Sunday, September 30, 2007

Apparently Environmentalism Causes Religious Decline

So says Patrick McIlheran, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's in-house conservative columnist and blogger, if I'm reading him correctly.

An author he quotes, Frank Furedi, also suggests that God and nature are separate, and again, if I understand their argument - - traditional religions somehow err when they point their flocks towards environmental principles that sound like what's commonly called "sustainability.

Writes Furedi, quoted by McIlheran:

"However, eco-spirituality cannot really compensate for the loss of traditional moral authority. Indeed the very embrace of the environmentalist agenda can only accelerate the decline of institutions that cannot give meaning to the religious doctrines on which they were founded. The shift away from God towards nature inevitably leads to a world where the pronouncements of environmentalist experts trump those of the priesthood. It will be interesting to see what will remain of traditional religion as prophecy and revelation is displaced by computerised climate models."

I'm not seeing how environmentalism accelerates the decline of religious institutions, their philosophies and goals.

Where's the contradiction? Isn't our earth the one that God created, according to the Old Testament?

Don't we have an obligation as the inheritors of the earth to try and help sustain it (at least to do it no harm), and doesn't it make sense for traditional religions' leaders and messengers to encourage that attitude and practice?

Pope Benedict XVI is on board.

Seems to me that the more that institutions and their practitioners, spokespeople or leaders - - whether political, religious, secular: you name it - - respect and steward the land (read: nature), the more credible and relevant that those institutions will be.

Same for the rest of us.

The planet, too.

What's not to like?

No name-calling here on this pleasant Sabbath: I just don't see overall threat, and especially that nature/God division.

A few personal observations.

When I was in Japan, and visited the shrines of nature-worshipping Shinto, I never doubted for a second that I was standing on Holy ground.

I felt the same way hiking through the Black Hills this summer, as I did when canoeing in Ontario's Quetico Provincial Park, or when I first discovered the trails in the Kettle Moraine.

Isn't it possible that environmentalism, resource conservation, call it what you will - - even a small intentional act of care for the earth - - is actually what people of many faiths would call God's will, and is a complement to other rituals of belief and faith that might be more recognizable because they take place in traditional houses of worship?


Anonymous said...

Yeah, right. Another effort to use "faith" to justify something the writer disagrees with.

Note that faith-based groups like the Interfaith Conference have a faith and ecology network.

revtlee said...

Rowen has it right as usual. After 3 years of seminary, 3+ years of graduate study (though it was at Marquette), and 30 years of preaching, I still don't get this idea that caring for and about the environment is an attack on religion and especially Christianity. The environmental movement, as far as I know, are not Druids, they don't worship trees nor ask that anybody else do so. The environmental movement seeks to remind us that trees are important because they are part of the eco-system which sustains us, humans. And as far as I have learned, been taught, and understand, any notion of a creator God includes the idea that the creation of the world or eco-system was done that humans can remain alive. McIlheran and Furedi both fall into the trap of reading Genesis and its call to humans to "subdue" the earth as a commandment which they interpret to mean "do whatever makes you happy". Now that does subvert traditional moral authority so someone ought remind them that subduing the earth doesn't mean that but rather care for it and nurture it. If it means doing anything, then we end up destroying the very entity which traditional Christianity and Judaism, at least, believe was created by God.

End of Sermon.