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Climate Justice: When Hope is Lost, Take Courage

Anna Jane Joyner
Climate advocate Anna Jane Joyner encourages church action at The Justice Conference 2018 in Melbourne.

In the world of climate advocate Anna Jane Joyner, few things are more difficult than a Thanksgiving dinner.

To the family table, she brings her passionate work to shift the Christian narrative on creation care, so as to prevent the most catastrophic of possible meteorological outcomes. Her father, prominent evangelical leader Rick Joyner, is an advisor to Donald Trump and a climate change denier. Tense times around the turkey, indeed.

Anna Jane shared with Tearfund Australia her thoughts on restoration with the land when she visited Australia for The Justice Conference. Her work intersects with Tearfund’s through the Renew Our World campaign, encouraging Christians to take on creation care as an expression of their faith. Here, she weaves together her deeply personal journey with the reflections on how Christians can find the courage to restore our land, our faith, and our church through the challenge of climate change.

When you mess with a part of it, the sea or the air or people, the ecosystem changes. That’s a reflection of God’s character. You can’t change, or hurt or harm one thing without hurting the whole.

Anna Jane Joyner

Interconnected relationships

When our relationship with God is aligned and healthy, then it is natural that our relationships with one another flow. He created this world in such a way that our relationships with each other, and with the land, are dependent upon each other, complementary.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Romans 1:20. It speaks to how God created this world and all its systems as a reflection of God’s character. And so when you mess with a part of it, the sea or the air or people, the ecosystem changes. That’s a reflection of God’s character. You can’t change, or hurt or harm one thing without hurting the whole.

Courage beyond hope

When it comes to climate change, I think my hope is gone. We’ve passed the “it’s going to be ok” mark. Science says we’ve passed that point. We’re looking at going from bad to catastrophic. For me, hope feels hollow. What we really need is courage. And you don’t have to have hope to have courage. You just have to show up and be involved.

Kate Marvel wrote an article for On Being called ‘We need courage not hope’, and in it she says “Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending.” This idea has kept me going. You know, people ask what do I do, and I say that I just show up. I vote, I attend local hearings, I go to church and show my pastor that I care. I show up at the family dinner table and I participate.

Motivated by joy

There is still joy. I started this work because I love this world. It was literally a falling in love experience. It happened when I was in New Zealand studying. I had left the church a few years earlier, largely because of its lack of focus on justice and this world. At least, my Dad’s version of church. I happened to take an ecology course, because I had to take a ‘science’ and I thought it might be easy and it fitted into my schedule.

I learned about the way the world works: how the grasses grow, and how the birds migrate. And I was in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Something in me was awakened, and I thought: “I want to take care of this.” After this, I switched my major and then started learning about all the environmental problems, climate change and its impact.

As things have become dire, I have felt more fear and anxiety. I have had to fight to maintain my first joy, and to stay motivated by that, not become motivated by fear and anxiety. You know, God created this amazing world and there was only a tiny chance that life would begin, but it did. And this is under threat. And we have a responsibility to fight for it.

Caring for activists

For activists, and I think for anyone who is paying attention, there’s a lot of fear and anxiety. It’s a serious emotional and spiritual challenge. We really need pastoral care to help navigate the strong negative feelings and to find hope in the darkest places. Pastoral care is desperately needed because climate change is not something we’ve ever experienced before, it’s not a spiritual crisis we are prepared for. I’ve had to do a lot of self-work, spiritually and physically. The past couple of years in the States, as a climate change activist and as the daughter of a mega church pastor, has absolutely been the darkest time. I’ve relied on support to get me through.

Renew Our World

I think it’s really important, globally, for Christians to speak out and use their voice. Renew Our World is a really helpful way for Christians to see that other Christians support climate action. For me, I left the church when I was pretty young because I didn’t see us trying to renew this world. It was just focused on the afterlife. In the US, my generation is the least religious in the history of the country. For me, it was only when I connected with other Christians who were pursuing justice that I came back to the church.

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