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Extinction Rebellion: Why I Took Part

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a movement to shock governments and all those in power to take more urgent and radical action to prevent climate change.

They organise media-visible events to get this message across. Their first events occurred in late 2018 and especially around Easter 2019, as well as at other times. I took part in the Easter event, and did so as an evangelical Christian. This pages explains why I felt it right, before God, to do so.

At Easter 2019, XR peacefully blocked four major roads around London's centre, bringing traffic to a standstill for several days, before the police gained a special order to move them on and arrest those who resisted. Over 1000 people were arrested, though most were released within a few hours and only a handful were charged.

During that time, measurements were taken that showed that air quality was greatly improved and noise greatly reduced. The number of injuries sustained, by protestors and police was zero.

The purpose of the London event was to use high-profile tactics to bring a strong message to the UK government and others that we must act urgently to prevent climate change emissions. XR have demanded that plans be enacted immediately to bring UK climate emissions to net zero by 2025. Though they recognise that this may be unrealistic, they demand that because, since all targets are missed, we need an over-ambitious target to ensure that sufficient action is taken.

I went down to London to join in. I decided to join them a fortnight after they began, on the grounds that extra support might be most useful after initial enthusiasm might have waned. It so happened that the police had cleared all but one blockage, at Marble Arch, and I witnessed the clearing of this. I was standing, not on the road blocking traffic, but on an island in the middle of the road, but the police demanded that I move on, over to the designated camp around Marble Arch itself. I complied.

Had I not two other commitments in the following days, including the examination of a student for their PhD, I would probably have joined those sitting on the road and been arrested.

As an evangelical Christian, who has been much influenced by Charismatic, Holiness and Missionary movements, I have had to work out whether this is acceptable in God's sight. This page discusses that.

The Results of Thinking It Out

I had believed that the tactics of XR would merely antagonise 'ordinary people' and climate action would be hindered rather than helped. However, I was wrong.

A survey had been done, showing over 80% of the public were supportive of XR's action. And the amount and quality of discussion of climate change and other environmental issues too a step-change upwards. A range of public people, for the first time that I recall, are publicly talking about the need to change lifestyles. As I write now, even with Brexit dominating the newcasts, climate change and environment is still appearing in BBC news and programmes much more than before. It is even the case that the Today Programme, which in the past has treated climate change and environment as very much a minority interest and not really important, is tackling interviewees on climate change. I have been surprised: Today interviewers seem to understand the issues more deeply than before.

There were a number of critics, who were keenly collected by newspapers like the Daily Mail and Telegraph. Some were interviewed by BBC Radio 4, and I found what they said interesting. Typical was "I want to get across London to a gig!" This seemed a rather paltry reason for being against those who are trying to give such an important message. XR had not caused any lives to be lost and had let emergency services through. The antipathy from critics was, in the main, arisen from self-serving desires rather than from anything really important.

I find myself rejoicing.

Why has this happened? The XR action coincided with three other things. One was the school strikes led by Greta Thunberg. One was the broadcasting to David Attenborough's Climate Change: The Facts. The third was that the media was clear of Brexit news, which might otherwise have swamped discussion of XR and climate change.

It occurred in this way. XR had planned to begin the action on April 15th, two weeks after Brexit should have occurred, so that they would not be swamped by Brexit news and debate. In fact, Brexit did not occur then. However, the XR event occurred during a parliamentary recess. So the media was still clear of Brexit at the time.

Given my belief that climate action and environmental responsibility is God's positive will for His people and humanity as a whole at this time in history, and that coincidences occur by God's will, I tentatively believe that this XR coincidence has been of God.

However, some evangelical Christians might raise theological obstacles. I do not wish to avoid them, but to surmount them. So I will discuss some of them now.

A major obstacle might be Romans 13:1, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." Is not XR disobeying this, and am I not disobeying this by taking part? Likewise, Peter wrote "Submit yourself for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men, whether to the king as the surpeme authority or to governors, who are sent by him ..."

