Religion sociologist Rodney Stark wrote a book titled The Rise of Christianity in which he answers the question, “How did a back-water religious cult become the dominant religion of the Western world in 400 years?”
His research is nuanced and runs deep, and part of the shorthand answer is “through relationships and relevancy”. The first four centuries after the resurrection of Jesus were brutal for just about everybody, especially those with little political or military power. The suffering masses were willing to give any old god a try if it could improve their lot. Along came the followers of Jesus and they offered something just about everyone needed…safety, respect, love, forgiveness. Women were elevated in this new faith, infanticide was forbidden, AND if you got one of the frequent deadly plagues, the Christians took care of you. This “chicken soup” evangelism meant that 2 out of 3 who would have normally died, survived through the love and nursing of the caring Christians. Remember, the invention of soap would come 800 years later. Usually, you got sick you died.
Doing this kind of thing for 400 years and Christianity became the dominant religion of the Western world with 33,000,000 followers.
Fast forward to today. In previous blogs I’ve noted that there are at least 6 mega-issues that all American humans are going to have to address whether we like it or not. Put another way, you want to be relevant then address these things:
- The obesity of the American public (see Fingers, Feet, Forks and Faith)
- Disparity in wealth and income
- Connectivity and social media,
- Global warming,
- The ongoing rise of anxiety and our mental health.
- Family health
These are some of the “plagues” of our times that call for Christians to become relational and relevant. Let’s look at global warming. USA Today recently reported:
A landmark report from the world’s top climate scientists this week is likely to say with heightened certainty that humans are behind the planet’s rising temperatures, and that surface temperatures are not the only indicators of climate change.
Senior scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who was a review editor on the report, says other signs that bear witness to changes include shrinking Arctic sea ice, melting Greenland ice, warming oceans (especially the deep ocean) and sea-level rise.
This will help “defuse the issue of the supposed hiatus in global warming,” which Trenberth says really isn’t a hiatus at all. The leveling off of average surface temperatures since 1998 is what some are calling a “hiatus” or “pause” in global warming, but that’s due in part to the fact that 1998 was such an unusually warm El Nino year. El Nino is a periodic natural warming of Pacific Ocean water that affects global weather patterns.
Also, much of the heat may be sinking into the deep oceans, according to a study released earlier this year.
One of the expected conclusions of the report is that there’s 95% certainty that man-made global warming is real. A 2007 IPCC report put the confidence level at about 90%.
The report is the work of more than 2,000 scientists, whose drafts were reviewed by scores of governments, industry and environmental groups. “I know of no other document that has undergone this scrutiny,” Thomas Stocker, co-chairman of the working group that wrote the report, said this week from Stockholm. “It stands out as a reliable and indispensable source of knowledge about climate change.”
Brady Phillips, a spokesman with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, “They synthesize our scientific understanding about how Earth’s climate system works, project changes over time and discuss potential impacts and mitigation measures,” he adds.
Now that’s some serious stuff my friends. It affects everything from biodiversity to food supplies. As a father and grandfather I take it very seriously. So where are the Christians? Inexplicably, many Christians deny the science or are silent. This anti-science attitude of Christians is one of the top six reasons Millenials are leaving the church in droves.
It seems to me that global warming is one of the “plagues” of our day, and like those first century Christians, when we respond with helpful solutions we are relevant in a big way.
Here are three examples of Christians who are addressing this mega-issue:
2) My friend Matt Anderson directs our region of the Audobon Society. He’s an active Christian laymen and his expertise makes the Christian witness powerful and relevant regarding global warming, especially as it relates to the effects on birds.
3) And many of our Christian camps do an excellent job of teaching environmental stewardship.
What would you list as your top six mega-issues? Do you agree with mine? How are you addressing global warming?