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ISER launches unprecedented research on Christianity and Climate Narratives, with interviews at Marcha Para Jesus

More than 80% of the evangelicals interviewed say that the government is primarily responsible for solving problems related to the environment

The Institute of Religious Studies (ISER) carried out the research “Christianities and climate narratives”, which provides an analysis of how groups Catholics and evangelicals interpret debates related to the environment, conceptions of nature and climate change. The data aims to contribute to the understanding of how Christians in Brazil have been building repertoires on climate issues.

The survey results demonstrate that evangelicals attending the March for Jesus understand climate change as a result of human action and agree that their churches must address the issue. 70% of those interviewed completely disagree with the statement that global warming is a lie, that is, a considerable number of practicing evangelicals see the impacts of global warming and climate change in their daily lives.

The study was carried out using quantitative and qualitative methodologies in digital environments and on the streets, in interviews carried out at the Marches for Jesus in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Recife, between June and December 2023. In each of the marches, interviewees were around 200 people, with a total of 673 interviews, 53% of them with participants aged between 16 and 39 years old. In the second phase of the research, ISER also analyzed the use of digital media by Catholic and evangelical groups, as well as the narratives that have been broadcast on environmental and climate issues.

According to anthropologist Jacqueline Teixeira, professor at the University of Brasília and coordinator of the ISER research, the results help to reconfigure and give new meaning to stereotypes related to the evangelical public, especially the research participants in the March for Jesus, who are those with high participation and engagement. in their faith communities. “The research shows that this group demonstrates a concern not only to be informed about climate issues and that it reaches them, but also to qualify where this information comes from. In addition to showing that this public disqualifies some fake news, such as not believing that the earth is flat and believing that global warming exists”, ponders the professor at the University of Brasília.

The investigation also reveals that several theological justifications are evoked to explain climate change and environmental catastrophes. In Rio de Janeiro, 61% of those interviewed agreed with the association between climate change and the notion of sin, but only 4% attributed the responsibility for these changes to divine action. In total, 43% of respondents from the three cities say they agree that climate change is a reflection of man's sin on earth.

Most evangelicals also believe in the State's responsibility for creating public policies to preserve and combat climate change. The data reveals that 86% of people in all capitals surveyed indicated the government as the main responsible for resolving problems related to the environment.

It is not uncommon for Christians to associate climate catastrophes with the Apocalypse and the return of Jesus to Earth, although this perception is not hegemonic among the responses. Regarding environmental disasters being related to the second coming of Jesus, 37% completely agree with this statement. Furthermore, the vast majority of interviewees (69%) understand that human action is responsible for climate change.

The research also brought for public evaluation some phrases that were said by figures on the national political scene in recent years, in an effort to understand the country's political polarization. One of the phrases presented consists of a variation of a statement by former president Jair Bolsonaro. This is the statement that “the Amazon does not catch fire because it is humid”, 63% of the interviewees stated that they completely disagreed, followed by “partially disagree” (16%).

Evangelicals also demonstrated their position in defense of indigenous territories in relation to agribusiness. Regarding the phrase “no farmer has the right to invade indigenous land”, 70% completely agree.

The research also mapped the incidence of Christians (evangelicals and Catholics) in actions to promote environmental and climate justice, mapping connected collectives, movements and churches that have promoted care for the Earth as part of their religious or spiritual practice. For Laryssa Owsiany, anthropologist and researcher at ISER, the study presents an important mapping of Christian initiatives that promote the socio-environmental agenda. “The investigation shows the defense of creation in opposition to the eschatologies that return to the Apocalypse. This is very interesting data that shows the engagement of these actors on social networks, reinforcing complex and diverse nuances of the climate agenda within the Christian field”, declares Owsiany.

The indicators reveal that just over half of those interviewed at the Marcha Para Jesus (59%) responded that there were no activities in their churches focused on environmental issues. The majority of people in the three cities, however, think it is important for the church to address environmental issues. When asked about their interest in and access to news on environmental issues, more than half of the Christians interviewed (68%) said they have access to news related to the environment, with half getting information through the internet and news websites (49%).
Isabel Pereira is coordinator of the Religion and Environment axis at ISER, which, through the Faith in the Climate initiative, has strengthened the activities of young people of faith through the exchange of knowledge between scientists, religious people, environmentalists and representatives of indigenous peoples and communities traditional, with objectives of adaptation, resilience and climate justice. “Through training and articulation activities, we encourage actions to combat the climate emergency in groups with religious identity, through the leadership of young people. We seek that faith communities can produce environmental narratives focused on caring for creation, from their faith perspectives”, says the researcher.
The research “Christianities and climate narratives” is part of ISER’s Religion and Public Space axis, which is dedicated to producing knowledge about the interface between religions, politics and the environment. The executive summary is available for free access on the ISER website.

To know more, access the executive summary of the research.