Answer: 1. Neither of these mean "Obey every rule." Submitting to (being subject to, in the KJV) an authority does not mean obeying their rules because their rules might be wrong; rather it means that if we break a rule, we must take the consequences of doing so. That is what being-subject or submission means. That is exactly what XR did. They knew that the rule was that those who block traffic can be arrested; so they did not resist arrest. 2. What is the purpose of these two verses? It is not to provide irrevocable, rigid commands that are isolated from all others. They are for a wider, deeper purpose. They curb selfish "anger of man" [James 1:20] which goes against authority "because I don't like them." God instituted the mechanism of authority in creation to be a blessing. We should only disobey for good reasons, not selfish ones. 3. Let me ask those who tend to emphasise these verses, what is your inner attitude in doing so? Are you ever-so-slightly like those who criticised the disciples for picking corn on the Sabbath?

Some might quote Samuel's stricture of Saul, "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft" [I Samuel 15:23], referring to XR's chosen name "Extinction Rebellion". That is a very weak argument, unworthy of any of God's people. Even more than the above, it is wrong to take this statement as a general doctrine that is applicable for all time, in every context, and for everything that people happen to label "rebellion". The rebellion that Samuel was talking about was the attitude that was in Saul's heart, when Saul disobeyed the express instructions of God and saved some of the best booty of battle and then hid behind an excuse. Extinction Rebellion is nothing like that. It is an organised protest for a worthy purpose.

What is the worthy purpose? To ensure that humankind (starting with British humankind) fulfils the mandate that happened to have been given by God at the creation of humanity, namely to shepherd the rest of creation and represent God to it with love and care. (I deliberately use the term "shepherd" rather than "steward" for reasons set out elsewhere, with a summary of the argument in New View Overview.)

Even though the organisers of XR might not know God, nor even outwardly profess Christianity (see below), does this matter in the eyes of Him Who used that arrogant nation, the Babylonians, "whose own strength is their god") to carry out His plan?

Even if XR were to do nothing else, they have accomplished something very important: a shift in public perception, pervading attitude and prevailing beliefs, which reaches all through people, politicians and pundits. Or, rather, I would say that God has achieved this through them (along with the coincidental happenings). So the way XR should proceed in the future is to ensure attitudes do not shift back, especially with Covid-19 pandemic focusing our minds more locally on ourselves.

I find that concern for God's creation, and to get God's people to act on this concern is burning in my heart. Is it as God's word was burning in Jeremiah? I cannot keep it in. That is the main reason I joined Extinction Rebellion for a short time.

Note: XR Protestors Freed

Transcript of recording (file 210425_0194-XR.WMA): "Monday 25th April at 00:15, on the case of XR protestors being found [by the jury] Not Guilty on moral grounds despite the judge saying that they had no defence in law [and the judge "directing" the jury on that], because it is a court of law not a court of morals. If it goes to appeal or even to the Supreme Court, we've got to decide: It raises meta-legal issues, questions of whether the legal system in the UK should operate

or in

[I bulleted those to clarify the options we have.]

[That is to say, should we consider only legal issues and operate only by legal rationality, or should we allow other aspects into our considerations? The philosophical jargon "reductionistic" and "qualified multi-aspectual" are from Dooyeweerd's philosophy; see Aspects of Reality and Qualifying aspects for more.]

[Note: I do not consider a possible third option of letting the moral, or any other aspect, completely overrule the juridical. Some may wish to consider that, and deem it a court of morals, but I respect the judge's statement that it is a court of law, nor a court of morals. I am asking how courts of law should operate, a meta-legal question. So I accept the juridical aspect has an important place in this. So the choice between allowing only juridical rationality and issues, or allowing multi-aspectual issues 'centred' around the juridical.]

In the former, moral issues are completely excluded from consideration. In the latter, moral issues are included in consideration, as long as no gross injustice, natural injustice, is perpetrated by doing so.

I am reminded of Jesus' parable of workers in the vineyard. People working on an hour a day being given the same wage [as those who worked all day] seems unfair, but it's not a gross natural injustice and it's morally good.

