Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Greening Sacred Spaces: Beautiful, Abundant, and Sustainable Living

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Greening Sacred Spaces: Beautiful, Abundant, and Sustainable Living

Article excerpt

The need for a massive cultural shift to a more sustainable way of life has become an irrefutable scientific reality. How we accomplish that shift in the next decade or two is the real question. Faith & die Common Goods Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) project seeks to help faith communities understand the reasons to shift mid provide die practical tools to make die changes. As environmentalist David Suzuki has told us, to heal the planet it will take a major spiritual transformation to awaken us to a different way of Ufe.

This article points to a different way of imagining our theological mandate and to how the GSS project helps faith communities make the step-by-step changes that will take us there. While the imperatives to change are real, this future need not be bleak. It is a vision of abundance, beauty, and a wonderful interrelatedness with a divinelyinspired complex web of life.

In or Out of the Garden? A Shift in Theological Perspective

Thinking theologically about die impacts of human-induced climate change can lead rather quickly to thoughts of our fallen nature, our inclination toward sinfulness and being out of the Garden. Our greed and overconsuniption are signs of our mifaidiful behavior in relation to Gods call to good stewardship and right relations. Our Judaic, Christian, and Islamic traditions name for us this fallen behavior and call us to repent and seek ways to get back to the Garden - to living in harmony with God and creation.

I was shaken from this perspective this past year after reading John Ralston Saul's A Fair Country. Saul is no friend to western religious beliefs, being more of the humanist school, but in this important book about righting relationships with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, he points to a transformative theological view for me. In his critique of western religion, with its emphasis on fallenness, Said remarks that in Aboriginal spirituality we have never left the Garden,

By viewing ourselves as still in the Garden we fundamentally shift our relationship with the Divine, with each other, and with our earthly home. Instead of paradise being over there, it is here. We live in intimate interrelationship with Gods creation, benefiting from its goodness and gift to us. Our life task is not to seek some future paradise but to live in its goodness now. We are not fallen, we are blessed.

Those who have studied world religions know diat this ancient spirituality of living in awe and respect for creation takes us back to our earliest religious thinking. As I remember it from undergraduate religious studies courses, this type of religious expression was seen as primitive, ani mist - an immature religious perspective compared to the Axial religions of twenty-five hundred years ago and those that have followed. With some new humility, I'd like to suggest that this religious perspective has had it right all along.

Stepping aside from our anthropocentric views of evolution that point to the increasing superiority of humans above all else and by religious assumption of a closer proximity to God, we need to step into a much bigger evolutionary picture. We can see this 13.7 billion-year evolutionary history as the Divine s unfolding story in which humans are but a small step along this way. Undoubtedly we have been blessed with some evolutionary gifts that have enabled some ingenious advancements. They may also be our evolutionary downfall. The main point is that we do not have to make claims of superiority and privilege to exist well in the great web of fife. Indeed, our salvation will be in recognizing our place in the Garden and living abundantly in this awesome gift of life that sustains the whole ecosystem.

The Divine, Creator, Great Mystery is not "out there" any more than humans are above all else. The Great Mystery exists in this great unfolding, this wonderfully increasing complexity of death, life, and interrelatedness. Jesus points to this interconnectedness in the radically inclusive ways he calls his contemporaries to see the "kin-dom" in each other and in the way they live their lives. …

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