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Colorado fires, severe storms, floods and record-setting heat: The summer of hellfire and brimstone?


By Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

“They will be tormented with fire” (Revelation 14:10) and burn (Revelation 19:20).

Those are the biblical images of hellfire and brimstone that best describe the burning heat and violent storms this country is experiencing. They also describe the hellish condemnation of those who have callously impeded urgent action to prevent the worst of environmental catastrophe. It’s a judgment, however, that tragically falls on us all.

It’s only the beginning of the summer here in the U.S., and ferocious storms and extreme heat have already caused many deaths, hurricane-level property destruction, and wide-spread power outages in the east. In the mid-section of the country, triple digit temperatures pose a danger to health. Many western states are battling numerous wildfires.

Capital Climate’s graphic tells the tale: The U.S. surface temperature map from Unisys showed 100 degree temperatures stretching almost continuously from California eastward to the Carolinas on the last Friday in June.

The Book of Revelation is a good text for thinking theologically about the roiling catastrophe that abrupt and erratic climate change has become, as I have previously written for On Faith. The abrupt and destructive weather events we are experiencing “can been seen as signs of a global environmental catastrophe of biblical proportions. Revelation 8:12-13 tells of the ‘woes’ to come at the apocalypse,” sounding more and more like the local weather channel. “A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.”

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