Similarly, for XR, these people did some damage [but] no gross natural injustice was perpetrated, because Shell [whose property was damaged: cracked window glass and a few other minor things] could easily afford the damage and even so the others could pay for the damage.

Note: We are here talking about whether ethical issues may be taken into accound, not how they may be taken into account, not even under what conditions [they may be taken into account] - except the very broad condition of gross natural injustice. The question of how [and under what conditions] is a different question.

And the choice of whether the legal system operates in a reductionistically juridical way or a juridically-qualified multi-aspectual way is not a legal choice, not even a logical choice, it's a faith choice, to do with belief - about what we see reality as and what we see the good in reality to be. It's a pistic funtion. Finally, I repeat, this is a meta-legal issue, of how the legal system operates, not a legal issue of what judgment should be made."

Why Extinction Rebellion is Not the Full Solution

I do not believe that XR is the full solution, only (at this stage) a useful stimulator to changing our mindset.

I am well aware that some of the founders of XR believe that we cannot achieve climate and environmental responsibility without a major restructuring of society and the way we are governed, and one of their three demands is the setting up of citizens' assemblies. Indeed, some in the core of XR opine that the whole aim of XR is that major restructuring, and not environmental responsibility.

You can find that claim in some of the writings of some of their founder members. Some who are set against XR make much of this, but unconvicingly [Note: XR critics].

Those who are wise and responsible should take a proper look at this.

(Those need fuller explanation and discussion which I hope to write soon. It would include a discussion of their idea of citizens' assemblies, and their reliance on that idea as the solution of the emergency we face, and my experience of the failure of such things in the past, and the conclusion, perhaps, that citizens' assemblies are by no means a solution but they are a great opportunity as part of a wider solution.)

My main concern about XR is not these things as such, but that they will divert the world's attention away from climate and environmental responsibility while factions in XR battle out among themselves and with the establishments about structures and processes rather than responsibilities.

A Fuller Way Ahead

That is why I try to adhere to God's message in the Bible - more of it than evangelical Christians usually listen to or are aware of. To me, it shows the only true and effective way to change society and its structures that has yet been revealed to the world, a way that can and will eventually bring salvation to the entire Creation.

That is why this Climate Change and Global Economy mini-site has been set up and why I am developing A New View in Theology and Practice. In my view, a change in structures of society is indeed needed, but the required, effective changes in society only come about by the activity and influence of the Gospel of Christ in society via a change of heart and the work of the Holy Spirit, for example in revival. That is the importance of what i call Three Dimensional Salvation. It is this that brings humanity to work with the grain of the fabric of Reality rather than against it.

Bless you all! - and all God's Creation, including the economy and other structures of society!


Note. XR Critics. Example: A former Head of Scotland yard's Counter-Terrorism Unit, tried to make a major thing out of the wish to restructure society by some in the core of XR (in a BBC Radio 4 Today interview on 17 July 2019) - but unconvicingly because the things he was talking about were not terrorism. He drew on a few excerpts from the voluminous writings of XR's founders, which misled him. For instance, he claimed they want to "destroy democracy" but in fact XR want to install "a democracy fit for purpose". The most he was able to claim was "illegality" but, as his interviewer, John Humphries, pointed out, Ghandi used illegality. Most XR critics similarly miss the point and use material selectively.

See also:

This page, "", is an expression of part of a project to understand the links between climate change, global economy and other matters including society's beliefs and aspirations. It is designed to stimulate thinking and discourse. Comments, queries welcome.

This page is written on behalf of the CCGE Group by Andrew Basden, but the views expressed herein are his and not necessarily those of the other members of the Group. Written on the Amiga with Protext in the style of classic HTML. Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2008 - present, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Created: 26 May 2019 Last updated: 17 July 2019 XR dangers, link to voted.brexit. 30 September 2019 citizens' assemblies. 29 August 2020 Slight changes, moving some material to another page or to notes; bgcolor. 20 December 2020 Even if XR do nowt else; internal links; link to Covid19; some small wordings. 10 May 2021 XR protestors freed.