Fake news and tribalism are the new black?

Monthly challenge

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about people’s attitudes to climate change recently, and I am reinforced in the view that we (all people, but especially christians) have entered a new era.

Almost 15 years ago I began discussing issues on the internet, writing my own blog and discussing on others’ blogs and forums. Mostly I was discussing with atheist and agnostics, but at times with christians too.

But the thing was, we mostly discussed reasons why we each believed what we did.

A short history of climate change discussion

Climate change discussion seemed to be the same a while back. Those who accepted the scientific consensus argued about the meteorological facts. Those who were sceptical the climate was changing alarmingly pointed to facts that they thought showed the consensus was wrong – a year when the steady temperature rise was reversed, or a cold snap in Europe.

But it soon became clear that those sceptical arguments were unsustainable. The temperature downturn was merely a small blip in an otherwise inexorable rising global temperature graph. The hot weather events far outnumbered the cold weather events.

I used to wonder how much more evidence of increased temperatures and their effects would be necessary before the sceptics were forced by the evidence to re-think.

But now I know the answer.

Unprecedented is not enough

Last post I outlined how my part of Australia (the south east) is literally burning up, with enormous areas now burnt out, record high temperatures, a serious drought, more than a thousand homes lost, and firefighters on the verge of total exhaustion.

Today (Saturday 4th January) is another day of officially “catastrophic” fire conditions. Temperatures in the mid to high forties Celsius, humidities down to below 10%, strong winds coming. The whole country is on edge. Thousands of holiday-makers have been forced to leave or even be evacuated by the Navy. Some towns are indefensible. We don’t know how bad it will get.

All this was predicted by the climate science. Everyone agrees it is unprecedented. Except maybe a Government increasingly defensive about how foolishly negligent it has been, and some sections of the press who don’t seem to care for truth.

Yet still the Government, the right wing press and many christians refuse to admit the obvious. The climate has changed, it will get worse and we need to act now. (Well we needed to act a decade ago, but now is the best we can do.)

Tribalism rules, OK?

When all the predictions have become alarmingly true, when our country is burning, when hundreds of millions of native animals have perished, when agricultural and small business livelihoods are on the line, still, these people cannot admit that the climate is changing and we need to act.


It seems that evidence and truth no longer rule. Tribalism rules, OK?

For many christians, their tribe (conservative christianity) is tied to an ideology that requires tham to disbelieve in climate change. The Australian Christian Lobby (a conservative lobby group) names those concerned climate change as “Marxists”.

My guess is that the way was prepared by suspicion about the science of evolution, and the fear of social change relating to abortion and gay marriage. Suddenly, christians who used to be part of the dominant culture are starting to feel threatened, fearful, and fear generally leads to tribalism, drawing the wagons in a circle and hunkering down.

So climate change scepticism seems as much a mark of being a christian as believing in the resurrection, and held with a similar faith and tenacity.

The terrible truth

These christians don’t realise there is a documented link connecting climate change denial and the fossil fuel lobby. Think tanks that used to argue against the connection between smoking and lung cancer now argue against the connection between burning fossil fuels and climate disaster.

The christians don’t realise they are being lied to by professionals, and they don’t care to investigate because this is now a matter of tribal identification and faith.

January challenge

Find something that other christians believe and you don’t, or something you believe and other christians don’t, and investigate it with an open mind.

It may be climate change, it may be politics, it may be doctrine, or it may be ethics.

But give it a go. Pray for God to help you have an open mind. Read the best proponents of both sides of the question. Try to judge honestly.

You may be confirmed in your belief …. but you may not. The important thing is to make sure we are able to think and not just accept what we are told by our tribe.

For we christians need to recover our sense of truth, and be set free from tribal thinking. Jesus’ promise has never been needed more than now.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

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  1. Do you think that some Christians believe that God will look after mankind and that therefore climate change is part of “God’s grand plan” for the human race and that therefore nothing needs to be done because it’s all for our own good in the end as God knows best ?
    Maybe it’s just a way of avoiding personal responsibility because of the idea that “if God didn’t want it to happen, then it wouldn’t ” ?
    I disagree of course but I’m just interested if that’s the way some people think.

  2. I think that’s true for some. Martin Iles from the Australian Christian Lobby (an organisation that I strongly disagree with) and others say that God is in charge of the climate, not people. Some believe the fires (I think maybe gay marriage, abortion and general unbelief). I think he is a dangerous fanatic.

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