This article appeared in The Oregonian on Sat. April 10, 1993. I provide some excerpts for
This article appeared in The Oregonian on Sat. April 10, 1993. I provide
some excerpts for your examination and consideration.
FAITH, HOPE & ECOLOGY....American religious denominations have
discovered that they cannot ignore the moral questions raised by
by David O'Reilly....Knight-Ridder News Service
Human domination eradicates an estimated 140 plant and animal species
each day. We subdue 35 million acres of forest a year. And we are
filling the Earth at the rate of 92 million people a year.
Now, eco-prophets within Western religion are sounding the alarm about
this creature called "man." In light of the eco-crisis, some theologians
are even calling for a renewed understanding of what it means to be
christing, or jewish, or even human.
Conservative religious thinks scoff, confident that their traditions
already speak to man's role on Earth. But American religious
denominations have discovered they cannot ignore the moral questions
raised by ecology.
Impelled by mounting scientific evidence that Earth functions as a
single organism, ecolgy and faith are moving toward a shared examination
of the oneness of creation. Now, after two years of sometimes public,
sometimes secret planning sessions, catholic, jewish, evangelical, and
protestant denominations this summer will lauch an unprecedented,
comprehensive campaign to make the health of the Earth a religious
concern for about 100 million Americans.
"We see it as a new moment in the conversation between religion and
science," says rev. Paul Gorman, director of the National Religious
Partnership for the Environment. His organization, based at the
cathedral of st. John the divine in New York, was created in 1991 after
an "urgent appeal to the world religious community" by 34 eminent
This summer, the partnership will begin distributing ecologically minded
materials to 53,000 catholic, protestant and jewish congregations across
the U.S., including every catholic parish. These will suggest prayers,
sermon ideas, scriptural citations, sunday-school lessons, community
projects and social justice issues of ecological concern. The 3-year,
4.1 million project, developed in part with a grant from the Pew
Charitable Trusts, also will involve clergy training and seminary
studies in ecology.
Religion always has concerned itself with the role of humans on the
Earth, but the eco-crisis is "an issue of extraordinary transformative
power," says Gorman, "one that speaks to the whole question of what it
will mean to be religious in the 21st century. For the rev. Thomas
Berry, a passionist priest, the eco-crisis demands nothing less than a
"new sense of what it means to be human." Western religious tradition
has falsely inflated man's sense of his own importance, according to
Berry, who insists that man is "not the splendor of creation" but
creation's worst enemy. "If there were a parliament of creatures, its
first decision might well be to vote the humans out of the community,
too deadly a presence to tolerate."
The health of the planet demands that Western religion replace the
traditional creation story of genesis with a "new story of how things
came to be", says Berry, who, with physicist Brian Swimme, has written
"The Universe Story." It is a 300-page account of how the "Originating
Power" (their term for god) created the universe 15 billions years ago
with the Big Bang.
Churches should put less emphasis on how humans can achieve
"post-Earthly paradisal beauty" and speak more to the way humans must
live for the good of the "sacred community" of creation, says Berry.
Familiar concepts such as "good" and "evil" and "justice" and "progress"
must "be extended to include the various beings of the natural world,
their freedoms, their rights, their share in the functioning of the
Certain fundamentalist sects fear an embrace of environmentalism might
be misread as an embrace of modern evolutionary science, and some
conservatives dismiss the eco-crisis as a "false alarm" stirred up by
liberals and secular humanists.
What do you think about this newly-espoused awareness by some in the
religious community? I think it is, at the very least, a positive step
forward into the reality of life here on our very fragile planet, and if
the religiously-minded types can incorporate ecological concern into
their dogma, I'm all for it. I would even join them in the effort as
long as it was devoid of any revisionist history on their part.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank