As Easter approaches, my mind turns afresh to the message that on the cross, evil is defeated. I’m also reminded that all things are reconciled to God through Christ. As an eco-theologian, I need to take hope from this. It isn’t only individual greed and ignorance (including my own), that are leading us to a climate apocalypse, but corrupt power structures. These too need calling out, and either dismantling or reconciling.
Recently, over $100 million has been spent by the fossil fuel industry on Republican campaigns, trying to make us forget, deny or not worry about the connection between energy and climate, just as Exxon has done for over 40 years. In Australia, one state premier has introduced laws to crack down on people who protest at mining sites. This is while a former advisor of his works for the New South Wales Mineral Council, and mining companies are fined a pittance for polluting water with uranium.
The evil or structures is greater than the collective sin of the individuals in it, and behind such structures lays a greater evil. Tom Wright in Evil and the Justice of God, informs us that the gospels “tell the story of the deeper, darker forces which operate at a supra-personal level, forces for which the language of the demonic is still the least inadequate.” On the cross, Jesus casts out the ruler of this world (John 12), the strong man he came to bind (Matthew 12). There is a collision of evil on the cross; the power of Rome, the corruption of the temple, and behind it all, the Satan. In Jesus’ non-violent death, evil and death are exhausted.
Following Walter Wink then, we can identify that organisations that cover up the truth, lie, and engage in corruption in the face of the present climate crisis, are following the father of lies. It’s not entirely out of place to demonise big energy when it misleads us, and continues to seek to protect its own privileged position in the economy. But following Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, we know that evil isn’t a line dividing us and them, but cuts through our own hearts. It isn’t just the corrupt temple authorities or the Romans who follow Satan; it’s individuals like Peter and Judas as well. It’s easy to follow the lie we are entitled to our high standard of living, while denouncing the lies of big energy or politicians.
The good news in Colossians 1:13-23 is that Christ reconciles “all things” to himself. This includes the human as well as the nonhuman, so creation has a future in God. Reconciliation also includes the “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities;” the corrupt political institutions and lying, destructive industries who have manipulated the truth for their own ends.
Satan has been defeated, and hence all empires that follow him will ultimately either be reconciled or fall. Like Jesus, our strategies are non-violent; protest and voting, letter writing and divestment. When governments introduce draconian anti-protest laws, we protest all the same. As Martin Luther King said, “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Easter reminds us that evil has not, and will not win. This is reassuring to us personally, for we’ve been rescued from evil, not to do evil. It also encourages us to name the powers that seek to destroy the earth, reminding them that they too can either be judged or reconciled, now and at the coming of the new creation.