I was frankly nervous about speaking to people of faith in the south about climate change.
I wrestled with my own preconceived notions and past experiences and was surprised when conversations took inspiring – if not transcendent, turns.
Secular as I am now I still think fondly of my childhood minister Dr Lehman – who loved college basketball and Honda Accords (he drove 13 of them during his lifetime).
At the conclusion of each Lakeside Baptist service he’d call the eastern North Carolina congregation to action.
‘Go forth’ he said as the organ began to play ‘and be involved in the world’.
My family later moved to Spartanburg South Carolina and my high school experience felt ripped from the pages of the Footloose script.
Local parents disowned gay sons – classmates openly questioned the science of evolution in biology class – Young Life leaders plastered an Abstinence Pledge on the wall of our public school cafeteria.
My frustration from those years has at times stopped me from reaching out to those in the faith-based community – especially regarding political issues like climate change.
I’m aware of my own bias – the way it was formed by negative experiences and how it limits my understanding of believers and their choices.
This realization helps me understand why believers might in turn have problems connecting with someone like me.
But if we’re going to address climate change in time to prevent catastrophic results we’re going to do it by taking cooperative action with those with whom we disagree.
I find myself wondering if similar discussions are happening in faith-based communities and why there hasn’t been a more palpable response to climate change among people of faith in the south.
While climate change scenarios have all the hallmarks of biblical narrative – violent storms – epic floods – plagues – resource scarcity – the displacement of people – it’s considered liberal political terrain.
Scott Coleman – a practicing Baptist and the amiable environmental manager of Little St Simons Island – a mostly undeveloped strip of shoreline off the coast of Georgia – tells me that ‘environmental stewardship is often associated with liberal politics – thus looked upon negatively’.