Restoring The Waters

Category Archives: the space between . . .

Spirituality and Ecology ~ The Partnership

I want to introduce my friend Steve Blackmer to the readers of Restoring the Waters. Were I pressed to give the substance of embodiment to the intersection of spirituality and ecology, it would look pretty much like Steve. Steve’s about to graduate from the Yale Divinity School, probably as big a surprise to him as anyone. In fact Steve’s personal narrative reminds me a little of Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, where Harry and friends board the train for Hogwarts. Steve’s touchstones have been as familiar as railroad tracks, and yet several years ago, he stepped into a kind of parallel universe. I am introducing him through portions of a recent article appearing in the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Ethics “Transforming Themselves in Order to Change the Planet, written by Marc Wortman.

Just a short walk separates The School of Forestry and Environmental Studies from the Yale Divinity School (YDS) campus at the top of Prospect Street. Yet it took Stephen Blackmer ’83 more than 20 years after graduating to make the journey up the hill from F&ES. The long circle that brought him back to Yale shows the ways in which environmentalists are seeking a deeper moral and spiritual grounding for their work and how believers are applying their faith to environmental advocacy.

Blackmer said he “never dreamed” of taking a course at YDS while studying at F&ES. He wasn’t religious and didn’t see any connection between religious faith and his career. His master’s thesis examined how the 19th-century development of the American canal system affected forests. He briefly considered an academic career but left Yale to work in forest management and environmental advocacy.

Over the next two decades, he proved to be an exceptionally effective environmental coalition builder. Based in New Hampshire, he founded the Northern Forest Alliance (NFA) in 1988 and the Northern Forest Center (NFC) nine years later. The organizations became leading centers in conserving forest land and implementing sustainable forestry practices for the 30 million acres of forest along the United States-Canada border that stretches 400 miles from New York State to Maine. With Blackmer at its head, the NFA doubled the amount of protected natural land in the region, to 3 million acres; at the same time, the NFC “helped move the region from a clear-cut to a sustainable forestry model.”

His work brought him a wide following in the regional environmental community and won him national recognition, including the 2003 International Paper Conservation Partnership Award, but then “something happened.”

Blackmer said he started experiencing burnout and a growing recognition that environmental destruction could not be averted only by scientists and the political process. “I had this formless sense that there was a deeper problem to explain the situation, and there was a deeper place I wanted to get to.”

In 2005, in his search for insights, he went on a wilderness vision quest in the Inyo Mountains of southern California, a high-desert region. He spent four days and nights alone with no food and limited water. He returned to New Hampshire wrestling with why individuals and societies damage their environments in the first place. “What is wrong with us that we do such violence to the planet, to each other, to ourselves? How is environmental destruction related to other forms of human harm or evil?”

To find answers, he began attending Christian religious services. He said his prayers led him to the “excruciating” realization that his life as a conservationist was “dead, over” and that resulted in a long period of depression. “My whole identity was wrapped up in that, yet I knew a change had to happen.”

In 2007 he resigned from the NFC (he had already left the NFA) and spent a year as a Bullard Fellow at the Harvard Forest. In 2009 he came to New Haven to study at YDS. He is now completing studies for a master of arts in religion, with a thesis on his own spiritual journey that led him “to become a Christian in order to take my environmental work to the next level.” He intends to become an ordained priest—an “eco-priest,” he calls it—in the Episcopal Church after graduating next spring.

Blackmer is among an increasing number of students at Yale who are combining religious and environmental studies. In each of the past five years, around 10 new students have enrolled in the first—and what remains the world’s only—formal joint degree program in divinity and environmental studies. The students ultimately earn master’s degrees from both programs.

“The bottom line is this”, says Blackmer. “It is not only failed or outdated policies, technologies and economies that are the problem. We are. By allowing myself to be transformed, I can bring further transformation into the world. And if that kind of change can spread, there is hope even in the face of the worst violence and destruction.”

I have a personal reason to welcome Steve to Restoring the Waters. We both live in New Hampshire, and have been scheming, for the past many months, how we might partner in this exploration of the intersection ~ where ecology and spirituality and – in this case (not exclusively – let me underline that not exclusively) – Christian principles and practices (along with their commensurate theology) have the opportunity to engage in the dance whose goal is nothing less than the transformation of self and community, in service to the healing of our planet.

Earth, Water, Wind, & Fire ~ The Missing Thread in the Environmental Movement

I debated a long time whether or not to post a talk I gave recently, at the invitation of the Kearsarge Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. As the content itself is appropriate for the “space between”, I don’t feel as though there is an integrity issue here. The “don’t do it” concerns were: one) it’s long; and two) it approaches the edge of self-serving. So, the invitation (as always) is this: read it if you wish; the choice is yours! I have to begin, though, by describing my outfit. I rarely wear skirts but I did for this occasion. On top I was wearing a longish jacket which covered completely a black and white striped referee shirt. The explanation unfolds below. Picture this: as I begin to talk, I am unbuttoning my jacket to expose the referee shirt underneath.

I suppose that the phrase “having the courage of one’s convictions” has as many varied expressions as there are people having . . . courage. For me, it’s about making myself vulnerable in ways that are uncomfortable, for the sake of something far greater than myself. It’s about showing up. Bill McKibben, founder of the non-profit 350.org spoke in Exeter NH a few nights ago, and shared his discomfort with his abrupt ascent into the media spotlight. “This is not my calling,” he said. “I’m a writer, and I would much rather be sitting in my Vermont house in front of my computer than getting arrested in front of the White House, or wearing a referee’s shirt to blow the whistle on the numbers of elected officials receiving money from the coal and oil lobby and then passing legislation on their behalf. But here I am. Feeling foolish, uncomfortable in my own skin.”

I can relate. I’m a writer, too, and I could speak the exact words as Bill McKibben. But I’ve got my own words to share, and I’ll do it wearing this referee’s shirt as a symbol of the struggle to turn around the trouble we’re in. For McKibben it’s the science of climate change. For me, it’s the reclaiming of the spiritual thread of the ecology movement in general.

You know how in a theater Playbill, the first few pages introduce the actors? I need to do that with you, introduce a few – without having your eyes glaze over . . .

“The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried up at once; a shower is always falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

These are the words of John Muir, in the early years of the 20th century. To put him in more contemporary context, Muir was the founder of the Sierra Club. Now I don’t think we want to categorize his observation as science, although he was in fact a brilliant scientist. We can’t think of these words as conservationism, either, although Muir was a conservationist of sorts. But . . . there are conservationists, and then, there are conservationists. Two ways of thinking about ecological conservation, and they emerge from really different perspectives.

Gifford Pinchot – a familiar name to those of us who have migrated north from Pennsylvania – represents one perspective. He was the chief of the US Forest Service – the first, in fact, coming into his own about the time John Muir was crossing over the thin space into another realm altogether. These words belong to Gifford Pinchot – his definition of conservation – “the art of producing from the forest and the waters whatever they can yield for the service of man.” Pinchot was all about the primacy of humans, about human privilege and entitlement. I think of him as the seed of the sustainability movement. And by the end of this talk, I am going to suggest strongly that sustainability – as an economic philosophy – is suspect.

The philosophical difference between the two – John Muir and Gifford Pinchot – is clear. Pinchot would have had no truck with Muir’s words, “ . . . eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn as the round earth rolls.”

Muir’s speeches and his writings were poetry, or poetic prose, and they emerged from his always-evolving and deeply spiritual life which – unlike Gifford Pinchot – was inextricably interwoven with a clear understanding of his place within the biosphere. For Muir there was no spirituality disconnected from his place within the biotic world. And, unlike Pinchot, his was no human-centered ethic of entitlement and privilege – the word is anthropocentrism. He writes – this makes my heart sing – “The world we are told was made for man. A presumption that is totally unsupported by the facts”. Muir’s spirituality was grounded always in the sacredness of the elements – earth, water, wind, and fire – the blessing of creation shared by all life forms.

John Muir isn’t the only deeply spiritual ecologist. He stood on the shoulders of such as Henry David Thoreau. I think we can get clarity about Thoreau if we were to hold him against the backdrop of his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson; they were both Transcendalists – just like Muir and Pinchot were both conservationists – but each was tugging on a different thread. Briefly, Emerson saw nature as distinct from, separate from himself – he saw nature as allegorical (the ant is a symbol of industriousness); he saw nature as the symbol of God – not God but the symbol of God. Thoreau, on the other hand, couldn’t – wouldn’t – accept this dualism. For one, like John Muir who followed him, he knew himself to be of the natural world, not distinct from it. And two, Thoreau grounded his own spirituality in the natural world. It was Thoreau, not Emerson, who could write these words:

“When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable, and, to the (ordinary) citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter the swamp as a sacred place,—a sanctum sanctorum. There . . . is the strength, the marrow of Nature. . . .”

