What motivates Christians to care about climate?
This is a question many have asked, from both within and outside the faith. While people in general may have all kinds of reasons for concern- from uncertainty towards the future to concern for the poor, how this is influenced by people’s spiritual beliefs stirs up a lot of curiosity.
This question guided surveys in the public survey titled “A Social Identity Approach to Engaging Christians in the Issue of Climate Change” in the journal Science Communication. The study surveyed Christians and non-Christians alike.
The results primarily suggested one thing- Christians largely see environmental care as an act of stewardship and responsibility to the Creator.
The survey gathered the most frequently occurring answers. These included things like providing a better life for children and grandchildren, which was the most popular answer for either group. Preventing extreme weather, preventing extinction, and protecting health were also frequently cited concerns.
In general, Christian answers were not too different from non-Christian answers. Most of the time, the two groups tracked within two percentage points of one another. The two key differences were with two responses: Christians were far more likely to be motivated by protecting God’s Creation, and less motivated by protecting the destruction of life on the planet.
Making sense of these two responses
These two key differences make sense from a Christian worldview and ethic. They reflect the values of stewardship and hope emphasized in the faith.
12% fewer Christians said they care about climate for the purposes of preventing the destruction of most life on the planet than non-Christians. This was the second biggest divergence between the two groups on the survey.
A likely explanation is that most Christians have a theological framework that spells out a different future for the planet. While the specifics vary a lot within Christian denominations and beliefs, just about all would say the ultimate future is centered on redemption. This invites far more hope towards the planet’s long term prospects.
The biggest gap in responses was that 19% of Christians were interested in protecting God’s creation. Meanwhile, just 6% of non-Christians voiced this same concern. The wording of the response may have had a big influence on this, but framing our environmental behavior as our relationship with God’s creation is a big motivator.
The conclusion that researchers drew from this was that Christians already view climate change through a spiritual lens. Reminders that focus on our call to be caretakers are particularly helpful.
What does protecting God’s creation look like?
We believe that good Environmental stewardship helps all of Creation. This includes people as well.
While not part of the survey, there is also a strong motivation to care for the poor. Christians seek to love ones neighbor as their own self. Jesus described this as the second Greatest Commandment.
Knowing how environmental issues disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable. This underscores the issue of creation care as a justice issue.
When Christians gain a deeper understanding of the environment, many notice connections between concerns. The interconnection between different aspects of environmental care may ultimately lead to Christians expressing concern for a variety of reasons. For example, biodiversity and preventing extinction is an indicator of an entire ecosystem’s health. This health benefits people, plants, and animals alike.
While protecting God’s creation extends to humans, it isn’t limited to us. Many believers also value other parts of Creation for its own sake. All of it was made with love by a Creator who has given every piece a Purpose.
We believe that we can be a part of creating more stories of hope for our planet. To invest in restoring the relationship between people and the planet for just $22, you can sign up to be a Purpose Partner. Visit this part of our site to learn more.