Following Jesus in a Warming World, Kyle Meyaard-Schaap. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2023.
Summary: By combining biblical and theological framing with personal narrative, offers hope and practical steps to those daunted by the immensity, and perceived hopelessness, of the realities of climate change.
Kyle Meyaard-Schaap grew up in a conservative, Christian-schooled community voting heavily Republican. The one social issue his community cared about was a pro-life opposition to abortion. Until his brother came home one day and announced himself as a vegetarian. He had not deconstructed his faith. As they talked, it became more and more apparent that his brother was living into biblical truths they had been raised upon, and commitments to life that were dear to them.
Meyaard-Schaap traces his own journey to becoming an evangelical environmental activist, currently serving as vice president of the Evangelical Environmental Network. Part of the book is theological. He overviews the sweep of scripture from creation and our mandate to serve and protect creation, the impacts of human fallenness, and God’s purposes for new creation, where heaven comes down to earth as we reign with Christ and restore creation with him to what he intended. He argues that this is good news, and in one of the distinctive contributions to the Christian environmental conversation, contends that climate action motivated by the vision of the kingdom, is evangelism. He also proposes that climate activism is pro-life. Climate change is killing people. In the decimation of forested land, new diseases are arising for which we have no immunities, and vector-born diseases are expanding into formerly temperate zones. Especially, climate change is killing those with the least resources to protect themselves in coastal communities and rapidly warming parts of the world where temperatures are exceeding what the human body can tolerate for any length of time.
The news about climate change seems daunting and Meyaard-Schaap acknowledges how many of his generation have lost hope. They are not having children. From his field experiences, he shares the power of stories. Defying the image of guilt and drudgery, he relates how both advocacy and personal disciplines of climate care are sources of joy and hope. He discusses how we replace climate arguments with conversations about the things we care about together in God’s world and how we can ensure their continued existence. He offers practical instructions on effective climate citizenship and various forms of advocacy, including an appendix on how to write an effective letter to the editor or op-ed piece. And he lists practical disciplines of good creation care.
Some of the book draws upon the thought of others, notably Dr, Katherine Hayhoe’s framework for climate conversations that bond, connect, and inspire. What is unique about this book is his account of his own journey through conversations like that with his brother and his ability to connect theologically with concerns of evangelical Christians around the creation, the return of Christ, evangelism, and the pro-life cause. He shows in his own life that becoming active in climate causes reflects Christian faithfulness rather than deconstructed faith. He offers practical advice drawn from his own experiences in advocacy.
What I thought most significant is that he addresses at different points the decision many are making not to have children, perhaps most eloquently in a letter to a grandchild at commencement in 2066. He writes:
By the time your dad was born in 2018, though, the consequences of our [climate] procrastination were becoming harder and harder to ignore. There were some our age, even then, choosing not to have kids. Deciding that the future was too dangerous, to unpredictable to morally justify yoking a human life to it without that human’s prior and informed consent, a sentiment your grandma and I could certainly understand, though never quite embrace. I guess our hope in God’s good plans for the world has always been more stubborn than our fear of our ability to derail them. But that doesn’t mean the fear hasn’t been there, ever mingling with the hope.
On the day your father came into the world, that alloy of hope and fear was forged in my heart for good….It’s a phenomenon that repeats itself whenever we make the dangerous, awesome choice to love (p. 176).
In sum, what Kyle Meyaard-Schaap offers is an account of Christian climate action that is nothing more nor less than faithful Christian discipleship, following Jesus.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.