Extinction Rebellion: New Zealand’s newest religion

Briar Lipson
Insights Newsletter
11 October, 2019

This week, the church of climate change was consecrated in New Zealand. Through widespread face-painting, chanting and dressing-up our newest saviour was born.

As the writer G.K. Chesterton once said, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

Sure enough, as traditional religious observance dwindles in the West, people are increasingly turning to political campaigns for their sins, saints and salvation. Ever since socialism’s utopian planned economies collapsed in the 1980s, small sections of the political left have been searching for something meaningful to worship. They have found their saviour in apocalyptic climate change.

Nowadays, the church of climate change offers redemption for everyone, from feminists to animal rights activists and any of us concerned with inequity. According to a banner hoisted outside Parliament on Monday, the church of climate change can even rid us of the effects of colonisation.

As well as offering exorcisms and salvation from all mainstream concerns, the church of climate change even offers transcendence, arrest and the associated ecstasy.

Through acts of collective protest, which included halting traffic (including the buses), stopping civil servants from doing their indispensable work, mass glue-ins, lie-ins and die-ins, followers of the new campaign group Extinction Rebellion have achieved widespread atonement for owning iPhones, and using electricity.

More dramatically still, a select few protesters have even been chosen, like Jesus before Pilate’s crowd, to be ticked-off by a police person around the back of a transit van. It is heady stuff at a time when the vast majority of New Zealanders are lucky to be alive.

But then, Extinction Rebellion is not really about addressing climate change. If it were, its activists would have glued themselves permanently to our pre-existing Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), rather than the windows of the ANZ bank for half an hour.

Instead, the 429 words of vision, mission, purpose, principles and values on Extinction Rebellion’s New Zealand website contain not one mention of climate change.

Rather, the group’s stated purpose is to address “New Zealand’s deeply rooted problems….to transform our society into one that is compassionate, inclusive, sustainable, equitable and connected” to create a “new constitution” and a “genuine democracy”.

Extinction Rebellion use religious strategies and the threat of climate change as a front for motherhood and apple-pie reconstruction of our economy and democracy. We do well to treat them with caution and avoid climate change-idolatry.

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