When it comes to the current fascination with Global Warming, Carbon Footprints and Peak Oil I must confess to being a recovering sceptic. I say recovering because I am emerging from that scepticism to a realisation that beneath all the hysteria generated around these issues is something fundamentally true and worthy of attention. We (the human race) have become disconnected from the rest of the created order and we behave in a way that threatens rather than compliments the rest of Creation. Such has been my scepticism until recently that I have steadfastly avoided watching the much acclaimed “An Inconvenient Truth” and have rejoiced in any scientific opinion that has rubbished the theory behind this film and the Green movement in general. Some of the criticism is justified and only feeds the scepticism of the likes of myself. Food miles are a case in point and an article in last weeks Sunday Times by Richard Woods exposes the myth that local is always the best option. However, bad Science and simplistic analysis apart I am coming round.
So what has changed? Well believe it or not my ‘AH HA’ moment came while reading an article which my wife drew to my attention in the January 2008 edition of ‘Red’, a glossy UK women’s magazine! The article entitled “Have you found Green?” by Anna Moore investigated the phenomenon of Green living as “the religion of the 21st century”. In the course of her research Moore interviews a number of women who have adopted the Green lifestyle and discovers a common thread of ‘religious’ language in the way these women articulate their new outlook on life.
She talks to Jacqueline, a lapsed church-goer who feels that “going green gives her something religion no longer provides: a strong sense of purpose, rules to live by and a firm belief that, if we repent and change our ways, we’ll save ourselves….The church doesn’t give me that message.” OUCH!
Moore comments that where church attendance is falling year on year, ‘finding green’ is filling a spiritual gap because we still need to believe in something.
Tracy Neil is a 38 year old from Manchester who has exchanged God for Green. “I have a church background”she says, “but I’ve been so frustrated with its lack of interest in the environment…To me, being green connects me to the planet, the people I know and my brothers and sisters in the poorer parts of the world, who’ll bear the brunt of our selfishness. In that sense, it’s spiritual.” Isn’t that what the Church is supposed to be about?
Another interviewee is Marian Salzman, an advertising executive who says “With 9/11 and the war in Iraq, there’s a feeling that the world isn’t safe any more. People are looking back to a time when it seemed safer – when you knew your neighbour, you had home cooked Sunday lunch and a ready made community at the church or synagogue or mosque. We want that security, that anchor. Eco living provides a set of dos and don’ts and dogmas and beliefs to fall back on, and a community of like-minded people.” There’s another thing the Church is supposed to be doing: building community.
Finally Louise Taylor is 34 and building her own eco home with her husband. Why is she doing this? “I’m not doing all this because I want to go to heaven. I’m doing it because I want my children and their children to have a future on this earth.”
I think perhaps this last comment is the most significant. Is part of the reason for the Church’s disconnect from Green issues an old and flawed theology which concentrates on escaping to Heaven from this worthless and sinful World? ‘Evacuation theology’ as Rob Bell calls it robs the Earth and the rest of Creation of any real value if it is only seen as a springboard to Heaven! This is a theology that ignores one very significant phrase in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”
It’s crazy but it took this article from the most unlikely of sources (I know I’m prejudiced) to help me realise something that is both implicit and explicit through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation: Everything is Spiritual. Incidentally this is also the title of a new Video from Rob Bell which demonstrates this same truth that the Church has buried in centuries of evacuation theology!
Another contemporary theologian, Sr. Joan Chittister in her wonderful compendium, “Becoming fully human – The greatest glory of God” presents some wonderful pearls of wisdom:
“Cows know that it’s a good idea to stand with their backs to the wind. We insist on figuring out how to redirect the wind. I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do. Who, us? ” (Willa Cather)
“Environmentalism is not an option. It is an exercise in self-understanding.”
Sadly we are inclined to be more like Woody Allen who once said “I am at two with nature”.