“Would you break the law?”
A Vindication of Christian Climate Action and Extinction Rebellion
Letter by Dr David Golding CBE, published in ‘Evangelicals Now’, January 2022, with minor revisions:
Re. “Would you break the law?” (Simon Marsh, EN Nov), I was glad that Mr Marsh did not indulge in the usual, knee-jerk response which characterises the attitudes of most believers to Extinction Rebellion (XR) (cf. Esther 4. 15, 16). Mr Marsh stated that XR considers that “they have a duty to disobey the system”, but this is because ‘the system’, as it is currently organised, will bring “untold suffering due to the climate crisis”. [See “Planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”, 11,000 scientists from 153 nations, Nov 2019.]
He would “personally draw the line at XR’s tactics”, because “in a democracy, there are many ways of making your voice heard”. There are indeed, and we’ve spared no effort to use them all for two decades, with far too little to show for our trouble! The ‘last straw’ for many came in 2015, when, at an M&S reception for campaigners I attended, the then climate minister, Amber Rudd, announced swingeing cuts in support for renewable energy – this after the biggest lobby of Parliament ever! I sincerely regret the disruption caused by Insulate Britain, but this pales into near insignificance compared with the gross irresponsibility – indeed, wicked folly – of the Government in failing to take effective action on this issue. I’m reminded of the old proverb: “What is the crime of the bank robber, compared with that of the owner of the bank?”
EN readers should consider the statement by 94 academics, which laid out the rational and ethical case for XR in Oct 2018. [Browse for: “Facts about our ecological crisis are incontrovertible. We must take action.”] They said, “When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship… the ‘social contract’ has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to… rebel to defend life itself.” So if you haven’t “filled the streets with your protests” as Drew Dellinger’s ‘Lament’ puts it – Mr Marsh’s two marches hardly pass muster – you do not have the right criticise those who have been provoked to non-violent disobedience!
For a more detailed treatment of this subject, click here.
For further study, see Martyn Luther-King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”; and Christian Climate Action’s, “Time to act”, SPCK 2020.