I was delighted to write a feature piece in Premier’s Christianity magazine looking at various ways in which individuals can be a part of building a better world after this pandemic. Below is taken from the article I wrote, which can be read in full on Premier Christianity’s website here.
As we in the UK slowly emerge from the initial extremes of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are asking what might lie ahead. Crises of this scale give us, as a society, the rare opportunity to ask big questions about who we are and our place in the world. Historically, pandemics have led to dramatic societal changes, and the Church has often played a significant role in that transformation. Whilst the pandemic is likely to be a drawn out crisis, Christians and churches can play a vital role in shaping what happens next. As we consider the end of lockdown, what can you and I do to build a better world?
As Christians, our first call when we see the world in trouble must be prayer. Alongside intercession, there is a strong biblical tradition of lament where we cry out to God for the things that are not as they should be. Through the pandemic and the despair of seeing the impact of our broken relationship with the wider creation, I have realised afresh the importance of holding this space and not being afraid of it, of not moving on too quickly. There is huge significance in mourning the brokenness of the world; in acknowledging our role within that, even if unconscious or unintentional. From this place we can repent and look to move forward onto a new path, praying for the change we want to see in our own lives and the wider world.
We know we live in a complicated world with complicated problems, where we are increasingly connected to and reliant on people on the other side of the world. My actions have effects on people and other creatures I have never met. Part of our responsibility before God as Christians is learning about what’s going on in his world, so that the choices we make and the actions we take are conscious and well-informed. Tearfund has for many years been campaigning and taking action to address the climate crisis and help those in poverty who are most affected and you can learn more and get involved with our work by signing up to our Tearfund Action emails.
3. SPEAK UP
Proverbs 31:9 says “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” We are called as Christians to stand up for justice, asking those in positions of power to make decisions that protect the most vulnerable people and the earth we all rely on. This is not just the responsibility of those who work for Christian charities or advocacy organisations, but each christian is called to play their part in using their voice to help build a better world.
Among other things, we need to be calling on the UK government to reboot the economy in a way that prioritises the poorest, tackles the climate emergency and builds a better world for everyone. At Tearfund, our World Rebooted campaign helps you email the Prime Minister with some specific requests, and gives discussion material and an animation for you to use in your church.
As well as asking others to act, we must look at our own lives and lifestyles, considering where we can make changes to be kinder to the planet and the people and creatures we share it with, taking responsibility for our part in creating the climate crisis we are now in through our own consumer habits and high resource use. Being part of the problem means we can also be part of the solution! There are lots of steps we can take in our ordinary lives to make changes and help resolve these issues. Changing our eating habits is one area where we can make a big difference. Meat production is a big cause of greenhouse gas emissions, so let’s switch to a predominantly vegetable and grain-based diet, buying local and seasonal produce and prioritising organic products wherever practical.
The lockdown measures have forced many to embrace a simpler way of living. Going forward, will we get back in our cars and allow the road traffic and pollution to build up again? Will we pick up our old travel habits or make different holiday choices and do more of our work meetings virtually? Will we rush back into the shops at the weekend or take more time to go out as family? Will we find ways to continue connecting with and looking out for our neighbours? It’s our choice!
The way we choose to spend our money shows what we value.
With the money that we keep, we should think about our bank accounts, investments and pensions – are the places where we are storing our money doing so in an ethical way that does not harm other people and the earth? Many banks invest in unethical industries which are contributing to climate change and deforestation and bolstering inequality and injustice.
How about the money we spend and the things we buy – are we considering how to be ethical consumers, making decisions that respect our global neighbours and the natural world?
For the money we give away, are we doing so generously? Our giving should reflect God’s care for the whole of his creation – people and the rest of the natural world – so donating to organisations that are addressing both is the best way forward.
Walter Brueggemann is a well known Old Testament theologian who has written about having a ‘prophetic imagination’. He calls us to allow the biblical story to so deeply shape our imagination that we’re able to envision the world as it should be. Our lives as Christians are to be motivated by that vision of the future that we glimpse in Bible texts like Revelation 21 and 22, of a time when God will dwell fully with us, in a transformed heaven and earth, where the wider creation flourishes with us. We know we won’t see it fully until Christ returns to this earth and he dwells in our midst, in the transformation of all things, but can we so deeply imagine this future reality that we embody its values in how we live today?
COVID-19 is a wake-up call to us all and the crisis gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape society and build a better world. We have seen that we are capable of adapting incredibly quickly as human beings and as a society. Fundamental renewal feels not only desperately needed, but perhaps even possible… Will you join me in imagining and working for a better world?