Sunday, April 15, 2012

Transitions Part II

(Continued from the preceding post.)

What paths have theologies and religions taken on these issues?  How does this multidimensional, cross-cultural communion of saints view the trinity of God, humanity, and other nature?  Is there pattern we can discern?  If we loosely use the terms ultraconservatives, conservative, mainline, and progressives, we can see a pattern of religious and theological response within Christianity that goes something like this.  On the ultraconservative side, where there is any sensitivity to these issues, there is a slow but growing awareness of an Earth care responsibility based on a view that places God at the top of the heap, humanity at the top of what are referred to as the 'created orders,' and everything else being created by God for human use. Also, these theologies frequently view the cosmos as being fixed in time and space.  That really doesn't leave much room for the evolution of anything, and evolution is the unifying principle of the biological sciences, thus, making claims coming from those sciences very suspect. Two other factors make it difficult for environmental issues to enter into Christian theologies of the  Christian Right.  The first is the focus of many of these theologies on an immediately pending apocalypse at the end of which is predicted , the return of Jesus, the Christian Son of God. You see, if the perousia is just around the corner, why worry about warming temperatures, melting ice, and the extinction of species.  A second factor is the focus of the ultraconservative Christians on political power.  On the far Christian Right, the Dominionist movement, according to their leadership, is dedicated to insuring that the US becomes a Christian nation that will be the primary building block in a Global Christian empire.  These predisposition to apocalypse and the development of a theocratic Christian nation in the United States block any attention to environmental concerns, except as a cause to rally against.

Moving on from the Christian far right or ultraconservatives, to the conservative, within the big Christian tent, that is those who are Evangelical Christian but not necessarily literalists or fundamentalists, or dominionists, (and who do not believe that to be Christian one must be a member of the US Republican Party) we encounter a shift in thinking toward a stewardship in which humanity is charged by God with the responsibility of caring for the Creation. We are, according to these perspectives, God's stewards on Earth.  But these folks struggle with the nature of that stewardship.  What does it mean to be God's steward? What relationship do we have to the other species of the Creation? What is it that we are asked by God to do in terms of Earth and all of her habitats and inhabitants? What does Jesus drive asks the Christian evangelical Jim Ball? And, how does all of this fit in with the primary concern of Christianity, that being the salvation of the individual soul?
How about at the center of things, with the Mainline churches? Here we find  a great and wonderful stew of intellect and activity with Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and many other denominations and sects.  It is here, at the center, if you will, that we find the theological concept that God is, somehow, fully expressed in the smallest particle of the universe, the smallest quanta of energy, and the least significant of the natural processes.
If we take one more step and look at what are referred to as postdenominational, and similar theologies, sometimes referred to as 'progressive,' we can add cosmogenesis to the broadening paradigms. From a theological sense, cosmogenesis views the universe and God as coevolving. Some form of evolutionary thought is at the root of cosmogenic theologies. On this end of the spectrum we see humanity opening itself up to the rest of creation, embracing it as being integral with humanity. Here, we encounter the use of concepts such as 'oneness' and 'unity' to relate humanity to the fullness of creation. In these theologies, even God may be viewed as evolving.
We could take the same journey that we just have with Christianity and visit the entire communion of green saints and, if we did, we would find essentially the same things happening whether it is Hindu, Baha'i, Islam, or any of the other religious faiths of the human project. The important point is that religion and theology are greening and will continue to do so. I would suggest that religious focus on the environment is an irreversible theme of theological inquiry and religious life.
In the current age we spend a lot of time looking out at the stars and wondering if we are alone in the universe. May I suggest that we are not alone. We share Earth with millions of other species. We are not alone and we have never been alone. We just act that way, and I think that the time for change has long come.

(For a referenced version of these thoughts please go to, look down the left side of the page and click on Interdisciplinary Initiative.)