Christian Climate Action has interrupted a service at Chichester Cathedral in order to protest about climate change. But whatever your views on the environment, the worship of God is sacrosanct. It should not be disrupted - especially by those who claim to follow Jesus - argues Gavin Ashenden
Every so often, different parts of one’s life can suddenly be brought together by a single incident.
As I looked at the photograph of Christian Climate Action disrupting a service of divine worship - the choral Evensong at Chichester Cathedral on Tuesday night – suddenly I was more than usually involved in an incident I had not been physically present at.
A large four-metre banner of protest is held up in front of the Canon stalls, declaring that “Chichester Diocese funds climate chaos”. The place was very familiar.
A warm front
For about ten years, I was a Canon Theologian at Chichester Cathedral, and the banner was held up in front of the long wooden screen that held ‘my’ stall. This was the place that the Canon Theologian had sat since the Cathedral was built during the medieval warm period (between 750-1350). The Catholic priests and monks who sat in the seat that I inherited got even hotter in their robes than I did in the stuffiest moments of our high summers. They grew grapes and made wine in Sussex then. Temperatures in our islands were warmer than they have been even in the last 50 years.
Worship of the creator takes precedence over placating creation
Not only was the photo somewhere I had said my prayers for many years, but the banner was held up by a curate from Wareham called Rev Hilary Bond. I had been asked on to Radio 4’s Beyond Belief programme to discuss Bond’s conviction that disrupting traffic and holding up ambulances and desperate people trying to get to hospital was justified as part of a campaign to respond to what she called a “climate emergency”.
Anxiety about temperature is through the roof among some, and we’ve reached the point where it’s almost impossible to have a sane conversation about the issue.
But this is not a piece about sun spots, fossil fuels or CO2. It’s about God. And I promise we will get there in a moment.
For now, we need to recognise that however we got to where we are, the science is not yet clear. I know that to even suggest this is to risk being called a ‘denier’, one of the most serious kinds of contemporary heretic. Yet the question of what lies behind the changing climate (and it is alarming) and what can be done about it remains unpleasantly unsolved.
We know that weather models are notoriously unreliable. In 1971, The Washington Post wrote desperately about the new ice age that was coming. In 1988, it was prophesied the Maldives would be totally submerged by 2018. In 2000, a senior British scientist at the University of East Anglia went on record saying that, very soon, our children would never experience snow in the UK. In 2008, the Arctic was going to be wholly ice-free by 2018 at the latest. And so on ad nauseam.
So let’s leave the science, and turn to God.
A higher calling
To anyone who believes in humanism (a derivative of Christianity) in its widest sense, to jeopardise the life or wellbeing of another human being trying to get help in an emergency is a form of blasphemy. The human life represents the highest good. And most people in our society have been shocked at the callous indifference that climate activists have shown towards the human lives they have jeopardised by their protests.
But climate activism has morphed, slowly but surely, into a new religion. The highest good is the welfare of the planet, and allowing either human comfort or convenience to harm the planet is, for them, also a form of blasphemy.
For Christians, the worship of God, both Creator and Saviour, is one of the highest values. To interrupt, disrespect or hijack this for protest is a form of disrespect that also verges on blasphemy.
We can note - with sadness and disapproval - this very thing in action as Christian Climate Action interrupted the worship God in Chichester Cathedral this week. They justified it as a protest against the refusal of the diocese to disinvest in fossil fuels. From their point of view, this was an offense against their god. In their world, a threat to Gaia.
Jesus showed one of his rare outbursts of anger when the worship of the temple was subverted by the alternative priority of profiteers. The temple stood as a reminder to the Canaanites and other fertility religions that worship of the creator took precedence over placating creation.
Climate activism has morphed, slowly but surely, into a new religion
The climate activists have every right to follow their consciences and protest in the name of better care of the planet. But they can’t call themselves Christians if they are willing to jeapordise the lives of their neighbours as they block the traffic and trap ambulances, or disrupt and disrespect the worship of the Almighty God that they themselves profess to follow.
The love of God (worship) and the love of neighbours (especially in ambulances) should take precedence over the love of the planet.
Stewardship for creation and responsibility for resources is already built into the DNA of the Bible. The protestors should come clean and declare that they don’t really care about people or God. Instead, they are devoted to the planet - and a rather specious reading of science as it is available this decade.
Read why Christian Climate Action interrupted the service here