Among the victims of the organized campaign to discredit climate science and obstruct action are many of the country’s 80 million evangelical Christians, who are bombarded with messages that climate change is a hoax and environmental regulation a cover for Big Government’s agenda to convert the nation to a police state. Some evangelicals also interpret the burning, flooding Earth as a sign of the Rapture and the second coming of Christ. While 63 percent of all Americans think climate change is underway, only 51 percent percent of evangelicals do. An estimated 27 percent of evangelicals don’t think the climate is changing at all.
Those numbers might be disheartening to many environmentalists, but for an emerging class of activists, they represent an opportunity: to convert those believers into potent advocates for the planet. Among those activists is Anna Jane Joyner, who was featured last year in Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously debating her father, megachurch pastor and climate skeptic Rick Joyner.
Now a politically progressive Episcopalian who believes that preventing the wholesale meltdown of the planet lies at the core of Christianity, Joyner is helping revamp how global warming realities are communicated to evangelicals and other conservative Christians.
Among other things, Rolling Stone spoke to Joyner about Pope Francis’ widely anticipated encyclical on the environment – expected in its final format later this week, after being leaked – during which the pope will make the moral case for not destroying the Earth, and argue that protecting the planet and its inhabitants is biblically mandated.
You just returned from Rome, where you saw Pope Francis conduct mass. There’s tremendous excitement about his upcoming encyclical on the environment.
The climate encyclical could be a game-changer in the Catholic community. I think it’s going to make climate mainstream for hundreds of millions of Catholics around the world. The pope is a fascinating and transformational figure. To have someone at such a high level using his platform and taking leadership on climate is huge. Most devout Catholics view his interpretation of the theology as infallibly right. That’s an incredibly powerful position. He also has a big fan base among younger American evangelicals and Millennials.
Catholics are calling the encyclical a focus on human ecology – this idea that humanity and ecology are integrally related. Climate change and how we treat the Earth has everything to do with our own spiritual lives. That’s going to be the overarching theme: the interconnection between human survival, caring for our neighbors and the climate and the environment, and addressing climate change. There will be a heavy focus on poverty and caring for the least of these, for the most vulnerable communities and traditionally marginalized people who are already the worst impacted. It will stress that this is a moral and faith issue.
So many things are aligning this year for climate change: the encyclical, the UN climate talks. Certainly the Senate being so anti-climate isn’t good, but it could help in the sense that more and more, that position looks ludicrous.