Can a Christian Make Conservatives Care About Climate Change?

Meet the 29-year-old using her conservative pedigree to help save the planet

Anna Jane Joyner is trying to convince evangelicals that climate change is a problem worth solving. Credit: The Years Project/Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Anna Jane Joyner is evangelical royalty: Her father, Rick Joyner, founded a South Carolina-based megachurch with 1,000 congregations in 59 countries. But Anna Jane had a political come-to-Jesus moment while at UNC, where she embraced progressive politics. Today, at 29, she's the millennial face of a growing national movement that seeks to convince America's 80 million evangelicals that biblical tenets are compatible with environmentalism. "There's a huge host of faith communities who get it theologically, who even get the science piece of it," Joyner says. "But they're not mobilized in taking action."

Last year, Joyner was featured in Showtime's documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, where she debated climate change with her father in a gripping segment. "What I found was that his resistance had very little to do with theology and much more to do with his entrenched political ideology," she says. "Conservative talking heads and think tanks don't have to prove the science, they just have to introduce an element of doubt."

Lately, Joyner is working with Here Now, a group testing new tactics for engaging hard-to-reach audiences – including evangelicals – around climate change. And she's excited about an even bigger name in the faith-based community than her dad: Pope Francis, who will release a papal encyclical on the climate this year. "We're experiencing climate impacts, but we have the solutions ready to go," says Joyner. "Renewable energy is an economic driver and a climate solution, and getting [Obama's] Clean Power Plan enacted is critical."