Statement of Ethicists Without Borders: “Christian Ethics, Climate Emergency and Nonviolent Direct Action”

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Christian Ethics, Climate Emergency and Nonviolent Direct Action

We are in the midst of a planetary mass extinction event, driven by human actions and sustained by unjust social structures and political institutions. Climate disruption, biodiversity loss, and the collapse of ecosystems now threaten the survival of much of life on Earth, including, potentially, human life. While lament and repentance are appropriate responses to these realities, it remains essential to push for rapid and far-reaching cuts to carbon pollution in order to minimise the damage. We face dangerous disruption to our societies, the extent of which still depends on the choices we make. Richer nations such as the United States and the UK should be making greater commitments that reflect our capacity to respond and our responsibility for the problem.

 

As ethicists we support the aim to be carbon neutral by 2025, which we consider to be a morally well-grounded target. To achieve this would require rapid social transformation as well as large-scale deployment of nature-based solutions. This would be enormously technically challenging, and is unlikely to be achievable within our standard political and economic frameworks today. The urgency of the crisis leads us to conclude that disruptive action is a proportionate response.

 

Christian public witness calls for solidarity with the poorest, who suffer first and worst as a result of climate breakdown. We therefore call on all Christians and churches to pledge to support, and where possible participate in, a range of actions that seek to counteract climate and ecological collapse. These include both redoubling our efforts in areas where our churches are already taking the lead, such as caring for climate-vulnerable communities and restoring creation, and undertaking new initiatives: to lobby government and other civic leaders; to build up communities of radical hope and sustainable living; to provide sanctuary and spiritual care for those experiencing ecological grief or despair, and to make and promote personal lifestyle sacrifices—including but not limited to embracing simpler living, reducing consumption of animal products and limiting fossil fuel intensive travel where possible.

 

But Christian public witness also includes visible protest and non-violent direct action where necessary. Civil disobedience has the power to disrupt habits of injustice. Churches have played historically pivotal roles in achieving rapid change in times of crisis, and renewing democracy in the process. For example: the movement for the abolition of slavery; civil rights in the USA; anti-apartheid in South Africa; anti-war and global peace movements to this day. In all these cases Christians not only lobbied and educated, but also engaged in peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience. This tradition stretches right back to the life and actions of Jesus, whose peaceful agitation was the paradigm of manifesting and anticipating the kingdom of God.

 

Extinction Rebellion, Schools Strike, and other peaceful mobilisations for action on climate change have renewed the call for mass, civil disobedience in defence of creation and its most vulnerable members. We call on all Christians to consider carefully how God is calling them to respond to this crisis, in light of their personal circumstances, gifts and vulnerabilities. And we call on all Christian churches to declare an ecological emergency and develop a plan of action commensurate to the risks we now face, to protect and care for vulnerable populations, endangered creatures and all God’s creation.

To be added to this statement, please email Tobias Winright at tobias.winright@slu.edu.

Signed,

  1. Tobias Winright, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics and Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University
  2. Jacaranda Turvey Tait, Honorary Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Chester
  3. Stefan Skrimshire, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds
  4. Rachel Muers, Professor of Theology, University of Leeds
  5. David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Chester
  6. Debra Dean Murphy, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, West Virginia Wesleyan College
  7. Vincent Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, University of Dayton
  8. Mary Jo Iozzio, Professor of Moral Theology, Boston College
  9. James P. Bailey, Associate Professor of Theology, Duquesne University
  10. Erin Lothes Biviano, Associate Professor of Theology, College of St. Elizabeth
  11. Marcus Mescher, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Xavier University
  12. Todd Salzman, Amelia and Emil Graff Professor of Catholic Theology, Creighton University
  13. Mark J. Allman, Professor of Religious & Theological Studies, Merrimack College
  14. Christopher Steck, SJ, Associate Professor, Georgetown University
  15. Karen Peterson-Iyer, Assistant Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, Santa Clara University
  16. Christine E. McCarthy, Instructor of Catholic Social Ethics, Marywood University
  17. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, Professor of Theology, Bellarmine University
  18. Ryan Patrick McLaughlin, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Theology, College of Saint Elizabeth
  19. Doris M. Kieser, Associate Professor of Theology, St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta
  20. Lisa Sowle Cahill, Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College
  21. Rachel Hart Winter, Director,  St. Catherine of Siena, Dominican University
  22. Elizabeth Sweeny Block, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Saint Louis University
  23. David R. Weiss, Public Theologian, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, St. Paul, MN
  24. Peter R. Gathje, Professor of Christian Ethics, Vice President of Academic Affairs/Dean, Memphis Theological Seminary
  25. Justin Bronson Barringer, PhD Candidate in Religious Ethics, Southern Methodist University
  26. Timothy Harvie, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, St. Mary’s University, Calgary, Canada
  27. Anna Floerke Scheid, Associate Professor of Theology, Duquesne University
  28. Daniel R. DiLeo, Assistant Professor and Director, Justice and Peace Studies Program, Creighton University
  29. Gerald J. Beyer, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Villanova University
  30. Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary of California Lutheran University, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Core Doctoral Faculty, the Graduate Theological Union
  31. M. Therese Lysaught, Professor, Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy, Stritch School of Medicine, Institute of Pastoral Studies, Loyola University Chicago
  32. Trevor Bechtel, Poverty Solutions Student Engagement Coordinator, University of Michigan
  33. Cristina Richie, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies, Brody School of Medicine
  34. Aana Marie Vigen, Associate Professor, Christian Social Ethics, Loyola University Chicago
  35. Hugh LaFollette, Cole Chair in Ethics, Professor of Philosophy, University of South Florida-St. Petersburg
  36. Michael P. Jaycox, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, Seattle University
  37. Daniel Cosacchi, Canisius Postdoctoral Fellow, Fairfield University
  38. Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee, Ecofeminist Ethics and Climate Chaplaincy, Boston
  39. Andrea Vicini, S.J., Professor of Moral Theology, Boston College
  40. Emily Dumler-Winckler, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics and Constructive Theology, Saint Louis University
  41. Michael McLaughlin, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Old Dominion University
  42. Matthew A. Tapie, Assistant Professor of Theology & Director, Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, Saint Leo University
  43. John Sniegocki, Associate Professor of Religious Ethics, Director, Peace & Justice Studies, Xavier University
  44. Daniel Scheid, Associate Professor of Theology, Duquesne University
  45. Maria Teresa (MT) Davila, Lecturer of Theology and Religious Studies, Merrimack College
  46. Susanna Snyder, Lecturer in Ethics and Theology, Ripon College Cuddesdon
  47. Peter Scott, Samuel Ferguson Professor of Applied Theology and Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute, The University of Manchester

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