Ahah! I’ve been trying for months to write a one-page description of my current thinking, based on my still new book The Space Between Church & Not-Church ~ A Sacramental Vision for the Healing of Our Planet. Here it is.
Statement of the Problem ~ a Twofold Description
There are two reasons why we’re not making significant headway in addressing the ecological distress of the earth community. One is, humans still think we’re top dog, and can pretty much do anything we want no matter how it impacts the earth. Although the science is telling humans that we do not sit at the apex of creation, the humans aren’t listening.
Whether this sense of human entitlement is biblically warranted, culturally normative, whether it emerges from ignorance or indifference, or greed really makes no difference. The point is, we cannot – because it’s simply not possible – address the magnitude of the degradation of the earth until we release our insistence on human primacy.
Two, although we have all the ecological evidence we need to know precisely what we’re doing to the earth community, the science alone isn’t changing people’s hearts, and, therefore, not their behavior either. It’s the spiritual, even religious energy, that changes people’s hearts.
So, people of churches can’t accomplish the environmental work, because we want to do our stewardship from an anthropocentric perspective. And the environmental movement alone can’t accomplish the work because its working paradigm rarely embraces the kinds of pathways that are best suited to change the human heart.
What needs to happen? How do we partner the ecological and the spiritual?
The Journey ~ Lose the Luggage (The Art of Release)
All people – including the religious among us – need to release the erroneous concept of human primacy, which finds its expression in what I call a theory of accommodation. We will do exactly enough (and no more) “greening” to ensure that we get to maintain our death grip on our consumptive lifestyles.
This is not easy for people of churches who tend to argue that to address the ecological problems of our time requires nothing more than appropriate stewardship. Not! Hard as it is to hear, the very notion of stewardship implies management and oversight; to be a steward of the earth, then, is to manage it or oversee it. The fallacy ought to be self-evident: humans are not managers; managers derive their role from a place outside the ecosystems of the planet. As humans are, in fact, intrinsic to the earth community, and interdependent, the role of humans must emerge from our appropriate place from within.
For those environmentalists and others who may have no church affiliations, the invitation is to recognize and embrace the power of intentional ritual. For it is the sacramental nature of the universe – revealed through the elements of earth, waters, wind, and fire, and then finding expression in art, poetry, music, movement, and ritual that changes hearts and ultimately behavior.
Our human destiny lies in a renewed clarity of place, through which we rejoin the biotic community. And it’s from our proper sense of place that the moral imperatives and practices of mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, and service can emerge.
For all of us, no matter our perspective, the process is one of letting go – a process of release unlearning, or of unsaying. Perhaps a better word is “un-encumber” which allows the possibility of relief in addition to the bias against sacrifice. The word is apophatic, and only through such self-emptying process can a space open up – I have come to know it as the space between – in which a partnership can be forged whose ethical focus is the healing of the earth community through the moral transformation of the human heart.