Hate Mail and the Good Christian Woman

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J_Leah

“Hate mail” and “good Christian woman” are not phrases usually found in the same sentence. Good Christian women certainly do not write hate mail, and heaven forbid they should act or speak in a way that warrants receiving it.

And yet, when a good Christian woman steps outside the bounds of her prescribed social or political boundaries, when she dares to speak or act without permission from those setting the status-quo agenda, watch out. And get ready for an avalanche of vitriol.

Katharine Hayhoe is one such woman. She receives up to 250 pieces of hate mail a day—some of it so obscene and threatening that the FBI has been called in to investigate.

Her offense?

She’s a Christian woman of a theologically and politically conservative stripe and she is a Ph.D. climate scientist. Her mission: convince fellow Christians of the realities and dangers of climate change, a mission that last year landed her on Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” list.

Hayhoe is accomplishing her mission by presenting the irrefutable science in presentations across North America. She also is demonstrating how the proponents of climate change denial have purposefully targeted conservative Christians. It’s quite sinister, actually.

“They play on our fears of government interference as well as our belief in a sovereign God, while ignoring our Christian call to care for God’s creation and our neighbours,” Hayhoe told me in her recent visit to my hometown. “If they can cast doubt on the science, even if they can’t disprove it, then status quo wins.”

Never mind that of the nearly 14,000 peer-reviewed climate change papers published since 2008, only 27 (that’s 27 without any zeros) contend climate change isn’t happening or isn’t due to human-induced causes.

Okay, SheLovelys, stay with me!

If you read blog posts like I read blog posts, you might be tempted to skim this post so you can get on with more congenial reading (something with more wit, fewer numbers, and lacking the ominous war-drum undertones). But hang in there, because Hayhoe’s courage and message have something to teach all of us who push against the status quo.

Katharine Hayhoe is changing minds about climate change because her message is not only rooted in good science, but in compassion and justice. With humility and a large dose of graciousness, she rightly frames the climate change conversation in moral terms, citing the Christian imperative to resist greed and care for the “least of these.”

The tragedy of climate change, she contends, is that its effects are experienced most dramatically by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. In this regard, she echoes a story told by Margot Starbuck in Today’s Christian Woman.

Starbuck tells the story of Wema, a rural farmer she met last year on a trip to Malawi. Wema grew up in a village where for centuries the rains arrived every October. Seeds were planted in confidence of an abundant harvest of maize and other vegetables—staples that were augmented by fish caught from the always-flowing river running through the village.

But about 20 years ago, things began to change. Rains came later and were unpredictable. Drought became the norm and the river that once teemed with fish became a dry roadway.

Wema’s story is repeated throughout sub-Sarahan Africa by hundreds of thousands without access to grocery stores or bottled water—by those, in other words, who have nothing to buffer them from the climate disruption that has already changed their lands.

And the story is repeated around the world but with different ecological twists. In the Arctic, it looks like Inuit villages literally falling into a rising sea, a sea that once was frozen, but now surges and washes away homes during the more powerful storm season.

Then there is the plight of the people of Bangladesh, who are among the poorest of all people on earth. They are caught in a cruel vise that spells a future with not enough good water on one end and too much bad water on the other end. The good water, which flows down the Ganges and Brahmaputra, is drying up as the Himalayan glaciers that feed them melt (which is already happening at alarming rates). The bad water is already encroaching as seawater from the Bay of Bengal floods into the country’s agricultural land.

These are the kind of stories Katharine Hayhoe is telling, not because they are sensational, but because they are true—and because love compels her. She suggests the poster child for climate change shouldn’t be the polar bear, but an African refugee or a Bangladeshi rice farmer, mourning their loss of livelihood and a secure future.

These are the ones to whom she looks for permission to carry out her mission as a climate change evangelist.

And if that mission offends the self-appointed guardians of the status quo, then let the hate mail come.

(For more on Katharine Hayhoe and her message, watch her recent presentation in Vancouver, BC: http://www.arocha.ca/climate-for-change/)

______________

Image credit: Bert Kaufmann

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Leah Kostamo
Leah Kostamo is the author of Planted: a Story of Creation, Calling and Community, a book Eugene H. Peterson called “remarkable” and Margaret Atwood called “clear-sighted and humorous.” She likes to read (and write) wise and winsome stories that inspire people to be the change they want to see in the world. She can be found online leahkostamo.com and @leahkostamo. She ministers with the Christian conservation organization, A Rocha.
Leah Kostamo
Leah Kostamo
Leah Kostamo

Latest posts by Leah Kostamo (see all)

  • seroquel

    What touches me about this story is how Katharine is being persecuted for telling the truth. I don’t understand why some people are so afraid of facing the truth. Can you imagine how many things will change once those people who are in denial start realising that climate change is a reality caused by humans,once that happens we can all play a role in conserving what’s left. The truth sets you free and I can only hope that people will be liberated by her message and start being stewards of this gift we received from God called Earth.

