep doing what we are doing today.   Just continue with the 10% richest on Earth releasing carbon dioxide and methane at current rates–and the world in the latter part of this century will be climate hell, not fit for life.    

.If we “first worlders” cling to comfortable affluence and consumerism and our addiction to fossil fuels — if we try to save that way of life — we will lose it. But if we give up that exceptional privilege, we will have made a turn toward the sustainability that will bring life to the whole Earth community. That is a modern and social application of the message of Jesus.  Excessive concern about one’s self-interest is not life-giving, whereas commitment to justice and the health of the community brings life.

For first-world Christians, losing our excessive self-absorbed life is essential. There’s a parallel practical truth for our entire society. We need transformation to conservation and efficiency and in energy sources and cultural values. We need to lose our attachment to business as usual if we are to survive as a human species. May we have the courage to do that.

 The related and more detailed sermon on this topic by Rev. Peter Sawtell can be found at

In summary, it is evident in many quarters that the fundamental messages of Jesus of Nazareth have been effectively muted by our business-as-usual leaders and that we Christians no longer recognize the paradox and dilemma we are presently in.  Thus, many self-proclaimed Christians seem to think that they can have it both ways. For example, the President of my own alma mater, St. Olaf College, when recently asked why some of his college’s endowment funds remain invested in the fossil fuel industries, he is reported to have responded “because that gives St. Olaf College a ‘seat at the table’”.  That response is laughable on its face and differs entirely from that reported of Jesus when he came upon members of his faith using their temple for distinctly questionable business-as-usual purposes.  According to Mother Nature, as well as to Jesus of Nazareth, any organization or species that does not use its God-given gifts and intelligence for the preservation and betterment of its members is not fit for life and will surely loose it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: