Thursday, November 1, 2012
Those on the political Right, especially Christian conservatives, have for some time complained that various environmentalisms are actually religions. They arrive at this conclusion through a variety of theological contortions that I have always rejected. I still reject the contortions but a recent experience with an unfortunately mediocre and sadly outdated university graduate seminar has caused me to wonder if the Christian radicals are correct about some of this.
The seminar had a handful of required readings. Included among those were Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, David Suzuki’s The Sacred Balance, and Thomas Berry’s The Great Work. The students began with Quinn, then Suzuki, and finished with Berry. All three authors stress their reliance on the thinking of aboriginal spiritual guides. One didn’t have to look too hard to see white bourgeois ‘wannabees’ strutting around in loincloths, something that, although rejected by the mainline devotees of these gurus, has actually happened.
In terms of the seminar, if one applied a bit of deconstructive analysis a pattern began to reveal itself. Quinn’s construct, the gorilla Ishmael, hints at a possibly transcendent humanity. Suzuki proposes a flawed but “magnificent” humanity. Berry confirms that a magnificent, transcendent humanity is quite capable of creating a future history that will take us into a kinder, gentler, greener world. Read in sequence, one author builds on another until we arrive at a proposed Great Work capable of implementing a new creation or a re-creation of the original creation. Where have we heard that story before? We have heard it from religious leaders throughout history. There is nothing new about this story.
(Continued in next post)