    • Yes!!!

    • Hayhoe is not the only evangelical concerned about the impact of climate policy on the poor. Dr E. Calvin Beisner’s father was a missionary, and Dr Beisner has seen first hand the price that poor people pay when developed nations “get it wrong”.
      http://www.cornwallalliance.org/

      • renewableguy

        Another anti climate action site

  • seroquel

    Heartfelt article Leah,thank you

  • Thank you for sharing these very real stories of climate change impact on the poor. In light of this tremendous global threat, I wish we wouldn’t spend time on some of the other squabbles we get into as Christians!

    • Leah Kostamo

      You’re welcome, Cindy. Yes, in light of the magnitude of climate change some of the stuff we bicker about seems pretty petty. Peace to you.

    • Google around a little bit, and you’ll find that these stories are not the least bit real. Why are they being told, then? Agenda 21. Anti-Christian, it is the new Communist Manifesto, cloaked in green. The climate hoax is the Pied Piper program to mislead free people into bondage.

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  • Thank you for putting heart into an issue that has been largely reduced to vague sensationalism.

    • Leah Kostamo

      You’re welcome, Michele. Yes, when we start to see the impact on the most vulnerable it certainly puts things into perspective. Blessings.

      • Four million people a year die from indoor pollution resulting from lack of access to affordable energy ie fossil fuels. Here. Now. Blessings to you, too.

  • HBurns

    Thanks Leah for bringing more light to this matter. I think we can all be challenged by your comment of where Katharine Hayhoe finds permission for her mission… in the eyes of the most vulnerable. May it always be so for us as well when we look toward our God-given missions in life. Your words are powerful and enlightening. xo

    • Leah Kostamo

      Thank you Helen. And thank you for the way you stand with the most vulnerable. You are an example to many!

  • Anne-Marie

    ‘With humility and a large dose of graciousness, she rightly frames the climate change conversation in moral terms, citing the Christian imperative to resist greed and care for the “least of these.”’ Thank you for highlighting the courage and compassion of this fine scientist. I think we are all called to wade into the divide and speak love and truth, but the warning is good as well. To be prepared for the backlash motivated by fear. Thanks Leah!

    • Leah Kostamo

      You’re welcome, Anne-Marie. Yes, Katharine is a gutsy woman — following the spirit where others have feared to tread. Hope your garden is growing well (local food being a great way to mitigate climate change! :)).

    • renewableguy

      Dr. Roy Spencer works for the fossil fuel industry.

  • She’s such a Dangerous Women. A hero, really. Thank for introducing her to us, Leah. Her lens on climate change? Sobering. Yes, to the refugee and the Bangladeshi rice farmer being the spokespeople on climate change. #chills

    • Leah Kostamo

      Indeed, she is a Dangerous woman and thus the backlash. I have learned a lot from her conviction and willingness to stand with the least of these. Peace, friend.

  • Father, we pray for Katherine, for safety, and for wisdom, and for courage as she keeps proclaiming this message. And, Lord, we pray that all of us would have our eyes opened to how our choices are impacting our brothers and sisters in more marginalized areas. We pray for change, Lord.

    • Leah Kostamo

      Amen, Heather! And interestingly, Katharine told us (at a pastor’s conference) that after a group of women began praying for her regularly and concertedly for her safety and for courage that the amount of hate mail decreased dramatically. God is good and on the side of truth and justice for the least of these.

    • renewableguy

      WUWT is a fossil fuel funded site. They are the anti climate action site.

  • Saskia Wishart

    Woah. This is sobering and important. Thank you for introducing Katherine to us, Leah. Dangerous woman indeed.

    • Leah Kostamo

      You’re welcome, Saskia. Dangerous women unite! 🙂

  • Erin Wilson

    So grateful for her clear vision and courage! May she continue to call us out until we finally hear!

  • Bev Murrill

    Bless that woman… courage has so many faces.

