Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Communicating Hope: Hope in an age of environmental crisis

"What relevance does the Christian message of hope have in our world that seems increasingly hopeless? It is noticeable that the Christian scene has changed, from the Christian tours of 2008/9 entitled, ‘Hope for Planet Earth’, to a recent (2011) Faraday Institute conference entitled, ‘Sustainability in Crisis’. A key turning point for the environmental movement in general was the Copenhagen Summit, which delivered so little, despite all the focus leading up to it. A grim and sober realism now seems appropriate, rather than a sense of, ‘if we all pull together we can do it’. What role, therefore, does a Christian theology of hope play in this? Is there any hope, humanly speaking, or are we beyond that? What role should a message of Christian hope play in our ecological message to churches and individual Christians? Are we just encouraging a 'pie in the sky' theology by peddling hope where there is none? Can a message of hope actually become de-motivating when the reality seems so different? It is this cluster of questions that we see as representing what we are calling, ‘the hope gap’. This is the focus of the present meeting."
Sometimes, things come along that are right up my street. This is part of the advertising blurb for a 24 hour conference in May organised by A Rocha UK and the John Ray Initiative (two Christian ecological organisations). Doing a PhD can be a lonely and isolating process and discovering that others are asking similar questions is like stumbling upon an oasis.

For others in the UK who might be interested, full details are here. Keynote speakers include Richard Bauckham (NT scholar and theologian), Andy Atkins (director of Friends of the Earth UK), Martin Hodson (environmental biologist), Margot Hodson (director of John Ray Initiative) and Ruth Valerio (A Rocha UK).

These questions I think are critical for Christians today who wish to think about what it will mean to communicate the good news of Jesus in a world increasingly suffering from ecological bad news. If we are to speak of hope, and those who follow a crucified and risen king cannot do otherwise, then how do we do so in ways that open up possibilities for human action and perseverance? How do we avoid giving false hopes? How do we avoid encouraging a quietism that abandons the neighbour in their distress and yet simultaneously avoids implying that we save ourselves? And in the face of increasingly dire scientific projections, what kind of penultimate hopes may a Christian hold today?

UPDATE: Richard Bauckham's talk is now available online.