[guest post by Dana]
I read this thread a few days ago and was reminded that just about anything can become an object of worship, or can have a religion built around it. Such is the insatiable need for fallen man to present his corrupt power as something incorruptible, or even something of the Divine. There are no limitations to man’s imagination:
We’ve had many questions about yesterday’s chapel, conducted as part of @ccarvalhaes’ class, “Extractivism: A Ritual/Liturgical Response.” In worship, our community confessed the harm we’ve done to plants, speaking directly in repentance.
This is a beautiful ritual. We are in the throes of a climate emergency, a crisis created by humanity’s arrogance, our disregard for Creation.
Far too often, we see the natural world only as resources to be extracted for our use, not divinely created in their own right—worthy of honor, thanks and care.
We need to unlearn habits of sin and death. And part of that work must be building new bridges to the natural world.
And that means creating new spiritual and intellectual frameworks by which we understand and relate to the plants and animals with whom we share the planet.
Churches have a huge role to play in this endeavor. Theologies that encourage humans to dominate and master the Earth have played a deplorable role in degrading God’s creation.
We must birth new theology, new liturgy to heal and sow, replacing ones that reap and destroy.
When Robin Wall Kimmerer spoke at Union last year, she concluded her lecture by tasking us—and all faith communities—to develop new liturgies by which to mourn, grieve, heal and change in response to our climate emergency.
We couldn’t be prouder to participate in this work.
And here’s the thing: At first, this work will seem weird. It won’t feel normal. It won’t look like how we’re used to worship looking and sounding.
And that’s exactly the point. We don’t just need new wine, we need new wineskins.
But it’s also important to note that this isn’t, really, that radical a break from tradition. Many faiths and denoms have liturgy through which we express and atone for the harm we’ve caused. No one would have blinked if our chapel featured students apologizing to each other.
What’s different (and the source of so much derision) is that we’re treating plants as fully created beings, divine Creation in its own right—not just something to be consumed.
Because plants aren’t capable of verbal response, does that mean we shouldn’t engage with them?
So, if you’re poking fun, we’d ask only that you also spend a couple moments asking:
Do I treat plants and animals as divinely created beings?
What harm do I cause without thinking?
How can I enter into new relationship with the natural world?
Change isn’t easy: It’s no simple business to break free from comfortable habits and thoughts. But if we do not change, we will perish. And so will plants and animals God created and called “good.”
We must lean into this discomfort; God waits for us there.
Last week, JVW wrote a brilliant little post about activists using their children to push their agenda, and their willingness to exploit them, if necessary. Because sometimes terrorizing one’s offspring is what gets the job done. Hey, small sacrifices, am I right?? Central to his focus was climate activist Greta Thunberg. Young Miss Thungberg spoke before an audience at the UN Climate Action Summit today. She was harshly critical of capitalism, and of the adults who have taken the world to the brink of extinction by their irresponsible behavior, thus leaving Miss Thunberg and her contemporaries with one really screwed up future. And, per Ms. Thunberg, we only have
12 8 1/2 years to get our shit together. So when asked what her message today was to world leaders, Miss Thunberg intoned: “We’ll be watching you”.
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
While Miss Thunberg then renders judgement: She doesn’t want to believe we are evil but it’s pretty much looking like we are:
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.
“You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.
In closing, there will be no mercy for the wicked:
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.
(You can read about the “math” upon which she relies to support her claims at the link.)
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)