Archive for March, 2014

It’s Not Just World View That’s the Problem

March 26, 2014

I’ve been a longtime fan of ClimateArk.org for its gathering of news stories on climate change. I also love the implicit reference of its title to Noah and the Ark, with a little image of these in its upper left corner.

In a very beautiful VHS documentary, KEEPING THE EARTH: RELIGIOUS AND SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVES ON THE ENVIRONMENT, they intersperse (Judeo-Christian) religious stories of creation with scientific perspectives, and when they get to the Noah story, they say that Noah wrote the first Endangered Species Act.

The problem I have with ClimateArk is some of Dr. Glen Barry’s (its host) counterproductive tangents. Now Dr. Barry does a really marvelous job with his website and he’s just great on that account, but he does get into these snits on his blog, sort of like I do, I guess :). His recent one is:

“God Pollution: Nature Is My Religion, Earth Is My Temple” — There are no invisible ghosts in the sky ruling over and judging us. God pollution kills, obscures truth, and slows progress. All we have and need is each other, kindred species, ecosystems, and the biosphere.

I’m a religious person whose environmentalism flows from my ardent love of God, love of God’s creation, and (if God says I must then) love of neighbor and keen desire to do right by them. I tend to wonder how Dr. Barry cannot be aware of the religious underpinnings of his tremendous love of creation and efforts to do right by it. A true atheist, it seems to me, would just be concerned about feeding his own face and perhaps being kind to a few people around him in a self-serving way, unless he/she were somehow hooked into a religious moral system in which God has been deleted from the world view, but the moral system (the ethos) maintained. Sort of the reverse of those who cling to a self-serving concept of “God,” while chucking the moral system that foundationally involves “keeping the Earth” – the people Dr. Barry seems to be railing against.

In fact, it seems to me that it is due to the Judeo-Christian conception of God as transcendent (and immanent) – which, of course, God gave us to understand through our spiritual history – that science arose. The forces of nature in this conception of God and creation are not in animistic spirit beings but are natural laws or laws of nature. In other words, physics, chemistry, biology, etc explain things, not an angry or capricious Gaia, Zeus, or tree spirits.  (No offense to the ancients, who were just doing science as best they could, trying to make sense of the world.)

But I digress. What I really object to about Glen Barry’s anti-religious spiel has nothing to do with religion, but my multidimensional (transdimensional) theoretical framework as an anthropologist. I’m not a cultural or ideological determinist or Hegelian; neither am I a material or social (economic) determinist or Marxist, nor a political determinist. I’m neither an environmental nor biological determinist, nor a psychological determinist. My theoretical assumption is that all these dimensions impact our human condition; no single one is sole determinant.

Did Islam cause bin Laden to attack us? Islam twisted to his own ideas/purposes/subconscious-issues probably played a part, but culture (ideology, religion) is only one strand among the many other interpenetrating dimensions of our human condition. Does Christianity cause people to destroy the earth and God’s creatures? It (twisted and perverted) may pay a part among the many other impacting forces, including other ideologies that entwine Christianity like a bunch of killer weeds. We of various religious faiths need to keep our gardens (and ourselves) weeded.

Totally off topic & not at all about the environment per se, but some really great movies I’ve been watching are THE PERFECT STRANGER trilogy which I saw on a Protestant TV station, purchased, & have been passing around. Check it out on YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPPwQApwBsA; and its sequel ANOTHER PERFECT STRANGER — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55pTVRyuaMk.

Let us let God heal ourselves emotionally and spiritually (like putting the oxygen mask on ourselves first, then on others next to us) so that we can truly KEEP THE EARTH — which foundationally precedes the 10 Commandments.

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it – Genesis 2:15

It’s World View That’s the Problem, and other things…

March 23, 2014

I’ve had Catholic friends ask me “Do you worship the environment or do you worship God?”  And tell me jokes ending with a punch-line of “the environment IS her religion.”

I think the problem for many is a very limited view of what the environment or God’s creation is.  It seems for many the environment is things not to do much with human beings, as if we are not also God’s creation and part of the environment, but sort of demi-gods ourselves, creating our own human-built environments that are apart from “nature” or “the environment.”  The environment is therefore considered to be outside our human concern, amounting to spotted owls, polar bears, and/or rainforests — things we can more or less dispense of, things we certainly should NOT waste much time worrying about or trying to save, when there are so many human problems confronting us.  Wilderness and wild species (read “useless spaces” and “useless species”), cute and awe-inspiring and beautiful (also savage and opposite of civilized) as they are, just aren’t necessary to humans……or to God’s kingdom, if we just happen to be serious Christians.

I, however, have a very different world view.  Call me weird.  To me the environment or nature or God’s creation is all of that above, but much more — it also includes the air we humans breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the materials with which we build our homes and make our products, the chemicals the permeate our skin, the climate in which we grow our crops.  And while I use the term “environment,” I consider it a not-so-perfect word, something that means “surroundings,” and it could also be used for our “social environment” or the people around us.  “Ecology,” including “ecological system(s),” is a more dynamic term that indicates interactions and also includes humans.  We are part of earth’s eco-system, being impacted by and impacting it — now on scales much greater than ever before.  “God’s creation” is an even broader term, since it includes not only the “ecological system” here on earth, but the entire universe.

For a better world view what we really need is not so much “environmental” understanding, but “ecological” understanding, and an understanding of God’s “creation.”

And perhaps it was because many good and sincere Catholics lack adequate understanding of any of these that the first words of Pope Francis as pope — after he had asked everyone to pray for him — either did not register with them or caused a flurry of apologies away from his full meaning of:

“We must protect creation.”