Okay. Just one more, and then I’ll try to weave this together. Aldo Leopold, standing on the shoulders of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. Leopold and I shared one year of life on this planet, although neither of us knew it at the time – and I consider that my great good fortune. Leopold was the first to make use of the concepts of ecology and eco-systems, and he distinguished his ethics from the more popular environmental and conservationist philosophies of the day. Leopold understood the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life forms including humans; and the lens through which he explored the natural world was the lens of his ethics. Maybe some of you recognize his land ethic, and he intends the word land to stand for all life forms – human and non-human – and their systemic interactions and interrelationships. “A thing is right,” he said, “when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

How simple is that!

So. Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold. These are my prophets, and my mentors. And they’re calling to us, challenging us to reclaim a thread of what we today loosely refer to as the environmental movement. It’s a thread that we’ve dropped,and –  in my mind – no less important than the other two: science and pragmatics. I’ll call this third thread the thread of eco-spirituality. It hasn’t always been missing, witness these three, Thoreau, Muir, and Leopold. But today’s environmental movement consists – for the most part – of only two: the science, and the pragmatics. We’re missing the spiritual. And it’s the spiritual that embodies hope, life, courage; it’s the spiritual that holds the good news. It’s the spiritual that holds the potential to transform our hearts and change our behavior.

We have all the science. We know what we’re doing to earth and water and air. We know that 200 species of life forms are going extinct every day, and we suspect that to allow species to go extinct has real consequences, even if we’re clueless as to what those consequences might be. We know about climate change. We know about fracking and mountain top removal. We have all the information we need about pollutants of earth, air, and water. Science is the first thread, and we’re still holding that one. To the point where many people have become numb with despair. And although the science might be changing opinions, it doesn’t seem to be changing hearts.

The second thread is what I’ll call environmental pragmatism. The second thread is about composting, recycling, solar panels, wind generators, geothermal heat, tankless water heaters. Environmental pragmatics fall under the umbrella of sustainable living. Both words – environment and sustainability – for my nickel, are suspect. When we talk about the environment, we’re talking about all that surrounds us, the humans. Our environment. We’re the center. It doesn’t really make sense to talk about the environment, because When we talk about the environment we’re talking about that which surrounds us, the operative word being us, we the humans inasmuch as we continue to occupy a human-centered reality. Environment is all about us. Sustainability, then, tends to refer to all that we humans need to do to maintain our environment. In a human-centered reality, so the thinking goes, we need to sustain our resources so that we can continue to live in the manner to which we (or some privileged proportion of us) have become accustomed.

The second thread – the pragmatic – addresses our sense of powerlessness over the suffering of the planet. Look! We can do something. We can help. Together we can turn this around. If only we all did these kinds of things . . .

So two threads, the science and the pragmatics. Together, they are necessary but inadequate to address the magnitude of the damage we’ve done to earth, water, air, and all wildlife and their diverse habitat. Together, two threads are insufficient to change hearts and transform perspective and behavior.

It’s the third thread we have to reclaim, the spiritual thread. And I am not talking about a belief in God, or any doctrine or dogma; I am not talking about anthropocentric religious practices. In fact, religious practices all too often get in the way – despite our calls for good stewardship – or maybe because what we call good stewardship falls into the same category as environmentalism and sustainability. Stewardship implies oversight – we think of ourselves, our human selves, as the overseers. All three of these – environmentalism, sustainability, and stewardship allow us to leave unexamined and unchallenged, the primary assumption which is . . . the . . . root . . . cause . . . of ecological degradation. The culprit here is our foundational assumption of human entitlement and privilege. The culprit is our anthropocentrism. And any spirituality that emerges from a human-centered reality will be by definition really, an agent of continued damage.

The spiritual thread, the third thread that I’m suggesting we reclaim, is that which emerges from our knowing and living out of our proper place within the natural world, not somehow external to the biosphere, and certainly not at its pinnacle.

It’s the difference between saying I love nature and I am nature. It may sound like semantics, but its not. And it’s all the difference in the world.

