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When it comes to accepting climate change, white evangelicals lag far behind
A new PRRI survey finds that only 8% of white evangelicals believe climate change is a serious problem
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When it comes to the climate crisis, non-religious Americans recognize the existential threat for what it is while white evangelical Christians remain lagging far, far behind, according to a new survey from PRRI.
Just consider the percentage of people who believe climate change is a crisis (which it is) and how those numbers have changed over the past decade for various groups.
In 2014, 33% of religiously unaffiliated Americans accepted that we were facing a climate crisis. That number has now jumped to 43%. Still too low, to be sure, but higher than any other “religious” group in the nation.
While PRRI didn’t give numbers for atheists specifically, a Pew Research Center survey from 2022 found that 88% of atheists accepted that global climate change was a serious problem.
White evangelicals, on the other hand, are heading backwards when they barely had any room left, going from a scant 13% in 2014 to a pathetic 8% today. (The Pew survey did not separate evangelicals from white evangelicals, hence the disparity.)
The only groups that accept the crisis more than the average American are the Nones, Jews, and Hispanic Catholics.
If there’s any consolation here, it’s that there’s been a drop in the percentage of Americans who believe religion is important in their lives. To quote Mark Silk at Religion News Service, “while white evangelicals have become less willing to consider climate change a crisis, there are significantly fewer of them.” So at least we have that going for us.
The problem, of course, is that the ever-shrinking number of conservative Christians still have outsized authority in our politics. The Republican Party is full of right-wing Jesus lovers who ignore or downplay the threat of the crisis.
In 2007, the Southern Baptist Convention followed suit with a resolution that was skeptical about evidence for anthropogenic climate change and opposed to anything that interfered with economic development.
Individuals with large Christian audiences aren’t helping either. Preacher John MacArthur, who was one of many pastors to simply brush aside the COVID threat, said in 2008 that no one needed to worry about the climate because God intended for us to treat it like a used Kleenex:
God intended us to use this planet to fill this planet for the benefit of man. Never was intended to be a permanent planet. It is a disposable planet. Christians ought to know that.
Right wing activist Mary Colbert has said climate change is Satan’s way of distracting us from realizing the consequences of our sins. God was sending tornadoes and storms to punish us, but Satan wanted you to think climate change was responsible.
Creationist Ken Ham says the only kind of climate change we need to worry about is going to Hell.
Abusive pastor Mark Driscoll once said at a Christian conference, “I know who made the environment and He’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.”
MAGA cultist preacher Robert Jeffress has argued that rainbows are God’s way of reminding us “that the polar ice caps aren’t going to melt and flood the world again.”
We can play this game for a very long time.
Then there are all the elected Republicans who say things like God will fix the environment without man’s intervention because “if there’s a real problem, He can take care of it.” Or that God will always “give us time” to solve the problem. Or that we should stop paying attention to environmental concerns altogether because God promised not to destroy the world… again.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many white evangelicals refuse to accept the connection between human activity and the climate crisis. They’re fed a steady stream of misinformation to the point where 49% of them say climate change is “mostly caused by natural patterns in the earth’s environment,” which means there’s simply nothing we can do about it. (Another 19% basically think it’s all a hoax, which is exactly what their preferred presidential candidate believes.)
The sad thing is that Christians could easily make the same argument that they’re required by God to take care of the planet that He gave them. After all, if Jesus doesn’t return for another couple of centuries, then it needs to remain sustainable for future generations of children. (Or, to put that in terms Republicans can understand, we need to save the planet for the future of fetuses everywhere.)
But science-denying white evangelicals, selfish to the core, don’t give a damn about the society they live in because they’ve fallen for the delusion that the afterlife is all that matters, so to hell with everyone in this world. Let it burn. They’re only here to make every problem worse.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)
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