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

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.”

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