So how do we pick up this third thread? How do we begin to re-imagine our proper place in the world? How are we to be with a re-visioned anthropology in which humans are of the biotic world, intrinsic to it, of course, but of no greater or lesser value . . . value, than, say, a dung beetle. How are we to be, and what are we to do, to reclaim this third thread?

Baby steps, I guess. And all I can do is share with you some of my own baby steps. Wearing this referee’s shirt is one of them. I walk a lot. I try to walk every day. In the years I was privileged to be partnered with my sweet rescue dog, Missy, I think we shared close to twenty-five hundred walks, and here’s how we did it. We’d walk into the woods, and before we’d go in, we would stop. Look. Listen. Smell. Notice. Missy’s heart was already prepared for this journey into the forest. It’s my heart that needed and still does need, the time to prepare for what’s literally a homecoming.

This is called mindfulness, and mindfulness transforms relationships. When I leave the woods, I give thanks, out loud, continuing to re-shape my heart and soul with the practice of gratitude. I give thanks to the trees and the rocks, and the water. I give give thanks – out loud – to my Missy girl, who taught me to notice. Mindfulness and gratitude. With both of these in place, it’s possible to become a servant to the biotic community. I like the word servant, here, as being the expression of right sacramental relationship with the planet, with the elements of earth, water, wind, fire, with all life forms, all habitat.

“When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most interminable, and, to the (ordinary) citizen, most dismal swamp. I enter the swamp as a sacred place,—a sanctum sanctorum. There is the strength, the marrow of Nature. . . .”

You can see why Henry David Thoreau is a mentor. He knew himself as well to be the strength, the marrow of Nature.

To reclaim this third thread – and I don’t think any other approach carries this kind of transformative power – in the reclaiming the spirit of place, the sacramental value of earth, water, wind, fire, and all creatures – in that remembering, lies our hope.

Winter Solstice Celebration ~ December 22, 2011

I know it’s late, but the winter solstice is on the 22nd, not the 21st, this year, so I thought I’d post this Order of Celebration in case anyone was casting around for one. This would have to be adapted to your own situation, of course, because this particular ceremony was designed for a particular setting; it shouldn’t require too much tweaking. If the weather isn’t cooperating, then you can just honor the darkest day from the warmth of your living room.

Just a note to those who have called me their favorite pagan. I appreciate it, actually, glad to be a favorite anything. But here’s the difference, and I think it’s important enough to make note. Paganism is – in one way or another – worship. For the record, I do not worship the earth, or the waters, or the universe. I celebrate it.

Anyway, I love the darkest day of the year. I love it for the dark, and I love it for the light to come. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Winter Solstice Celebration ~ December 22, 2011

(As people arrive, we will gather around the outdoor fire.)

Leader:

Long ago, people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, a time when the days grew short and the sun was at its lowest point in the sky. Many people dreaded the cold, dark days of winter. So when the sun seemed to change its course and grow in strength again, they rejoiced.

Acknowledging the Four Directions

(We turn to the East, ringing our bells.)

East Guardian:

I am the East, the place of dawn, influenced by the element of Air. I am the breath of life, of speech, and of song. I am the season of Spring, the season of birth and new creation. In my season, the Earth warms and leans towards the Sun.

(We ring our bells, as we turn to the South.)

South Guardian:

I am the South, the place of mid-day, influenced by the element of Fire. I am the passion and laughter of life. I am the season of Summer ~ keeper of the Earth’s abundance; I am the blessing of children, the keeper of truth and innocence.

(We ring our bells, as we turn to the West)

West Guardian:

I am the West, place of dusk, influenced by the element of Water. I am the guardian of life’s water ~ from the oceans’ depths to the waters of the womb that rocked you before your birth. I am the sweet rain satisfying the thirsty Earth. I am the season of Fall.

(We ring our bells, as we turn to the North)

North Guardian:

I am the North, the place of midnight, influenced by the element of Earth. I am the place of the ancestors and ancient wisdom, of all who have walked through the years and who know the way. I am the season of Winter.

(From the campfire, we walk in silence to the bridge, each of us carrying a sunflower seed bag. When we have reached the bridge, we’ll remain in silence for a minute or two.)

