Thinking Anew – Ecological crisis is a call to action
St James teaches that faith without works is dead. That applies to the ways we use or abuse God’s gift in creation every bit as much as in spiritual matters.
Few of us would object to being described as consumers but former Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, maintains that if we realised what it really says about us we might have second thoughts. “To consume is to eat, to devour, to destroy. That is how we define ourselves in the 21st century – eating, drinking, shopping, selling, buying, banking – ‘consumers’. We fail to see the cruel irony of our self-designation: devourers of our children’s inheritance and consumers of their future.”
At this time each year churches East and West celebrate and promote the care of the natural world. Time for Creation is observed annually between September 1st, the day the Orthodox liturgical year begins, and October 4th, when churches of the West commemorate St Francis of Assisi, a friend of nature.
The event is promoted in Ireland by Eco-Congregation Ireland (ECI), a project of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting.
Their vision is “to see churches celebrate the gift of God’s Creation, recognise the inter-dependence of all Creation and care for it in their life and mission”.
In July, while the United States was formalising its withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate change, former vice-president Al Gore took part in a televised town hall meeting.
He made the point that there is almost unanimous agreement among scientists that global warming represents a real threat to the future of this planet and humanity itself. He added that we have the knowledge and the means to prevent disaster, if we are prepared to change to our lifestyles for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
Fr John Rausch, a member of the audience from Kentucky, explained that in his community there were many people living comfortable and prosperous lives but that there was also a great deal of poverty and many of the poor were living beside streams and mountains polluted by mining activities.
For him the climate crisis was a crisis in spirituality, that we have lost our sense of connectedness to nature, to each other and to God.
Al Gore agreed, stating that is not just a political or economic problem but a moral problem and referred to Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, a copy of which had been presented by the Pope to President Trump on his visit to the Vatican earlier this year.
If the president read it as he promised, he chose not to act on it.
This extract from the encyclical underlines the personal challenge confronting us if we are to address the problem: “The ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So, what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”
A major shopping chain promotes its business with the slogan “Every little helps”. It perfectly expresses what we as individuals can and must do to help secure our planet for generations to come.
Events like the Paris agreement are very important at international level providing political and scientific cover for what needs to be done.
But it must be owned and acted upon by all of us individually as responsible Christians and citizens.
Recent controversies in this country about water charges and diesel emissions remind us that there will always be resistance to be overcome.
St James teaches that faith without works is dead. That applies to the ways we use or abuse God’s gift in creation every bit as much as in spiritual matters. “The earth is the Lord’s (not ours) and all that is in it.”