Rev Dr Jason John has devoted his life to environmental issues with university degrees in zoology and environmental studies. Add in an ordination and you have a ministry with a passion to care for creation.
With a PhD in evolution, ecology and theology, Jason is well equipped as the keynote speaker at the upcoming God of Sea and Sky conference, this July. Eco-theology may sound like a relatively new term to some, but Jason says the concept isn’t new – it’s just new to us as a culture born post-industrial revolution.
“Eco-theology, or eco-faith, is primarily the reminder that there are these very strong links between our relationship with our creator and our relationship with creation,” he said. “In a sense, it’s not something new. It’s a reminder of something we’ve forgotten.”
There are plenty of references in the Bible to do with caring for creation, and many cultures – regardless of religion – did so for thousands of years. In our modern world, however, we seem to have lost the way. It’s the creation story that Jason wants to shake up. He believes we have a new creation story: one where God is present throughout evolution and one where humans, as we know them now, are not the end goal. In his book, Worshipping Evolution’s God, Jason explains how science has taught us that life has existed billions of years before us, and will exist for billions of years after we’re gone.
It’s not about ditching the Genesis story for science. It’s about seeing where God is in this journey of evolution.
“I think the story of evolution is like our new creation story,” he said. “What do we make of Jesus in the light of that?”
Living ethically towards creation surely plays a part in seeing Jesus in our story.
“A major issue is that most people in Australia are living in such a way that if most people [globally] lived in the way we do, we’d need about six planets to sustain ourselves. And we’ve only got one.”
While here in Australia we may not see the effects of overconsumption, it’s causing major concerns on a global scale affecting poverty, water sanitation and climate change to name a few. And while he doesn’t believe eating meat is wrong, he does think a better approach to the meat industry is needed. “The environmental impact of eating animals is quite high. And also the way most animals are treated in Australia to produce the meat,” he said.
Jason poses the question: if God loves everyone equally, how can we justify a world where some people consume more than they need, while others don’t have enough?
While many people have been making individual choices to help tackle climate change, such as consuming less electricity, using public transport or eating less meat, Jason said that we now need to step things up. As the mining industry, with its big bucks and power, is having an influence on government policy, it can feel like environmental campaigners are being drowned out.
He said we need to increasingly put pressure on our governments to act on climate change.
“We still vote,” he said. “A large number of people can still influence the government, even though it’s getting harder.
“Taking individual action isn’t enough anymore.”
Rev Dr Jason John, part-time minister at Sawtell Uniting Church and parttime minister at Uniting Earth, will be the keynote speaker at God of Sea and Sky, an all age faith and environment conference. It will be held on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 July at St Luke’s Anglican Church, Mosmon Park. Organised by the Uniting Church in WA Social Justice Board and First Third Ministries, the conference will engage a range of speakers, inspire all age worship styles incorporating eco-theology among other exciting activities. Jason will also be in Perth for a few days before and after the conference and available to discuss any issues or questions.