Reader:

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you,

If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

~ David Wagoner ~

(Riverbed)

Leader: Meditation

~ Being outdoors in the winter at this time of Solstice

~ Being part of the fabric of the natural world

~ Appreciation for the beauty and magnificence of the natural world

~ Focus on our relationships with other life forms

~ These seeds as symbols of life and messengers of goodwill

(Each person offers her seeds in turn, by placing them on a spot of his/her own choosing, speaking an appreciation of the natural world. When everyone has placed his/her seeds, the group walks in silence back to the house.)

Ceremony of Light

(The people gather around the table covered with pine boughs, berries, and candles. One candle, that which represents the year that has ended, remains burning.)

Reader:

If there is to be peace in the world,

there must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,

there must be peace in communities.

If there is to be peace in communities,

there must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors.

There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,

There must be peace in the heart.

Leader:

The old year has ended, its light diminished, but not yet gone. While this light of the year passing still burns, we have to remember the hurts, sorrows, disappointments, and damage we have done to the earth, water, and air, and all creatures, human and non-human. We have to remember them before we can confess, them, release them, and chart a new course.

(A few moments of silence, as we remember)

Peace in the heart begins with letting go. The days and nights may be at their darkest, but we trust in the birth of the new light which lies on the other side of release. That very hope that we carry in our hearts, minds, and hands, chart the course for our journey.

(The new candle is lit from the old, and the old candle snuffed. As each new candle around the table is lit, we sing this song of peace.)

Hymn: Peace Before Us
Blessing:

May we receive today the blessing of peace. May we notice the occasion of peace each time we encounter it. May we name it, and nurture it. Go in Peace.

The Space Between ~ We Know What it Looks Like

I’m beginning to understand two things: one, what I call the space between is the ground for holy exchange, not only between humans and the biotic world, but also between and among humans; and two, that the space between is hard to come by, even harder to hold.

When I was in the process of writing The Space Church & Not-Church, my editor continued to ask me, “what do people of churches and people not of churches bring to the space between?” I continued to respond that it wasn’t about what people dragged into the space, it was what they were able to release for the sake of deep listening, patience, trust, and respect, as well as a sure and certain knowing of the sacredness of creation.

I have a story to share about this space between sacred experience, although it would be another decade before I understood what this was really about. In 1999 or 2000, a Houston, Texas community of former teenage gang members, graffiti artists, drug dealers, under the auspices of a non-profit called Youth Advocates, came together several times each week to translate their rage, defiance, and often hopelessness into the art of breakdancing. They were an awesome group – funny, smart, compassionate, with older kids mentoring younger ones.

This group of about twenty was invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to accompany the LA teenagers on a fifty mile walk with the former bishop. We’d walk eight or ten miles, then spend the night on the hard floors of some or other church. Each evening we’d do some or other form of Evening Prayer, and the bishop would offer a short homily. That was the pattern.

One evening, the bishop talked of the parable of the mustard seed, while the graffiti artists painted what they were hearing on an eight by four sheet of plywood. Here’s the backstory. That afternoon, my husband Jim and I, along with a couple other adults, had accompanied these three young men to an art store, where they examined various paint nozzles and colors, three heads so close in as to be touching, yes to this one, no to that one, how about this and this in combination?

If we were astonished by the collaborative nature of the adventure then, we were transported by the experience of the evening.

It was a balmy Los Angeles evening, breezy, not muggy, and we gathered in the courtyard. One of the host teens read the story of the mustard seed, and as the bishop spoke, the graffiti artists painted. The leadership was seamless, reminding me of a wise man who once told me (about collaborative leadership) the Spirit dances first on one, then another, then another. The three artists, again so close in they seemed as one body, communicated softly to one another as the bishop spoke, not always with words when words weren’t required. They laid down paint in layer after layer, white hot in the middle, to depict the explosion of the mustard seed itself.

During the years that followed, people looking at this remarkable painting, remembered the Big Bang, the waters of birth, the waters of baptism; they spoke of community, the eye of God. The image of the mustard seed evoked seemingly infinite responses, all of them resounding with the sacredness of the image itself, and to the creative sacred experience that created it.

I think this was my first experience of what it meant to move into the space between. I wouldn’t have called it that yet, because I didn’t understand it. But as I continue to speak and write about the space between as a path to the healing of the biotic community, I offer these as real life practical application of what it means to live there, with others, in the moment, with trust and respect, with a commitment to listen deeply to the creative gifts of the Other, and to honor both process and participants.

