A former Rector of Stradbally, Patrick Semple, was known as the Rector who wouldn’t pray for rain. We certainly haven’t needed any such prayers recently. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Ferns encourages his flock to pray that the rain will cease. Bishop Brennan is in good company, for in old editions of the Prayer book we find this: O Lord God, who hast justly humbled us by thy late plague of immoderate rain and waters … In his 1928 book Paganism in our Christianity Arthur Weigall asks if we think God is a vindictive hobgoblin. If so, praying for rain or shine, as required, might be just the thing. If you see the Lord as an irascible headmaster needing to be placated and massaged, then prayers for this or that might be just your cup of tea. It wasn’t Patrick Semple’s. It’s not mine.
So much rain here, so little in the USA. Our farmers are having a tough time because of too much, theirs because of too little. That word immoderate seems spot on. Jesus is recorded as saying that rain, much welcomed in those parts, falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), and this is one of the texts (Luke 13 is another) that should be wheeled out when people say that some nasty accident is God’s judgement on the victim. This is piffle. As I’ve so often said, life is unpredictable – tectonic plates shift, cells go out of control, people decide to do things that affect others. Tragedies occur, but they say nothing about the Lord. They may well say something about ourselves:
“The rain falls upon the just
And also on the unjust fellas
But mostly it falls upon the just
Cause the unjust have the just’s umbrellas”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Statesman
Some people say that climate change is the result of human activity, and that we should do something about it. If it is, it’s a bit late. It started at least as far back as the 18th century with industrialisation. In Saudi Arabia, where petrol is dirt cheap, I witnessed the turning on of car engines and aircons at 5 am so that the car would be nice and cool for the journey hours later. Think of all that exhaust. How can we deny to others what we have had for at least a century? There’s some profound hypocrisy going on here—and the church, with the way it uses petrol, electricity, paper, and hot air, makes its green charters part of this hypocrisy.
Some say that we need to preserve the environment for the sake of existing species, but what about the view that environmental changes will provoke the next stages of the evolution of species? God, then, would be ‘working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.’ Nigel Lawson’s book An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming is a salutary read. Climate change is part of a cyclical process over centuries, and of course the activity of humans and other animals contributes (think of all the cow farts). The Lord gave us intellects to cope and develop. This is what scientific investigation is for.
In the end, whatever happens, nature will win. Bacteria will beat antibiotics. Particles from the sun will one day disrupt our power supplies with catastrophic results. We could well be wiped out as a result of the dust cloud if Yellowstone erupts, already long overdue. But bacteria and insects will survive and evolve, plants will survive and evolve, and—who knows—a new, improved super-ape might evolve and the whole process start all over again.
If you care about the environment enough to act, you will get rid of your cars, turn off your lights, turn down your heating/aircon, stop using paper, stop buying jewels, and make sure your pension funds (such as they are) are not invested in the oil and geological extraction industries. Let’s have another sherry.