  • This article is so full of misinformation and outright lies, it more resembles a snake pit than a rational exposition of the true situation in climate science. Thousands of climate scientists have risen against the manufactured “consensus ” which you trumpet, including many of the most distinguished to ever walk this planet. The World Drought Index is DOWN over the last twenty years. The IPCC’s Himalayan glacier scandal seems not to have been noticed by you. Millions of poor Africans and Asians are dying each year RIGHT NOW,for want of access to inexpensive fossil fuel energy. The Arctic was warmer in the 1930’s and ’40’s than it is now. The global warming/climate change scam is falling like a house of cards, and there’s nothing Hayhoe or Pope Francis can do to save it. Cloaking pseudoscience in religious garb only serves to show the weakness of the original science.

    • Erin Wilson

      Windy, I don’t have to agree with your point of view in order to respect your right to have it.

      But calling a SheLoves writer (and/or her colleague) a liar, etc. just isn’t how we roll around here. We have wide arms, and represent a broad range of opinions, but we do it with love and respect.

      Peace to you.

      • Thank you for your kind reply to what may have seemed to you unkind assertions, but it hurts my heart to see inaccurate memes which have been disproven and debunked used as tools of deception to perpetuate real here and now, in the world today, suffering and injustice.
        Repeating misinformation, whether accidentally or knowingly, no matter how well intentioned, is to perpetuate misinformation. The global government movement, which the climate scam is a subset of, is anti-human and anti-Christian. It’s ultimate goal, as outlined in Agenda 21 (a thinly veiled New Communist Manifesto) is an “ideal” population on Earth of 500 million people.
        For an excellent evangelical viewpoint on environmental stewardship with a healthy serving of climate reality, I recommend E. Calvin Beisner’s Cornwall Alliance.

        http://www.cornwallalliance.org/

        Another superb source of quality information is Dr Roy Spencer, also an evangelical Christian and a NASA award winning scientist,, who is actively involved in constructing global satellite data temperature sets. In other words, he really knows what he’s talking about. Neither is he any stranger to hate mail. His website is here.

        http://www.drroyspencer.com

        Here he is on John Stossel’s show trying to debate a climate alarmist, Gavin Schmidt, who was one of the key perpetrators in the Climategate scandal.

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eYKggC5VOzA

        The main takeaway here is the damage and destruction being done to the poor and disadvantaged in the world today, right here, right now, by bad climate policy.
        Again, thank you for your kind reply, and for your thoughtful consideration of this oh-so-important issue.

        • renewableguy

          We can see what is happening to earth’s balance of energy with our instruments and we can measure the quantity of the different energies. The quantity of ghg energy spectrum leaving the earth has decreased. The quantity of ghg energy spectrum returning to earth’s surface has increased. I repeat, our instruments can see it and measure it. It has been verified. God and science go hand in hand. God wants us to see the truth and accept it. The left graph shows what is leaving the earth and it is the decreased energy spectrum. The energy returning to the earth has increased.

          http://www.skepticalscience.com/empirical-evidence-for-co2-enhanced-greenhouse-effect.htm

          The Empirical Evidence

          As temperatures started to rise, scientists became more and more interested in the cause. Many theories were proposed. All save one have fallen by the wayside, discarded for lack of evidence. One theory alone has stood the test of time, strengthened by experiments.

          We know CO2 absorbs and re-emits longwave radiation (Tyndall). The theory of greenhouse gases predicts that if we increase the proportion of greenhouse gases, more warming will occur (Arrhenius).

          Scientists have measured the influence of CO2 on both incoming solar energy and outgoing long-wave radiation. Less longwave radiation is escaping to space at the specific wavelengths of greenhouse gases. Increased longwave radiation is measured at the surface of the Earth at the same wavelengths.

          These data provide empirical evidence for the predicted effect of CO2.

      • Leah Kostamo

        Thank you, Erin. And blessings in your work which I so greatly respect! Peace.

    • Leah Kostamo

      Dear Windy,
      I wish you blessings and peace. This article obviously struck a nerve with you. There doesn’t seem to be a productive point to argue science here since Sheloves is not a platform for inflammatory “conversation”, except to say that I have arrived at my position by listening to peer-reviewed scientists and evangelical Christians (I will resist sharing links).
      Again, deep peace from our Lord to you.
      Leah

  • pastordt

    Thank you for spotlighting this important work, Leah. Great article. Thanks so much.