I am coming into the understanding – it’s been an evolving process – that the space between is where we will be able to acknowledge the harm we’ve accomplished, between and among humans, and between human and non-human life forms. I believe this is where healing begins, in the space between.

Last night I posted on my personal Facebook page and my Restoring the Waters Facebook page, a link to a TED talk entitled “There are No Mistakes on the Bandstand”. I hope you watch it. But if you don’t, and you stick with this post, I’ll just tell you about it, using improvisational jazz as the vehicle for a space between experience.

Stefon Harris, the band’s leader, begins with this explanation, “Okay, I have no idea what we’re going to play. I have no idea what it is until it happens. So, I didn’t realize there was going to be a little music before, so I think I’mm going to start with what I just heard.” Picture a xylophone with mallets, bass, drums, and a piano. Stefon lays down the pattern on the xylophone and repeats it. At fifty eight seconds, the drummer picks up his drumstick, the bassist’s fingers begin to dance with the strings of his instrument, and the man on the keyboard begins to offer the voice of his own instrument. Six minutes in, and the the band members have created something remarkable.

Stefon continues with his philosophy of “mistakes”. There are none, basically. The only mistake, he says, is “if I am not aware, each individual musician not aware and accepting enough of his fellow band member to incorporate the idea”, in other words if the musicians can’t allow for creativity.

Referring to jazz improv as sacred blessing, Stefon refers to the science of listening, of the value of patience, of the willingness to pull from something going on around him, and thus inspiring others to pull from him.

This is as clear a space between experience as I can imagine. It requires trust, respect, a willingness to embrace life in the moment.

The Space Between Progressive and Evangelical ~ Is There Anyone Out There?

The other day I heard an aspiring clergy person argue that mainline progressive churches are doing our earth stewardship just fine, that it’s the evangelical conservative churches who are the stumbling blocks to the care of the earth.

This budding young church leader is not alone. Among people in progressive churches I hear often that the plight of the earth is directly related to an evangelical theology or conservative theology which posits the return of Jesus as so immediate as to be on the calendar; these are people so swept up with gleeful anticipation at the world’s end that they can find no earthly reason to care for non-human life forms; how we actually leave the state of the earth herself of no concern whatsoever. So we progressives are off the hook, right? Really, how can we begin to make a dent in the problem up and against such conservative thinking?

First, the assumption is false, as witnessed by the Evangelical Environmental Network charter On the Care of Creation. Second, progressive mainline churches aren’t making much of an impact regardless of a certain measurable pridefulness. After all, we recycle; we include a prayer for the earth even as we pray for the church and the nations; we bless our animals; we add an extra prayer for Earth Day.

All glibness aside – and with a nod to GreenFaith ~ Interfaith Partners for the Environment, the major theology that comes closest to what follows below is the Hindu understanding of Dharma as it relates to a web of life understanding. But, digression aside, and returning to the illusory distinctions between mainline progressive churches and evangelical churches with regard to their environmental theologies, I am asking just one question.

Is there no one who understands that the differences in our theology are far outweighed by the similarities of our common anthropology which – even in the face of all the science – continue to posit humans at the center of planetary life and concern? I don’t intend this as a rhetorical question. It’s our common anthropology, not our differing theologies, that stands as obstacle to doing the reconciling and healing work of the earth community – which, as the earth sciences has been telling us for decades, includes humans within its intricate, interconnected, and interdependent web.

This anthropocentrism is not only characteristic of people in churches but equally so of those not who have no church relationship. We’re not listening to the science. The universe is in fact not unfolding according to an anthropocentric anthropology, although most humans insist that it is. We also insist that we could fix the earth’s desolation with our technologies, if only we would.

The truth is, we can’t fix any of it from an anthropocentric perspective, that very perspective that insists we can fix anything. Only when we are willing to release our human sense of privilege and entitlement, only when we can relocate ourselves within the earth community, according to evolutionary reality, can we hope to be about the business of healing and reconciliation.

This holds true as well between human and human. As long as we insist on our anthropocentric place in the universe, a place of human privilege and entitlement, not only do we continue to live under the illusion that humans are more important than all other life forms, and that the world exists for our sakes, but we understand and act out of the illusion that some humans are more important than other humans. We are deluded. Witness Occupy Wall Street.