Some readers have expressed in comments or in private some concern over these posts. They wonder whether (a) I have lost hope for the world (b) whether drawing attention to such information encourages others to lose hope (c) whether drawing attention to such information is a distraction from the good news about Jesus or its replacement with an ecological gospel. In short, am I scaring people unnecessarily? Have I become an alarmist or fear-mongerer?
I write about these things and provide links because this is the world in which we live and love, where feelings of fear, guilt and impotence are both common and have some basis in reality. To ignore this fact is to remain disconnected from where people are at (and from trends that I believe are only likely to increase as the years go on). There is no virtue in ignorance. Yet our situation and these feelings are not beyond the scope of God's redemptive action in Christ. Articulating why the good news of Christ is good news today amidst ecological and resource crises is a significant part of my purpose in writing this blog.
Does this mean I think we shouldn't be scared of the threats that face us? No and yes. Many of us need to be far more alarmed than we currently are, to wake up from our comforting illusions and be roused from our apathy and confront the bleak realities of our present situation. But for those who are already paralysed by fears and cannot bear to hear any more, we need to hear again the words of the risen Christ to his friends: fear not. We need our fears put to death, not so as to leave us unfeeling and untouchable, but so that they can rise as a deep loving concern that shoulders the burdens of our neighbour's fear out of compassion and joy.
And so anxiety is indeed a common response to taking these threats seriously, as are anger and despair. Indeed, I think that a healthy response to our situation involves (for many people) some intense grief. Recognition of the scale, complexity and intractability of our predicament often means the "death" of certain cherished images of the future. Grief over lost futures can be quite real, even if the futures imagined were never really ours to claim or expect in the first place.
While the particular shape and challenges of our situations are novel in various ways, the wisdom of relinquishing idealised futures is perennial: "And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" (Matthew 6.27). This doesn't mean the silencing of the voice of concern or prudence, but the transformation of our fears from a paralysing contraction of the self in a fruitless quest for security to an expansive love for neighbour that seeks to preserve what can be kept, to grieve what will be lost, to discern what we ought to have abandoned long ago and to discover a treasure that does not fade.
How is such a transformation possible? This is where Jesus Christ has good news for us today.