Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Green Faith: Good News on the Environment

Roger Gottlieb, last year's keynote speaker at our annual Sacred Trust Forum, has a long, thoughtful, and fact-filled commentary about the intersection of faith and the environment on Here is an excerpt:

For many, the importance of religious environmentalism goes beyond local church members joining the Sierra Club or starting a recycling center. Ecotheologians argue that a religious vision brings something distinct and very valuable to the secular environmental movement. For one thing, when secular environmentalists rail at out-of-control unsus-tainable consumerism they often come off sounding like shrill spoilsports. “Buy less,” may be a good idea, but it is not, in and of itself, all that appealing. Religious leaders can point to the simple (and comparatively non-polluting) pleasures of religious community as alternatives to consumerism. The joys of Sabbath rest, or the emotional comfort of a familiar congregation, provide replacements for the mall and Of course one need not be religious to appreciate the nurturing aspects of community and rest. Yet these values are perhaps most familiar to us as presented by a culture of religion which, as writer Bill McKibben puts it, offers something other than accumulation as the highest goal of life.

There is also a deep seriousness in religious language, a seriousness which, for many environmentalists, speaks to the depth of the environmental crisis at hand. When we learn, for instance, that the placental blood of newborns contains 287 toxic chemicals, many are not comfortable just saying that this is unhealthy, inconvenient or a damn shame. The violation of what should be a human being’s safest place calls forth a more powerful, more visceral, response. In this context most people find a language of rights inadequate, and one of “consumer preferences” patently absurd. And thus there is something appealing, even to many secular people, when Bartholomew, head of the 300 million strong Eastern Orthodox Church, states flatly that “To pollute the environment is a sin.”

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