Saturday, June 20, 2015
Ecology is not a theology. . .
What the Church has to say on political subjects is always a study in temptation and danger. The temptation is to take sides in political struggles and the danger is to presume to give blessing to one side in a political battle or to the other. Since there are disputes about the settled science of global warming and the green perspective on things, it will be difficult for the Pope to speak with consensus. Since there is clear evidence of the poor stewardship of the earth by capitalist, communist, and socialist governments, it is hardly a subject to be ignored or avoided. Yet popes and churches speak best when they address the individual even though they want to address the halls of power.
At best, the Church can and should raise up the cause of personal responsibility in the role of every person as a custodian and steward over a creation ours to use but not to abuse. At worst, the Church will sound pompous, arrogant, and misinformed if it chooses one economic system over another to address the greater issue. We have short memories but if we will go back a generation or two we may see some things more clearly. It does not take long to look over the poor record of the Soviet stewardship of the earth to see what damage can be done.It can raise consciousness of humans as stewards of creation.Yes, but capitalists are not exactly without dirty hands in all of this as well. So again, the most noble perspective here, it seems to me, is to address the personal responsibility of each individual to use without abusing and to steward without destroying the marvelously rich treasure of the earth and all of its fullness which God deemed very good.
Ecology is not theology. It seems many liberal Christians have forgotten this. From media to enlightened church consciences, there is a considered movement to treat man as the primary danger to the earth and to resent any and every impact made upon the face of God's creation. But such forgets that man was created to exercise dominion over all God made and creation was not to be the master but the treasure used for God's glory and noble purpose yet without destroying His gift. It became inherently more difficult after the Fall but God was not the one who made it harder. We screwed it up and all the while we screwed it up God still sent the rain, grew the seed, and the earth delivered up its bounty for us.
I am greatly troubled by those who would transform the message of the Church into an adaptation of the Avatar movie theme in which the goal of our stewardship is some mystical union with nature. The circle of life sings well but it is poor theology. No ecology is good theology but the best theology the Church can offer the world is to address the individual, wherever he or she is, and call them to repentance over their failings and to renewed faithfulness in godly use and holy stewardship over all that God made. We will be held accountable whether we believe in God or not and even if we believe in Him but do whatever we darn please. Yet the most effective voice we have always had is to call people to take up personal responsibility, to act faithfully, and, as much as is possible, to use God's gift wisely. The earth is already passing away and no amount of green will prevent it but neither is it our job to hasten its demise.
Pope Francis and everyone else who attempts to address an issue like ecology is speaking on a subject fraught with temptation and foolishness almost designed to infuriate and alienate no matter what is said. Let us pray that patient and wise heads prevail among every Christian jurisdiction and leader who presumes to address such a subject and we speak where we speak best -- calling the unfaithful to repentance, forgiving the penitent, and reminding all that they serve God first before self or ideology.