On a recent walk north of the Arctic Circle the temperature reached 28 degrees. Further evidence, if anyone needed it, of global climate change, and happening fastest in the polar regions. A visitor from Pakistan speaking at a conference spoke of temperatures there of well over 40 degrees. “You’ve made a good choice to come by train” said a notice on the journey to that Arctic walk. But it sometimes seems that individual actions, however multiplied by thousands of responsible people, are battling against daunting odds.
China Miéville, in his 2022 book “A Spectre, Haunting” (published by Head of Zeus Ltd), says “Today, the urgent danger of climate catastrophe is appallingly clear. In the ruthless pursuit of profit over the needs of the biome or humanity, capital accumulation has led to cataclysmic upheaval and death. Whatever the desires of any individual capitalists, whatever the pious declarations about ‘corporate responsibility’……. that fundamental dynamic towards accumulation ……… will always be stronger than any other tendency- ………… And because of this, it’s overwhelmingly likely that this capitalist dynamic will fail to adequately address the climate crisis.” (pp 159-60).
Just as in the time of Jesus, humanity seems to be confronted with the rapacious demands of an Empire which claims the authority of the gods to rule the world, except that whereas the gods then were Jupiter and Mars, now they are so-called free markets and shareholder value. There appears to be no indication in the current battles for political leadership in our country that these gods will be challenged in any real way.
Jesus was asked once when the Kingdom of God was coming (Luke chapter 17, verse 20). The Greek word used in the Gospel is “basileia” which could just as well be translated “Empire”. Is Jesus saying that the Empire of God is a direct challenge to the world’s Empire- rather like saying “Jesus is our Führer” (leader) in Nazi Germany? He replies that it does not come with things that can be “observed”, but it is already at work in the world (“is among you”, verse 21- not just “within you” as if a private, individual matter). He then goes on to speak of a time of great conflict and suffering as the Empire of God struggles with the Empire of the world (verses 22 to 37)- no easy answers here.
And finally (chapter 18, verses 1 to 8) he tells the disciples they must “pray always and not lose heart” (even in the face of all that conflict and suffering), but follow the example of a widow who pesters an unwilling and unresponsive judge until he grants her justice. “But when the Son of Man comes”, he concludes, “will he find faith on earth?”
So perhaps that is also the question for us, in the face of imminent climate disaster and the “Empire” that is causing it.