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Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) is preaching a new gospel to the masses: Thou shalt not harm the Earth. Founded in 2012, the national nonprofit has mobilized 25,000 Gen Z Christians to spread a “What Would Jesus Do” message to members of their faith who don’t believe in climate change. (In 2015, 37 percent of white evangelical Protestants said there was no solid evidence of climate change, according to the Pew Research Center.) Helping lead that mission is Littleton resident and YECA’s new director of communications, 26-year-old Lindsay Garcia. Ahead of Earth Day, we spoke with Garcia about being a burning bush for climate skeptics.
5280: What message resonates with evangelicals?
Lindsay Garcia:One of the first things God says to humans in Genesis is to be good stewards of the Earth. So that’s not really something Christians can dismiss.
But many do. Why?
A lot of it starts with an incomplete theology. Some evangelicals fail to account for that verse and the fact that God repeatedly emphasizes the importance of caring for the poor and vulnerable—those whom climate change has the biggest impact on. There are also political and cultural forces at work. “Evangelical” has become so closely connected with conservative politics, and climate change has been made a polarizing and partisan issue. Fortunately, from what we’ve seen at YECA, younger Christians and evangelicals care much more about climate change than past generations and are also more likely to accept the science.
How do you reach evangelicals who don’t believe climate change is happening at all?
The most powerful conversations evolve from shared values. For example, any person who values economic growth and well-paying jobs should value the climate provisions and clean energy initiatives in legislation such as the Build Back Better plan. We just have to find an “in” when talking about climate action and environmental work.
So you talk politics without calling it politics?
Right. I think some people think that caring about climate change means they have to become vegan or liberal. That’s not true. Religious conservatives can still be who they are and care about the way climate change affects so many areas of our lives.
Your parent organization, the Evangelicals Environmental Network, connects environmental action with an anti-abortion stance. How do the two intersect?
Methane pollution is directly affecting children’s health, leading to higher rates of asthma and cancer. We even know that it affects children in the womb—sometimes babies are born prematurely or with pre-existing health conditions due to pollution. If you really care about being pro-life, you should also care about these things.
Do you receive a lot of negative feedback?
Most of the criticism our organization has gotten has been online. According to my co-workers who have been in this line of work longer, that seems to be common. While we have everything from scientific data to strong theology to back us up, I often find it’s not worth my time to get involved in heated arguments online. They usually don’t lead to anything constructive. The face-to-face interactions I’ve had are much more positive. I’d much rather focus on talking with people who are truly curious about our work, even if they might not fully agree with everything we stand for.