This article appeared in The Oregonian on Sat. April 10, 1993. I provide some excerpts for

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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 ecology. 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 scientists. 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 Earth." 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.


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