Introduction--why an eco-theoloqy?
"Oh, the humanity!" That was the now-famous anguished exclamation of radio journalist Herbert Morrison as he witnessed the fiery crash of the Airship Hindenburg as it arrived in the United States at the end of its trans-Atlantic journey in 1937. This is the image and the phrase that comes into my mind as I consider the looming catastrophe threatening humankind in the form of environmental collapse. If you watch archival footage of that event, it can be seen as an almost too perfect analogy for the current global environmental crisis. As the ship was approaching its prospective landing site, few people either on the ground or the on the ship itself realized that something was not right. Only those who understood how the ship should normally function began to notice that it was having difficulty maintaining equilibrium, and began to try and alert others that the ship was in danger. Then, suddenly, there was some kind of triggering event that started the fire and the explosions, which then spread to the rest of the ship so rapidly that there was no time to react with anything but the horror captured in that exclamation.
Why go to the effort of developing a personal eco-theology'? For me, it is because of the anguish I experience as a result of confronting what I perceive as an existential danger for humankind: that is, we are facing an ecological crisis which threatens the future of humankind on earth and which is already causing vast amounts of suffering in the forms of hunger, disease, displacement and violence. From climate change to toxic substances in the air, water, soil, and food, to species extinction, to mutant pathogens, ocean acidification and genetically modified food, this crisis is brought on by human behavior which ignores and disregards fundamental truths about ourselves and our relationship to the earth. The ecological crisis is, I believe, symptomatic of a spiritual disease which must be addressed if we and our planet are to be healed.
The relationship between theology and ecology
I begin with the premise that theology and ecology are intrinsically related. Both of these disciplines are expressions of the human desire to know the Truth about the source and meaning of existence. Theology and ecology are both attempts to comprehend this Truth from different starting points and using different methods. Theology begins with the idea of God, and ecology begins from observation of nature. It is possible, however, to arrive at an idea of God by observing nature, just as it is possible to arrive at an outlook on nature by beginning from an idea of God. An eco-theology is an articulation of the intrinsic relationship between one's theology and one's ecological perspective.
How shall we live? What is the way of life which is True: true to nature, true to our own nature, and which therefore offers true life'? How are we to understand our own existence in relationship to everything else that is? And what, therefore, constitutes a "good life"? Or in theological terms, "What is God's will for us?" These are different version of the question which, ultimately, both theology and ecology seek to answer.
In this essay, I intend to outline an approach to a spirituality of Creation which, while being honest about the shortcomings of the spiritual tradition in which I was raised with respect to its regard for the natural world, nevertheless draws on and remains in touch with that tradition. At the same time, I wish to articulate an approach which can be understood, appreciated, and perhaps even embraced by persons from diverse spiritual backgrounds. In order to do so, I will deal with the nature of Truth, the evolution of human consciousness, the limits of human knowledge and the religious impulse, the rise and the role of technology, and
I grew up being raised in a Protestant Christian household in the Midwest of the United States, with values characteristic of that heritage--honesty, hard work, frugality, faith, self-reliance, fairness. …