What Jesus and Climate Change Have in Common

..The end of the world and a lack of true fans.

A wise man once shared a bit of wisdom with me. He said, “No one comes to Jesus because he lost an argument.” He was referencing a moral/doctrinal debate we had just witnessed between a Christian and an atheist. After a heated exchange, neither party was remotely interested in challenging their preexisting beliefs. The soft-spoken, elderly gentleman then finished his sage message by adding, “The only way to win people over is how they see you live. Otherwise, you are just a clanging cymbal.”

We find ourselves at a novel point in time, amid many sidewalk prophets, celebrities, university professors, politicians, and regular folk touting a consistent, passionate message. That is, if we don’t get our act together, we are doomed. If we don’t take better care of our planet and carry ultimate responsibility, our world’s resources will no longer be. Things sound pretty serious. We all hear the message. I’m just not so sure that we see it.

According to a poll conducted by Yale University, 29% of people said they are “very worried” about climate change, and 56% of people believe that it will harm their family. But what percentage of those people have seriously altered their lifestyles to prevent the pending carbon catastrophe?

I am not a climate change evangelist. I don’t identify as an environmentalist. I have never held a sign, joined a movement, or given a Ted talk about global warming. I am a regular guy trying to live consciously and mindfully. In the secluded community where I live, everything is adopted late. So maybe I am just too far isolated from progressive movements to see an accurate picture. My problem is that just last week, when I finished my meal at a restaurant, the waiter was taken aback when I placed my leftovers in the reusable glass container I brought from home. He said that in his years working there, he had never seen any patrons deny the Styrofoam he offered and insist on using their own box. It’s also noteworthy that the most ordered item on the menu is steak, very likely from a feedlot that many pious diners would adamantly condemn.

When I bought fruit at the grocery store this week, the cashier asked, “Is plastic OK?” as I pulled my canvas bag out of my coat. Didn’t we establish years ago that plastic is not OK? On my commute to work, I passed dozens of massive SUVs with no carpool passengers riding shotgun. The auto dealers have many more of these bestsellers in stock. No bicycles, wind turbines, or solar panels were in view on my route either. Even when I travel across the country, I’m just not seeing convincing behavior. I observe people using single-use cups, straws, and plastic-ware with every meal and dropping half the food in the trash.

Regardless of where I am, people still look at me like I’m an alien when I say I grow my own veggies and hunt or catch my own meat. I have to explain why my baby is in cloth diapers every time I encounter another mother. I haven’t experienced wiping the sweat off my brow with a free disposable napkin in any establishment either because the air conditioner is running nonstop. The lights seem pretty bright too. I haven’t seen the wave of polluting businesses going bankrupt because patrons have changed their habits and stopped buying the products.

Look, it’s not a competition. I’m not asking for recognition or a green new trophy. But whether you classify me, or anyone else, as a truther, skeptic, advocate, patriot, hippie, moron, conspirator, hero, or provocateur, one thing is certain; If there is any chance for me to believe you, you’ve got to show me something. Inconvenient, deliberate, disciplined actions must match the rhetoric, even if it costs more time or money. If our frivolous lifestyle is the biggest risk to humanity and the most significant concern in your life, shouldn’t that level of severity demand serious action? If not, we don’t believe you.

I know there are a lot of great people out there doing the work. (Fist bump emoji to you all.) But I suspect that there are a lot more people demanding that others do it, without making changes themselves. This is harmful to the core purpose and naturally squashes credibility. No one needs another lecture, especially by a celebrity with six cars and a yacht or a politician sipping a latte from a throw-away cup on a private flight.

Maybe instead of a doom and gloom climate message, with moral condemnation, insults, preaching, and fighting, we could simplify the whole thing. Perhaps there should be a new approach, one in which devoted people quietly model the correct behavior, with no need for lecturing and virtue signaling. Maybe instead of counting on a top-down approach, waiting for massive government intervention with bans and fines, we could step up and handle this on an individual level. Whether you attribute our problems to bovine flatulence, or God being mad at us, words are just noise in the absence of venerable action.

Climate change is a new religion, but it’s failing just like so many of the others because the followers and evangelists aren’t living the life of love, self-sacrifice, and noble virtue. Sorry to say it, but the old man was right. We hear the cymbals clanging at the protest march. We just don’t believe you.

A simple-minded contemplative

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