Above: Australian school students in a 2019 School Strike 4 Climate rally. Pics: Facebook
Common Grace is a Christian justice organisation supporting the School Strike 4 Climate. They have fielded concerns from Christians who believe it’s wrong to encourage students to “strike” from school and push for change. Climate justice campaigner Jason John defends the group’s position, in an article arguing the case for Christian activism. Below is an excerpt of his article.
“Some Christians feel strongly that we are to be subject to civil authorities, and the rule of law. They believe that students, like all of us, should use the proper channels to make themselves heard.
Part of the issue is that the strikers feel that because they have no power in the ballot box, and because the Government is refusing to take sufficient action to halt climate change, they must find other ways to make their voices heard.
Women had to find creative ways to be heard as they demanded the right to vote, to economic equality, and to control over their own bodies and destinies. They continue to be forced to do so in the face of Domestic and Family Violence.
Likewise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their allies continue to push for a Voice, for Truth, and a Treaty. Civil disobedience has a long history in this movement.
Advocates for Asylum Seekers, have resorted, with considerable success, to civil disobedience to force the government to act, and to raise community awareness.
In all of these movements, people have sometimes broken the rules, because the rules were set up to harm them. They break the rules to challenge and change the rules. Our current rules around Climate Pollution are set up to pass the benefits to wealthy adults, and pass the costs on to all our children, to the poor, and to the other creatures we share God’s beautiful Earth with.
Students are Acting on What They Learn in School
By the time children in primary school are old enough to vote, we will have locked in catastrophic climate change, if we don’t take drastic action to reduce our emissions now. The students are right to demand urgent action, right now. Sadly, our Government is ignoring the science that they are learning in school, and instead is committed to continuing a fossil-fuel based future.
The students would have been more than happy for the adults to get together and act to save their future, so that they could stay in school. This hasn’t happened.
So now is the time for new mass movement of students, and those of us who have been calling for climate action for decades, to be joined by everyone who wants a future for this planet, and humanity.
Jesus Broke Laws to Do Good
Each of us needs to pray seriously about breaking laws in the hope of creating new, future saving laws.
Breaking laws is not anarchy, it is the part of the political process which brought about the vote for women, citizenship for Aboriginal people, and safer and fairer work conditions for all, to name a few things.
Breaking the law is central to our Christian tradition. Followers of Jesus have been doing it, since Jesus.
Breaking the Law was what Jesus did when he healed on the Sabbath, and when he cleared the temple ( Matthew 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45–48, John 2:13–16). Paul broke the law of circumcision (Galatians 5) to bring liberation to the Gentiles, despite it being the centrepiece of the covenant between God and the Jews (Exodus 17:9-14).
“The students have already decided to go on strike. So what are adult followers of Jesus called to do in response?”
The Apostles declared that they, “must obey God rather than any human authority,” when banned from preaching the gospel (Acts 5). Interestingly, their non-violent civil disobedience persuaded the authorities to let them continue to act.
Finally, those who are still hesitant about encouraging students to strike should rest assured that this isn’t what they will be doing.
The students have already decided to go on strike. So what are adult followers of Jesus called to do in response? Surely at least we might go along to ensure their safety? Volunteer as marshalls if that is needed? Take water for people. Show hospitality with some snacks? Or even gather in church to pray for them, and for climate action, and let our communities know that we’re doing that?
What will Christian adults to do catalyse the changes needed in government and industry so that our students can rest assured that the necessary action is being taken, and focus on their studies until they are old enough to take their place in a healthy, sustainable, just workforce which leaves God’s Earth more beautiful than when they inherited it?”
- For more about Common Grace’s position on climate activism, see the full article.